Wednesday, 24 September 2014

When Beauty & Fashion Collide – Collaborations & Changing Expectations

Brand partnerships are no new feat in today’s collaborative marketing environment, and so when NARS Cosmetics announced their next collaboration during London Fashion Week, it came to no surprise that it would be with a fashion designer that closely echoed the brand’s own ethos, and whom they had worked with for many years.

Although not completely obvious, designers in the fashion industry form partnerships with beauty and hair brands as a means to produce the looks required for their runway shows during fashion week. MAC Cosmetics, for example, were reported to have covered 120 shows, worked with 350 make-up artists and made over 4700 models during last year’s global autumn/winter collections. It therefore seems like a natural progression for the tables to turn, and for designers to then collaborate with makeup companies to produce product ranges inspired by their design archives, or more recent collections.

The collaboration I was to alluding to earlier, is between NARS Cosmetics and Scottish fashion designer Christopher Kane. As mentioned by the designer himself, ‘NARS has been a long-standing and valued partner of ours, so this collaboration was an obvious fit. NARS has the same unapologetic aesthetic that is signature to the Christopher Kane brand and I'm excited to share what we've created together.’

Model’s wearing NARS Cosmetics at Christopher Kane’s Spring/Summer 2015 Show  (Source: The Independent UK)

Although not a new concept, what I found most intriguing about this collaboration was that the makeup looks worn by the models at Kane’s show last week were from the new collection, and served as a precursor to what NARS customers can expect once the product line officially hits the stores next May. Although the sneak peak was a clever idea, what I was initially expecting was the collection to be available right after the show had ended. What’s becoming more and more common place in the fashion industry is that designers are allowing consumers to ‘shop the show’, with major brands like Burberry taking pre-orders for their latest collections within minutes of the fashion show’s completion. These short lead-times are also happening in other industries, with Apple, for example, announcing their new iPhones just over a week before the phones are able to be purchased by customers in store (probably not a coincidence, as former Burberry CEO, Angela Ahrendts, is now Senior VP of Apple Retail).

Although there are obviously concerns with competitors copying new innovations when lead times are much greater (a topic we’ve been looking at more closely in our Ethics class), the problem here is more related to consumption patterns, with consumers wanting something now, as opposed to waiting half a year to get their hands on it.

So whether fans of both brands determine that the collaboration was worth the wait, we’ll have to see, but it’s undoubtedly a smart partnership, and with time, one that will hopefully be profitable for all parties involved.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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