The history and effectiveness of luxury brand collaborations

Croud Luxe Marketing Team

20th May 2024

~ 7 min read

How effective are luxury brand collaborations?

Arguably, the first big brand collaboration in the modern era was Louis Vuitton’s partnership with US artist and fashion designer Stephen Sprouse. The result was an iconic limited edition collection where LV’s classic monogram logo was replaced by New York-style graffiti. It was the brainchild of then-brand chief Marc Jacobs and many believe that the current trend for luxury collabs started here.

Brand chiefs and creative directors know that the right collaboration generates acres of publicity for their firms and the products they’re launching. So much so that Paris Fashion Week and other major fashion world events are often the venues they’ll choose to announce these partnerships to the public.

In this article, we cover the following topics:

  • The three main types of luxury brand collabs with recent and historic examples.
  • The evolution of luxury brand collaborations.
  • The commercial case for collabs.
  • How to ensure maximum commercial success when two brands come together.

The three different types of luxury brand collaboration

Luxury brand collaborations can be broken down into the following three categories:

Two (or more) luxury brands

Like when Fendi and Versace joined forces. Each house reinterpreted the style of the other to create two collections – “Versace by Fendi” and “Fendi by Versace”. Fendi’s Kim Jones and Donatella Versace took to the runway together to launch what they called a “swap” but was really a collaboration. At the event, they presented ranges of footwear, handbags and accessories to great acclaim and healthy sales from each new mini-label to the world.

Other memorable examples include:

  • Burberry x Supreme. Burberry provided the style and patterns for affordable luxury brand Supreme’s puffer jackets, stylishly launched/confirmed in a social media post featuring rapper A$AP Nast.
  • Supreme v Tiffany’s. Supreme also recently reimagined versions of classics like Tiffany’s star bracelets and heart tag pendants.
  • adidas vs Prada – a long-standing collab that has just seen its third range launch. Their new collection features a range of Prada-branded Forum sneakers, bags and bucket hats.
  • Reebok vs Maison Margiela – another long-standing collab where Maison Margiela designs a limited edition range of sneakers from Reebok.

Luxury brand + celebrity/ies

We recently wrote about the power of celebrity ambassadors when marketing beauty. For the same reasons, luxury brands are keen to partner with celebrities. Arguably, the most famous line to come from such a collaboration in fashion history is adidas and Kanye West’s “Yeezys”.

Other examples include:

  • Louis Vuitton x Kanye West. Another big hitter, the French fashion house and rapper teamed up to release the Don, a limited edition sneaker.
  • Burberry x Vivienne Westwood. The pair collaborated on a highly celebrated capsule collection featuring t-shirts to promote the Cool Earth non-profit organisation.
  • H&M and Karl Lagerfeld. In a then innovative twist, Swedish fast-fashion label H&M teamed up with the former Chanel creative director to lend its brand luxury connotations. This “high-low” collaboration was a great success and it would lead to H&M working with other noted fashion designers like Jason Wu to raise brand awareness and customer loyalty.
  • Birkenstock vs Manolo Blahnik. Spanish fashion designer Manolo Blahnik teamed up with luxury clothing line Birkenstock to create a best-selling 70-piece capsule collection featuring handbags, cocktail dresses, denim jackets and sailor sweaters.

Luxury brand + surprise collaborator

Not all collabs are immediately obvious. For example, you wouldn’t necessarily associate Louis Vuitton with the National Basketball Association. But the partnership worked and they recently launched their second collection together.

Some of the biggest fashion collaborations featuring surprise guest stars include:

  • North Face x Gucci. The outdoor clothing retailer and Italian fashion house created a range of hiking boots, bombers and parkas with the GG monogram.
  • Dior x Technogym. Dior’s successfully cracked the sportswear market with anoraks, t-shirts, sports bras and leggings featuring signature bold patterns like the Oblique and Étoile prints. Technogym benefited also by launching a range of co-branded limited-edition sports equipment including exercise balls and a treadmill.
  • Miu Miu x New Balance. Here, the noted Italian luxury brand lent its style to Boston sports footwear and apparel manufacturer to create a limited-edition collection of sneakers.

