Hype culture has been governing the fashion industry for a while now. Consumer thirst for rare and community-led fashion is soaring, which is subsequently shaping retail business strategies. As a result, stores are releasing limited edition capsules in collaboration with brands, across China and the rest of the world.
Recent years have seen an influx of retail exclusives, from Dover Street Market launching a limited-edition Gucci collection earlier this year, to Ssense partnering with brands like Vans, Anna Sui, Miaou, Versace, and even Pornhub on campaigns and collections. Since 2014, Chinese fashion incubator Labelhood has released over 80 exclusives with both local and foreign brands, including the likes of Harrods, YiranTian, and Airbnb.
One of the mainland’s most stylishly selective multi-brand retailers, ENG Concept plans to launch two store-exclusive capsules per year with independent designers. The company’s buyer director and business development lead Laura Darmon explains that sales performance is one of the leading motivations for both parties.
“[Limited edition collections] can drive way more customers than simply retailing the original products from a brand,” says Darmon. “Our audience knows that at ENG, they will be able to find items that cannot be found anywhere else in China. Also, the format of these collaborations builds a large base of community.”
For ENG’s limited drops, the marketing strategy involves emulating the whole universe of the brand or artist that it is collaborating with. One project, launched in 2022, was an exhibition at the Shanghai store by Venice Beach clothing brand ERL – the brand collaborated with ENG Concept on a lifesize model and hospital bed installation that emulated the Fall 2022 lookbook.
ERL’s creative director Eli Russell Linnetz told Jing Daily in an interview that working exclusively with a retailer had not originally been on his agenda, which illustrates how concept stores are carving out a new era of creativity for fashion brands.
The 2022 installation enabled ENG to emphasize its own image via ERL’s global cult identity. It’s yet another co-branded project that proves the crucial role of community in collaborations.
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