Strange Bedfellows? Collaborations Help Young Brands Make Ends Meet

Ever wonder how – exactly – some of your favorite emerging-stage brands stay afloat? It is usually from projects external to the brands themselves. Take Public School, for instance. The industry-adorned brand, which boasts an array of relatively expensive wares, showed Nike Jumpman-adorned garments on its Spring/Summer 2018 runway, the result of a three-year long deal (as of now) with Nike’s Jordan brand, the profits from which certainly to help make ends meet for the young(ish) brand.

In 2014, Nike’s Jordan Brand and Public School teamed up for a seven-piece collection apparel – and two footwear silhouettes – that “leveraged performance materials and strong silhouettes – while taking cues from the Air Jordan XII. Along with referencing the shoe’s design lines, the collaboration reflects its premium materials and elevated craftsmanship.”

According to a statement from Nike, Michael Jordan’s “legacy lives on in the Jordan Brand x Public School collection, which captures the energy of the big city and colorful personalities of the respective brands.”

As we noted not too long ago, younger brands reliance on collaborations is extremely commonplace, maybe even more so than anyone might initially expect.  Of the industry’s most well-known young (i.e. just over 10 years old) privately-owned labels, Alexander Wang and Rodarte, are two interesting examples, as these brands almost certainly look outside of their main collections – their runway collections – for most of their revenue streams. 

In addition to its more affordable T by Alexander Wang collection, Alexander Wang has booked various collaborations to rake in cash. The New York-based brand teamed up with Swedish fast fashion giant H&M in 2014, thereby bringing in a pay check in the ball park of an estimated $1 million dollars. Moreover, Wang has signed on with adidas for another lucrative collab, which has seen two collection drops since its debut in 2016. The brand has also put its name on collaborations with Evian and Beats by Dre.

Rodarte operates according to a similar model. The Los Angeles-based brand – which has been praised for its “couture-like” creations (think: $21,000 mermaid-inspired dresses) – almost certainly makes most of its money from its “Radarte” line of track pants, t-shirts and sweatshirts (something its PR team has – obviously – denied, saying the brand sells quite a bit of its Ready-to-Wear and ALSO has experienced “strong growth in more accessible items including T-shirts and sweatshirts”).

Nonetheless, the number of other projects that the Rodarte founders and creative directors, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, are involved in suggests that their outside consulting likely funds their Rodarte design activities. In the past few years alone, Rodarte has lent its name and design sensibilities to Coach, Oliver Peoples, & Other Stories, and the Rug Company, among brands.

While most fashion brands do, in fact, make money, most of it tends to come from external projects, as opposed to from the sale of their own branded items. So, keep your eyes open this fashion month. There are bound to be some noteworthy (read: big-money) brand pairings.