The evolution of the luxury fashion collaboration

The first major fashion collaboration occurred when influential aristocratic Italian designer and inventor of the jumpsuit, Elsa Schiaparelli, teamed up with Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí in the 1930s and 1940s. The classic Lobster dress, worn by Wallis Simpson when she married a freshly-abdicated Duke of Windsor, is still remembered to this day.

There was a trickle of luxury fashion collaborations in the 1960s-1980s. The sixties saw Italian fashion designer and politician Emilio Pucci working with fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna on a range of menswear. This partnership lasted well into the 1970s. Karl Lagerfield’s relationship with Chanel began as a collaboration in the 1980s on Hervé Léger’s watch. It has such an impact that Lagerfeld took charge of the firm the following year.

The 1990s was the start of the modern era featuring a steady growth in the number of luxury collaborations that continues to this day. Nike collaborated first with Japanese fashion label Comme des Garçons to add a high fashion sensibility to its sneakers and sportswear, a partnership that continues to bear fruit for both parties.

Success after success led to luxury brands incorporating collabs into their annual marketing plans because their commercial value and appeal was evident.

The success of luxury brand collaborations

Consumer sentiment bears out why two (or more) are often better than one to this day. Among Gen Z and millennial consumers, 60% or more report that they have purchased special editions created by brands in collaboration with different artists/brands. The figure is still an impressively high 40% among Gen Xers.

In a poll taken among Chinese consumers, 46% expressed approval of luxury brand collabs because they resulted in “cool, new different styles” and 22% for their “special and unique collections”. 14% liked collaborations because they were “something new without changing identity”, an indication that luxury brand loyalty is not unique to Westernised markets.

H&M’s clever market positioning with Karl Lagerfeld and other high-end designers was a clever move, tapping into the 37% of consumers who want a luxury lifestyle but who can’t afford it. It’s an intelligent play for luxury brands too as they benefit from heightened brand awareness while having the excuse to break price points because of the “high-low” nature of the relationship. At launch, the Lagerfeld collection created such a stir that H&M were forced to ration customers to 15 minutes in the changing rooms because of the “snaking queues“.

Likewise, Vuitton’s collab with Supreme is a pitch at making Vuitton’s brand desirable and relevant to younger audiences to whom style is important. Vuitton revenues rose 21% that year and they cite their collaboration with Supreme as being a key sales driver.

Moncler saw its revenues jump by 27% when it launched a range of designer collaborations in 2018, teaming up with names like Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli and Londoners Craig Green and Simone Rocha.

What’s behind a successful fashion collaboration between luxury brands?


Choosing the right partner is everything.

Not all collabs are successful. In 2011, luxury department store Neiman Marcus partnered with big box US retailer Target on a 400-item collection. Time dubbed this an “epic retail fail“.

Some collabs start off well but end badly. When Kanye West made what was reported to be an “anti-semitic” remark, adidas cancelled its contract immediately. However, the could offer shareholders comfort by reminding them that they own the rights to the Yeezy line including the Yeezy Boost.

Authenticity, as with everything concerning Gen Z and Millennials, is important. The genuine friendship between Kim Jones of Fendi and Donatella Versace came across really well at the launch event as did in the marriage of their respective stylings across the two collections which were, in many ways, an inspiration.

Desirability is another factor. Do the results of the collaboration look like the type of clothing the luxury brand’s target audience would wear? Do they have the potential to become a classic whose value may increase over time as the luxury resale market becomes more important?

Pricing is particularly important in “high-low” collaborations. While H&M seem to get the pricing right on their partnerships, an argument for why the Fenda x Fila venture went wrong because the products were too expensive for the typical Fila customer.

Explore brand collaborations with Croud Luxe

In just over a decade, Croud Luxe has built close relationships with many luxury brands around the world. Whether it’s your first collaboration or you’re looking for opportunities with a new partner, get in touch to discuss your ideas. We look forward to working with you.

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