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This is definitely Versace’s year. The Italian brand put on the most talked-about show during Milan Fashion week with some help from Jennifer Lopez and their legendary plunging green dress. It is actually exactly that iconic moment from the spring 2020 runway show that inspired the brand’s latest collaboration with luxury retailer Net-a-Porter.
“I am always a fan of what Versace is doing, and lately it’s been an exciting time for them with the buzzy ‘JLO dress’ and other recreations of their 90’s signature styles,” said Elizabeth von der Goltz, Net-a-Porter’s Global Buying Director. “After their successful runway show, I knew we had to work with Versace to create this capsule for our customers who will be attending endless parties this holiday season.”
The capsule, in question, which launches today on Net-a-Porter.com, is an ode to the Italian brand’s opulent 90s style. Think gold details, high shine metallics, even Gianni Versace’s original handwritten signature is printed on tailored blazers, cocktail dresses, handbags, and sandals. It’s a collection made in luxury fashion heaven and it is the latest high-end collaboration to hit the market.
In fashion, designer collaborations have become the status quo, it seems. Net-a-Porter and Versace’s partnership is only one example of brands joining forces (online retailers are brands in their own right after all) to offer customers a limited range of products be it apparel, beauty, home décor, etc.
Last week, for example, Farfetch teamed up with a vintage jewelry expert who curated a selection of never-before-worn necklaces, rings, earrings, brooches, and bracelets from the Christian Dior archives. Acne Studios and Mulberry launched a collection of handbags and small leather goods. And of course, there was the H&M and Giambattista Valli partnership.
“Collaborations are both an extremely important and fun part of what we do,” says Richard James, Co-Founder of Richard James Savile Row, who recently teamed up with Swarovski. “They allow you to look at what you do through someone else’s eyes and introduce your core brand message, by way of the back door, to a new, receptive and ready audience. Our Design and Brand Director Toby Lamb says that a good collaboration is like a parallel journey where two paths converge and complement the identity of each brand.”
In the digital age when people are constantly bombarded with new products and information, brand awareness has become more important than ever before. While years ago, collaborations were less likely because companies were unwilling to share the spotlight with other labels for fear of diluting their message or confusing their customers, times have changed. Nowadays, it’s even common to see a well-established brand team up with a lesser-known one for the benefit of both.
“These collaborations are also a tremendous vehicle to shine a light on smaller, more artisanal designers and artists that may not have the means to reach a certain consumer,” explains Melissa Ventosa Martin, Fashion Director of Departures. “It raises awareness by providing the exposure they need to grow and reach new markets […] The larger brands benefit because the consumer is able to see their product through a new lens.”
And while creating more brand awareness is important for companies so is the bottom line. After all, fashion may be an art form but it is also a business. Following the hugely successful (and much Instagrammed) collaboration between Supreme and Louis Vuitton in 2017, the French heritage house’s profits jumped 21 percent and, in its 2017 report, it credited among other “creative triumphs” the “highly successful capsule collection” with the New York streetwear brand as having contributed to that impressive increase in revenue.
“From a pure retail-driven point of view, collabs are great for our industry. They generate traffic into our stores, attract new customers and let us be part of that “buzz” and “drop” and “hype” culture, defined by limitation of products, queuing, and even pre-paying for goods,” said Julian Daynov, VP of Brand and Communication Strategy at an international brand consulting company. Daynov, who has also spent seven years as a fashion buyer for luxury department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, The Dubai Mall, Barneys, and GUM, adds that collaborations have generated huge profits over the last few years and have led to a noticeable sales growth in brands’ core-line products as well.
“Customers get the ‘hype wave’ generated by a particular collaboration and make their way to the stores of the brand in question, where they often get main-line pieces,” he explains. That way both brands end up selling more of their own products “with bigger margins, more awareness, and [attract] more traffic from people who wouldn't have necessarily visited their flagship or sales corner at a department store.”
Designers are now even looking outside of fashion to find their next creative partner to help them expand their customer base. Virgil Abloh, for example, teamed up with IKEA “to update a range of everyday products—from clocks to chairs.” And most recently, Louis Vuitton partnered with Riot Games, a video game developer, to create a “one-of-a-kind Trophy Travel Case to hold the Summoner’s Cup,” the trophy awarded in a prestigious gaming competition.
“Brands are more about a lifestyle, a full 360 approach,” explains Ventosa Martin. “Collaborations such as these seem like a logical next step, while also allowing creative directors to explore new avenues of creativity as it relates to travel, design, and art.”