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The Changing Face of Collaborations in the Luxury Goods Industry: Beyond the H&M Collaboration Phenomenon

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Since H&M, the fast fashion retailer, launched its first designer collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld in 2004, followed later by Jimmy Choo (2009) and Versace (2011) to name but a few, the publicity surrounding collaborations in the luxury goods industry has rapidly increased. When Louis Vuitton started an artistic collaboration with graffiti artist Stephen Sprouse in 2001 there
was a lot less publicity and media hype than with today’s current collaboration with Yayoi Kusama. But what are the benefits of collaborations between high street brands, luxury brands and the world of art?

Collaborating with Missoni

Most recently, Havaianas, the Brazilian brand famous for its wide range of flip-flops, launched a special footwear range designed in collaboration with Missoni, under the Missoni Loves Havaianas label. The range is available at a large number of Havaianas stockists, along with directly owned Havaianas and Missoni stores. To an extent, this detracts from the luxury element, where limited availability is the key to creating demand and an aura of exclusivity. However, the collaboration still brings a number of benefits for both parties. From Missoni’s perspective, on the one hand this allows customers to buy into its range at a much lower price point, which works in a similar way to H&M’s collaborations with luxury designers. Following the initial
“affordable” purchase, consumers are likely to trade up and purchase other Missoni products. On the other hand, the collaboration has furnished Havaianas with a way of drawing in new luxury goods buyers who would not have previously bought into the Havaianas brand, also helping to expand its consumer base.

As with everything in retail, there are hits and misses. The Missoni and Havaianas collaboration has shown signs of not being as successful as anticipated, with products being sold in outlet stores at a discount less than two months after the original launch.

Missoni and Havaianas Shoes

Louis Vuitton’s artistic collaborations

Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest luxury goods brand, has also carved out a niche as one of the most enterprising brands. Over the past decade Louis Vuitton has focused on a number of art-led campaigns. The first took place in 2001 with graffiti-style artist Stephen Sprouse who created a stampede for selected bags and accessories following a photograph of Victoria Beckham
carrying one. The same success was achieved when Marc Jacobs, Creative Director at Louis Vuitton, launched a revamped Stephen Sprouse range in 2009, which swiftly sold out and is now sold at inflated prices on eBay.

Other famous Louis Vuitton collaborations include the 2002 Takashi Murakami range which jazzed up the now infamous Louis Vuitton monogram with a bright range of colours that have now become embedded in Louis Vuitton’s range. Marc Jacobs has reportedly said that such collaboration "has been, and continues to be, a monumental marriage of art and commerce”. Therefore, it is clear that for Louis Vuitton the notion of commerce can be fused with art in order to provide a fruitful relationship for both parties.

Quality not quantity the key to successful collaborations

It is clear that luxury collaborations from brands including Missoni and Louis Vuitton have injected some much-needed colour into both the business and the catwalk. When art joins forces with luxury giants like Louis Vuitton the outcome can really help to shape a brand’s success. Artistic collaborations between brands and artists are forecast to continue, with originality being the key to making these relationships profitable.

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