Brand tie-ups on limited edition specials are often seen as a way to craft cult status. However, for collaborations to resonate in a meaningful way they must have a purpose.
Tim Little, owner and creative director of footwear brand Grenson, says he is regularly approached to take part in brand collaborations, but if it’s just a case of “putting a logo on it” in order to sell more, the team are not interested. They believe collaborations should add another dimension, which is why Grenson partners with brands that can offer something special beyond their logo or a new colour.
A recent collaboration saw Grenson team up with Persephone, an independent bookshop which reissues out-of-print books written by women. Launched in April, the womenswear collection is printed with patterns used in the end paper of each Persephone book.
Another stand-out collaboration is the 2016 tie-up between Grenson and trainer brand New Balance. Five years in the development, the idea behind the ‘One Shoe, Two Factories’ project was to bring the craftsmen at Grenson’s Northamptonshire factory closer to the team at New Balance’s trainer factory in Flimby, Lancashire. The result was a hybrid tan leather trainer, based on the New Balance 576 style, limited to 800 pairs.
“It’s really a story about factories and craftsmanship, and we got so much more depth than if we’d sent them a logo and they’d stamped it in the shoe and said this is a Grenson collaboration,” Little explains.
“The people who follow us are intelligent and they want more from a brand than just ‘we’ve only done ten of them so if you don’t buy them now they’ll be gone’”.
This attitude is shared by British folding bike pioneer Brompton, which looks to partner with companies who share similar values. The end game is not to sell another bike to an existing customer, but to use the collaboration to reach new audiences who might have an affinity with Brompton, CMO Stephen Loftus explains.
One such collaborator is fellow British brand The Cambridge Satchel Company. In March Brompton unveiled a special edition bike in gloss oxblood and ivory, designed to integrate a special collaboration oxblood satchel into the bike’s front carrier system.
A slightly more unusual tie-up was with Line Friends, the sub-brand of Japanese messaging app Line. The capsule of 50 limited edition bikes, featuring icons of Line Friends characters, sold out within two hours when it went on sale in Korea in October.
“We created some bikes and some content that helped us reach into new audiences. It wasn’t about the number of bikes, it was about creating a fun story about two companies coming together,” Loftus adds.
Fostering close partnerships with distributors and retailers, who pass on a “passion for the product”, has also helped Brompton grow its global community of fans.
The brand’s flagship event, the Brompton World Championship, began in Barcelona after a retailer suggested Brompton should invite people to race their bikes around the city. A decade later there are 15 Brompton World Championships worldwide.