I have been thinking about what gives a brand longevity…always know that when I use the word “brand”, I am thinking not just about physical product, but also people. There aren’t many brands that stand the test of time and in today’s product-heavy, media-dominant, fast-paced environment, building a timeless brand is by far one of the most challenging feats in business and in life…
First I want to mention some of the brands that inspire me…not as much for their overall look or style, but because of their ability to stay relevant and always true to their core brand characteristics. In fashion, there isn’t a brand that comes close to Ralph Lauren! The brand has been around for 40 years and arguably has defined American style on an international level. In many ways the Ralph Lauren brand is so intertwined with the global view of America, that it actually has become one of America’s greatest brand attributes.
Other fashion or design oriented brands that either have withstood the test of time or have the potential to do so are of course Apple, the symbol for modern and innovative global design; Nike and the Swoosh, representing strength, motivation and physical perfection; and, Louis Vuitton with its almost ubiquitous logo, representing the ultimate status symbol… What about some of the great “personal brands”? Mick Jagger, the rock star…Jennifer Anniston, the girl next door…Jackie O, the fashion icon… These are all rare and special brands that never waiver, never falter and never give in to the pressure of time. They find a way to evolve, by staying true to what or who they are.
So now I want to segue into the reason for this blog entry…the idea of co-branding to create brand longevity. Brand collaboration isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon, but it has only become popular in fashion in the last few years…. Fashion brands don’t always like to play nice with each other, but when they do the effect can be genius. Obviously, the “Guest Designer” phenomenon has given great credibility to mass brands such as Target and “low” brands such as H&M. It also has allowed aspirational brands such as Karl Lagerfeld and Roberto Cavalli to greatly expand their audiences and emerging brands to garner global attention. Of course these are designer-retailer collaborations, so the fit is a more natural one, but what happens when two fashion brands actually come together?
One of my favorite menswear collaborations in the last year is Raf Simons and Fred Perry. Fred Perry, founded by its namesake in the 1940’s is famous for its cotton pique tennis-inspired shirts and of course its laurel wreath logo. The logo and their signature tennis-modern-prep look have withstood the test of time, however the brand clearly has not enjoyed the kind of global recognition reveled in by some of the aforementioned brands. Raf Simons touted as one of the great modernist menswear designers when he emerged from Antwerp in the mid-1990s had early critical success, though never broke through the fashion clutter to form a lasting brand impression. Raf Simons re-launched his brand in 2005 under the RAF by RAF SIMONS label. So what happens when a brand known for its staying power and consistency joins forces with a brand known for cutting-edge design? Do both finally create enough noise to catapult them to the next level?
Fred Perry By Raf Simons is definitely an exciting collaboration. The collection is current and gives Fred Perry a little shot of relevance. The entire collection is black creating a sharp contrast to the tennis whites the brand is so famous for. It evokes a moodiness…it is sexy…it is wearable and understated. The laurel wreath logo is proudly displayed on all of the knitwear, branding each piece as quintessential Fred Perry. It is available at Barneys Co-op, Opening Ceremony, Fred Segal and Odin, just to name a few.
Clearly this is a co-branding success story…both brands enhance their chances at longevity by creating "smart" noise. If I were advising Fred Perry, I would recommend that they continue seek out guest designers…When a brand has an iconic style or symbol which in their case is the pique shirt, it makes perfect sense to keep reinforcing it and refining it for an ever-changing and fickle audience. For Raf Simons, co-branding is a way to stay in the limelight and to reinforce and stay true to his design vision. He also has an interesting collaboration with Eastpak.
So what does this all mean for my readers? Yes, go out and buy Fred Perry By Raf Simons, but more importantly pay attention to how you co-brand yourself. The concept is very simple… Every time you put a piece of clothing on your body, you are co-branding. You are enhancing your personal attributes with the very brands you choose. Everything you wear makes a statement about the person you are! Once you understand this, not only will you be able to choose your brand collaborations wisely, but you will cut through the clutter, stand out and will be on the road to true brand longevity…