While last month’s most reported stories came from the ever-expanding world of IKEA (see Lego, adidas, Saint Heron, Design Indaba, etc) and the Emperor’s New Clothes-style collaboration between Rimowa and Off-White, it was traditional licensing properties – often used in non-traditional ways –that did most to catch my eye.
With more than four hundred brand innovation campaigns to stay abreast of during June, here is a selection of the most interesting and innovative, organised according to trends and behaviours they correspond to.
1. The Cult of Culture
New Order/Joy Division x Dr. Martens
Regular readers of my column know how keenly I follow the interaction between music and style (link to gallery). The last few years have seen the consumer products footprint of music grow massively as artists have sought to diversify their earnings – just as an increasing number of brands have come to recognise the value of influence and cultural significance.
As subcultural movements fizzle out, their fashions quickly become passé but their soundtracks tend to live on. Amazingly, nearly forty years have passed since Manchester post-punks Joy Division transitioned into New Order, but their impact and the timelessness of Peter Saville’s cover art has never left them far from the eye of fashion and design. Dr. Martens is a brand that has managed to sustain a similar legacy – which makes their decision to pay tribute to both bands in one, special edition collection even more remarkable and resonant.
Stranger Things x Schwinn
Living in the Eighties! Legacy bike brand Schwinn capitalised on the breakout popularity of Netflix series Stranger Things by using it as a premise to market “Mike’s Bike” – an allusion to the cycles ridden by the show’s main characters. Sadly limited to only five hundred units, Schwinn earned huge payback for its brand by entering fully into the eighties mode of the show – with replica print advertising pulled straight from the pages of Dynamite magazine and sales restricted to telephone credit card orders only.
It’s not just what you sell but how you sell it that counts. As reported in Ad Age, the campaign earned more than 120 million media impressions on a total media spend of less than $15,000. Now that’s rad!
2. Movie Magic
The Wizard of Oz x Louis Vuitton
Fashion week presentations are magical, meticulously designed occasions that transfix huge audiences. Model and front-row guest selection have long been staple components of catwalk shows, but recent seasons have hinted at deeper levels of curation that use layers of cultural references to add intrigue and hashtag appeal for the Instagram generation.
Collections are increasingly being complemented with accessories collaborations to diversify and prolong the conversations around them. So too are oblique, artsy references to cult movies becoming more common. After Raf Simons drew on the bleak, drug-fuelled aesthetic of Christiane F. last season, last month’s SS19 shows saw Marcelo Burlon incorporating stills from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Louis Vuitton using the eightieth anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, perhaps to symbolise its own voyage into the unknown with new creative director, Virgil Abloh.
James Bond x Orlebar Brown
The men’s swimwear category has seldom been more lively than now, and it is perhaps surprising that the motor driving the trend is a British one. The undisputed star of the movement is Orlebar Brown, whose tailored cuts, vivid prints and imaginative collaborations have inspired many copycats. As reported last week, now the label has crafted a collection around perhaps the only theme that epitomises Britishness and resort life without contradiction: James Bond. The collection recalls the master-spy’s most iconic waterside scenes, and makes clever use of the movie poster/lobby card art of the sixties to bring a men’s adventure aesthetic poolside. Sean Connery famously worked as a lifeguard, so it is perhaps fair that his motifs outnumber Roger Moore’s.
3. Seasonal Campaigns
Burger King x Budweiser
A perfect promotion succeeds in engaging all of the senses and leaving a mark before, during and after its lifetime. It’s a trick few can pull off, but Burger King managed to do it by collaborating with Budweiser for the launch of its special menu American Brewhouse King in the run-up to the American Independence Day holiday.
Using beer as a meat marinade is something every grill knows to do, but this particular effort was made memorable by celebrating American pride – while simultaneously lampooning it with allusions to extreme indulgence and the creation of the absurd Freedom Crown. Check out also the collaboration’s surprise revival and reworking of one of advertising’s most beloved campaigns.
G.I. Joe x Reebok x Shoe Palace
This time last year, it was Alpha Industries who so memorably used the Hasbro property, G.I. Joe, to outgun its new competitors in the military style space. This year, Reebok returned to the same theme with a special Independence Day pack in conjunction with sneaker boutique, Shoe Palace.
The elaborate packaging of deluxe sneaker editions rivals the best the luxury industry has to offer, and this Reebok Classic Canvas was no different – arriving in a military flight case with camouflage netting for protective packaging. The parallel release of caps badged with the insignia of team G.I. Joe and its arch-nemesis, Cobra, added yet another nice touch of escapism.
4. Edited Retail
Yoox Soccer Culture
The last two months have seen unprecedented levels of football-flavoured activation by fashion and lifestyle brands. During the lead-up to the FIFA World Cup, I counted more than thirty collaborations designed to lean into football culture. The fact that adidas and Nike were the biggest protagonists proves how brand equity has become a parallel game to the pure commercial play of national team kit deals.
Yoox took an editorial approach tuned to its audience’s fashion sensibilities: collaborating with lifestyle magazine SEPP to commission fourteen unisex capsules from designers in fourteen World Cup countries. Names included Vivienne Westwood (England), Koché (France) and Delpozo (Spain).
Agenda x Mark Gonzales
Long before “influencer” became the career path young people aspire to, there was Mark Gonzales. Skateboard legend, video star, clotheshorse, entrepreneur, artist…few people have infiltrated subculture with more stealth or individuality than “The Gonz”.
With a constantly expanding collaboration footprint, the fifty year-old was a logical choice to author a capsule collection to promote last month’s Agenda festival in Long Beach, California. The one-day event is itself interesting – both as a business model and as a lens onto Gen Z culture. Festival attendees paid $60 to access a venue featuring pop ups from more than five hundred brands, interspersed with musical performance, art installations and panel discussions. It’s like ComicCon, but for kids who actually leave their bedrooms.
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