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Luxury Consumers Call for Off-Beat and High-Brow Collaborations

You’re nobody until somebody collaborates with you. Or so it seemed in 2018.

This year alone the luxury sector saw collaborations from Louis Vuitton x Grace Coddington, Nike x Kim Jones, Gucci x Dapper Dan, Moschino x H&M, Balmain x Net-a-Porter… and that’s not even scratching the surface of some of the more eccentric partnerships like Japanese streetwear designer Nigo teaming with KFC for a T-shirt collection.

And the collaboration gravy train isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

New York-based streetwear brand and retailer Kith alone has collaborations with Versace, Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s, Greg Lauren, Ugg, Adidas, New Balance, Columbia, MISBHV, Vans and Bergdorf Goodman on deck for the first part of 2019.

But with a flurry of luxury and streetwear brands vying to spice up their designs and drum up buzz by linking up with another creative entity, do brands run the risk of diluting the uniqueness and impact of collaborations?

The key to keeping the romance alive with consumers are off-beat, unexpected partnerships, Highsnobiety reveals in its new white paper, “The New Luxury.”

A whopping 96 percent of Highsnobiety readers surveyed for the paper said they take “an interest in traditional brands who take unexpected creative changes or collaborate in unexpected ways.”

While critics have begun to question whether the market has reached “peak collaboration,” Highsnobiety points out there “remains a rather large runway for brands to operate in this arena” and “those who provide a unique point of view will earn a luxury label” with young luxury consumers.

Bergdorf Goodman, the stately department store that historically wreaks of Fifth Avenue wealth, caught onto this in 2017 when it began collaborating with Kith. The collaboration was positioned as “modern luxury,” with a focus on co-branded men’s zip hoodies, pullovers, track pants, shorts, tees and hats.

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“Through this partnership, the two entities provide consumers a truly unique point-of-view,” Highsnobiety wrote.

And it pays to think out of the box. Thirty-seven percent of millennial and Gen Z consumers Highsnobiety surveyed said they are willing to spend more on an item if it is limited-edition. However, limited-edition items need “something extra” to feel luxurious—be it a closer connection with the brand or a quality that “expands their cultural horizons.”

Social media is helping consumers forge deeper relationships with the brands they buy. Highsnobiety reports that 91 percent of readers can identify the designer and creatives behind their favorite brands and 82 percent even follow them on social media.

Brands are also elevating their designs through creative partnerships with artists. And in the process, rolling out designs that appeal to both their traditional customer and younger consumers.

Louis Vuitton’s colorful partnership with Takashi Murakami in the 2000s paved the way for brands like streetwear visionary Supreme to team with British contemporary artist Damien Hirst and street artist KAWS.

Meanwhile, artist and former snowboarder Trevor Andrew (a.k.a GucciGhost), known best for his 2016 collaboration with Gucci, teamed with streetwear brand Real Buy this fall for a line of Pop Art T-shirts.

Art’s influence in luxury and streetwear bodes well for all parties involve, as the “young luxury consumer becomes a patron of the arts,” the report states. Ninety percent of readers said they discover new creatives, photographers and artist through fashion.

“This introduced their work to a broader and younger audience, and at times helps them discover their true constituency,” Highsnobiety said.