Starting the year, collaborations like Loewe x Spirited Away, Dior Birkenstocks, Pradidas, and Barbie x Balmain set the tone for 2022. Over the past 12 months, every co-branded trend imaginable surfaced. As novelty drops, luxury sportswear, and local limited-edition releases rose in popularity, the shared motivation has been to break through the noise.
With everyone jumping on the trend of combining forces, we naturally bade farewell to the collaboration “shock factor” that was so prevalent throughout 2021 thanks to the likes of Fendace and Gucciaga. Releases such as Manolo Blahnik x Birkenstock, Alaïa x Superga, Palace x Gucci, or Jacquemus x Nike might have previously been classified as the “shock drops” of 2022 — but consumers are well used to these partnerships by now. Luxury fashion’s embrace of accessible sportswear and streetwear hardly warrants a mention because of how common it has become.
As a result, online reactions are increasingly more focused on the design value, and conversations surrounding how each brand’s reputation is left post-drop.
Questions brands should be asking include: Are they working with names that they want to be associated with? What’s the main focus of the collab? How does it impact the growth of their consumer market?
This year has proven that collaboration is the go-to vehicle for capturing consumer attention, combining marketing exposure and DNAs to shake up social media coverage. There’s been more than enough content for our weekly Collabs and Drops newsletter, where we report on the latest and most exciting launches.
Across 2022, we have interviewed so many experts in the field, from ERL’s founder Eli Russell Linnetz and artist Daniel Arsham, to streetwear mogul Jeff Staple, designer Richard Quinn, and China’s favorite footwear collaborator Feng Chen Wang. In the process, this is what we have learned:
All artwork is potential IP for brands
As Sarah Andelman, founder and creative director of Colette, told Jing Collabs & Drops in January, “There is no limit on how any brand or artist can collaborate. Now, people get it and want this kind of crossover.”
Thanks to foreign brands looking to connect with the China market, it’s been a great year for local artists. Chinese NYC-based illustrator Vanilla Chi worked with LVMH-owned suitcase label Rimowa on a set of stickers in May, Fendi continued its partnership with artist Oscar Wang, and artist-led streetwear line Melting Sadness lent its popular IPs to the likes of Adidas and Casio G-Shock.
When done well, artists are able to reinterpret a brand image in a way that instantly refreshes it. Plus, exhibitions, such as the recent Nexy.Co Year of the Rabbit collection with Chinese talent Deng Yu, invite consumers to take photos and post on social media. The result? An organic social campaign that puts consumers in the driving seat.
Long-term independent designer partnerships are a must for footwear brands
Keeping up with ongoing footwear collaborations was an extreme sport in 2022. Yet it proved the power of maintaining relevance, particularly in the streetwear space. That influence of external designers with solid fanbases is key for growth.
Exemplifying the impact, New York City’s fashion and lifestyle brand Aimé Leon Dore trickled out its holy grail New Balance silhouettes throughout the year, boasting 40k organic posts about the pairing with a reach of 6 million over the course of 12 months.
Other ongoing success stories include Andersson Bell and Asics, who came together for a third time in October 2022. Wales Bonner’s continued growth with Adidas, Feng Chen Wang’s hat-trick of Ugg collaborations, and over in China, Melting Sadness’ line of Adidas silhouettes had the industry and fans talking.
As a marker of success for both designers and footwear labels, these ongoing pairings instill longevity in independent design reputations, supporting their evolution. At the same time, they feed the cultural positioning of already-established brands.
More can be more when it comes to collaboration
There has definitely been a solid cluster of brands who have drilled down, more than ever, into collaboration in 2022. With the rise of initiatives such as both Gucci and Vans’ Vault series, many names have cemented frequent co-branded releases into their permanent calendars.
Gucci, for one, reeled out so many in 2022: Palace, Adidas, Harry Styles, The North Face, Major League Baseball (MLB), Oura Ring, and Dickies, to name a few. Then we also saw Jacquemus, previously less active in the space, gain collab-confidence to drop collections with Nike and Tekla.
Overall, streetwear — more so than any other sector — showed no signs of holding back, to the extent that collaborations became so commonplace that consumers could expect weekly announcements from the likes of Palace Skateboards and Clot.
For Palace, the more-is-more approach worked wonders on engagement. It saw mentions spike dramatically for the Mercedes-AMG and Gucci releases, and generally stay consistent in the past 12 months due to such frequent collaborations — gaining an estimated total reach of 5 million social media accounts.
Are we soon going to get to a stage where consumers are so used to seeing cross-branded collections that the new novelty will be solo drops? Perhaps one more year of amped-up collaborations is headed our way first.
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