In the wake of the rather uninteresting Barneys x Jay Z unveiling a few weeks ago, there is another collaboration just in time for the holidays: Alexander Wang x Beats by Dre. The collection consists of a pair of headphones, earbuds, and the Beats’ signature Pill speaker - all done up in matte black with gold accents. What is surprising (but probably shouldn't be) here is that someone in Wang's shoe's (think: the creative director of Balenciaga) would partake in this collaboration in the first place. While giving his name to Beats by Dre is certainly helping him rake in some money (because why else would he team up with Beats by Dre), it doesn't seem terribly cohesive for his brand, no?
Sure, Wang likes music. He has recruited some of his biggest fans, who also happen to be musicians, (think: A$AP ROCKY, Yolandi and Ninja of Die Antwoord, and Azealia Banks) to front the ad campaigns for T by Alexander Wang, his casual, lower-end line, and yes, he's young and cool, but Beats by Dre? The soon to be released collaboration, which is set to hit stores on December 16, seems at odds with the Alexander Wang brand more now than ever before. Wang has really graduated from his days as a "young" design brand, one focused almost exclusively on easy beach culture-meets-downtown models off-duty. He has morphed into a much talked-about force in fashion, one to be watched closely and taken seriously, despite his young age; he is not yet 30. When you look at his recently-publicized Pre-Fall 2014 collection (pictured below), complete with lace frocks, Western motifs, and themes of deterioration, it doesn't exactly scream Beats by Dre, save for maybe the black sportswear-inspired jackets. But maybe cohesiveness in fashion is a thing of the past, no longer important in our new age of high-low mixing and internet fame.
Sure, Wang is very likely making quite a bit of money from this collaboration, because why else would he team up with Beats by Dre (as distinct from the legendary producer/rapper, Dr. Dre, because he reportedly has little to do with the company, aside from licensing his name)? Is Balenciaga not paying you enough, Alex?
In Wang's defense, he probably has little to do with the collaboration. You may recall that the aforementioned collab that Barneys did with Jay Z included a jacket "by" Jay Z and Rick Owens and in saying "by Jay Z and Rick Owens" I mean, anything but that. It turns out, Owens isn't terribly "familiar" with Jay Z at all, as he told AnOther magazine late last month, suggesting that he may have had little to do with the trio's collaborative efforts. The same thing is likely happening here. Someone at Alexander Wang, maybe his brother, who serves as chief financial advisor; his sister-in-law, who serves as the chief principal officer; or a trusted individual in branding with the final OK by legal, may have thought it was a good business decision to license out the Alexander Wang name in exchange for a what we can only assume is a hefty fee. Alex is spending quite a bit of time in Paris these days. So, he has likely had very minimal involvement in the collab.
Interestingly, while we know that about the true nature of such collaborations, I'm sure the average consumer, even the above average consumer, is not aware of the disconnection between such designers and the collaborations with which they are associated. It would seem that a Jay Z x Barneys collaboration with Rick Owens, Proenza Schouler, etc. would include more than minimal participation from all parties. However, as we know, that is very far from the case. The same is likely to happen with Wang. Because his name is on the product, the public (even high fashion consumers) will assume his participation, which will undeniably affect their view of his brand, for better or worse, consciously or not.
What seems to have not been taken into consideration or not taken into consideration seriously enough is the way this type of nonsensical collaboration and potential saturation of the market with a delicate luxury (in-the-making) brand name affects a brand both immediately and in the long run. Or maybe this was all taken into consideration and the price that Beats by Dre was offering to pay was truly worth the potential side-effects of branding yourself next to hypebeasts. We have no ill will towards Beats by Dre. It is just that, in high fashion, branding, appearance and the notion of unattainability is everything. Thoughts?