A History Of Collaboration


It seems like just yesterday I scrounged up enough money (probably better spent toward college textbooks…) to purchase a cherry-printed Luella Bartley wristlet from Target as part of their first – and much anticipated – GO International program. Officially launching in 2006, on the heels of the success of Issac Mizrahi for Target, the campaign featured a different high-end designer each season that would create an exclusive, limited-time and obviously lower-priced, collection for Target. The campaign was hugely successful, spanning over 10 years and featuring well-known luxury designers like Alexander McQueen, Zac Posen, Missoni, Phillip Lim and Jason Wu. Long past the days where I have to scrounge up money for a wristlet, I still find myself with several pieces from the collections including a Richard Chai trench coat and an Alice Temperley LBD. While brands have been collaborating for decades, Target’s GO International campaign was the match that re-ignited the flame for retail collaborations – bringing high-end design to the masses.

Today, everywhere we look brands are collaborating, from retail to restaurant, to grocery and tech, brands are identifying their weaknesses and partnering-up to create a stronger brand experience. Brands continue to push the envelope with collaborations, from soda brands partnering with French lingerie designers to an athletic apparel brand partnering with a brewing company – nothing is off-limits! Let’s take a look back at a few game-changing brand collaborations from the past ten years and how its impacting the future of retail.

Stella McCartney & GapKids. This collaboration marked the only time in my adult life, I wished I was 4 feet tall… Launching in 2009, McCartney was able to expand her brand’s reach with her first full children’s wear collection done in collaboration with GapKids as well as babyGap. Even at the lower price-point, McCartney stayed true to her brand and vegetarian principles by utilizing fabrics like organic cotton, cashmere and wool and creating all shoes without leather.

Sourcebits. In 2013 Google Glass, while it had astonishing capabilities, did not exactly have a customer-friendly design for the everyday wearer … enter Warby Parker. The eyewear up-and-comer was able to create renderings that merged the infinite technology with a stylish frame, making the future of tech look more realistic (and aesthetically pleasing).

Silvercar. The start-up that launched in 2012 is a great example of how brand collaborations are actually creating new business models. The nearly three-year-old airport car rental startup, based in Austin, uses a mobile app to allow customers to book, access, unlock, and pay for their rental car — which is ALWAYS a brand-new silver Audi A4. Today they continue to aggressively expand, most recently announcing a $28 million funding round led by Audi.

Tory Burch for Fitbit. High-end fashion labels and mass-market retail are an obvious match, but what happens when you pair a designer with a tech company? You create wearable tech that everyone can get behind! Burch first launched her accessory collection for the Fitbit Flex in 2014 with both bracelet and necklace designs, starting at just $38, which disguised the fitness tracker (and the fact that they could look stylish without the tracker, was a bonus)!

Lilly for Target. No collaboration list is complete without at least one of Target’s designer collections – the ultimate example of high-low fashion – and there’s no better example that illustrates the passionate following of the brand, than the Lilly Pulitzer collection. Launched in the spring of 2015, the 250-piece collection sold out almost immediately both in-store and online. Hundreds of customers camped-out outside stores across the country and once inside shared photos on social media of empty racks and hangers.

Amazon for JetBlue. Successful brand collaborations have worked on land, so what’s next? Head to the skies. This past winter, the popular airline JetBlue in partnership with Amazon announced that they had collaborated to offer Amazon Prime members free streaming video on over 150 JetBlue aircrafts. In turn, JetBlue terminals will offer activities and the ability to earn points towards Amazon purchases in 2016.

Even though a new brand collaboration seems to pop-up every week, as we learned for the buzz created last week with Beyonce’s new athletic line, Ivy Park for Nordstrom & TopShop, consumers have not lost interest in the possibilities of a unique, new product offering!

Image Credit: Trendhunter.com, Racked.com, TheFashionFoot.com, Silvercar.com, Buzzfeed.com, FastCompany.com

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