f you’ve been paying even the slightest bit of attention to the fashion industry over the last few years, you’ll know that collaborations have never been hotter. Once a rare occurrence impelled by a creative meeting of minds that just happened to push publicity for both sides, since high street giant H&M made the high-low collaboration an annual event, partnerships have reached fever pitch. But as the The landscape becomes saturated, brands are looking to cut through the noise with increasingly unusual collaborators – Vetements and DHL, or Frame Denim and The Ritz Paris, for example – and it seems anything goes.
This summer a new wave of unlikely partnerships have popped up as fashion houses and e-commerce platforms turn to luxury hotels and travel brands for their latest collaborations. From Abercrombie & Kent x Love Brand & Co to Mett Hotels x David Gandy Wellwearbrands are coming together to curate holiday-ready capsule collections and travel guides. But what’s behind the trend?
“We noticed a significant resurgence in vacation planning among our customers,” says Lea Cranfield, Chief Buying & Merchandising Officer at Net-A-Porterwhich has joined forces with luxury holiday rental firm Plum Guide. “Our mission became to help our audience navigate the stress of holiday planning and packing by equipping them with unique travel advice alongside our expertly curated vacation wear edit.” While on the surface an odd pairing, this partnership makes clear commercial sense. Both brands target similar audiences and, by combining Plum Guide’s travel expertise with the style insight of a big fashion player, both companies are able to cash in on the swathes of holiday-goers looking to make the most of their long-anticipated getaway.
And travel is a lucrative market for brands to cash in on – after all, is there any greater pleasure for a fashion fanatic than splashing out on an entirely new wardrobe, intoxicated by the notion of all the beautiful locations where we will be able to debut our newly-curated ensembles? The business of resortwear and cruise collections is booming, with a 2019 report by research firm Censuswide noting that British shoppers spend almost $3 billion annually on summer clothing, with young customers reporting they would feel embarrassed if they were seen twice in the same outfit. With travel returning post-Covid, the effects of this trend are only set to intensify. Conscious consumerism aside, it’s really a no-brainer that brands would jump on the opportunity to be part of the return to pre-pandemic shopping habits.
Other partnerships, however – like that between Abercrombie & Kent and luxury men’s resortwear label Love Brand & Co (which has ongoing collaborations with high-end luggage brand Globe-Trotter and hotels including the Marbella Club and Como Parrot Cay) – have more sentimental motivations : this season the travel brand partnered with Love Brand & Co to design six new prints in celebration of its 60th anniversary. “Designing a capsule to help Abercrombie & Kent celebrate such a milestone is a proud moment for the brand,” says Oliver Tomalin, founder of Love Brand & Co. “I grew up with stories of my parent’s honeymoon on safari, arranged with Abercrombie & Kent, so it was a great privilege to be part of their 60th anniversary celebrations and to ensure their customer has the ultimate and bespoke travel wardrobe.”
Elsewhere, to celebrate the opening of The Standard Ibiza earlier this year, the hotel group enlisted menswear brand SMR Days to design a collection of unisex uniforms for its staff, which was also available for guests to purchase and keep as a souvenir of their stay. The partnership proved to be a sell-out and the hotel group has since partnered with New York-based swimwear brand Onia on a capsule of swimming costumes and shorts, as well as with Craig Green to market luxury bath robes.
Aside from providing a trusted travel experience and complementary wardrobe, for some brands it’s about tapping into the expertise of those in adjacent fields. Of course, a celebrity name helps as well. For METT Hotels, this materialised in a collection of David Gandy Wellwear dressing gowns, available exclusively at the METT Hotel & Resort Bodrum. “Travel is very much part of our brand DNA,” explains Charlie Tee, Managing Director of David Gandy Wellwear. “It is important to us that we cater for the luxury traveller and make their experience as comfortable as possible. Having products that they know and trust in hotels can inspire them to visit and deepens brand loyalty, and partnering with brands in the luxury hospitality sector is a great way of exploring this.”
It may seem cynical, but no matter what surface motivations may be, this synergy in ethos is a huge driving factor in collaboration, with brands hoping to identify with an existing base of customers that can easily transfer its attention, and, most importantly, money to the collaboration and, in turn, each of the brands individually. “Partnerships such as this drive awareness outside of our existing audience. It’s a great cross-marketing opportunity for like-minded consumers who might not have discovered either brand yet,” adds Tee.
But what is the appeal for consumers? Well, aside from eliminating the stress of shopping and packing for a holiday by offering a highly-edited collection of on-trend ready-to-wear that is perfectly suited for far-flung destinations, these collaborations offer an opportunity to get your hands on exclusive limited-edition luxury pieces. And isn’t that the appeal of all collaborative collections?
The key to success is in the appearance of scarcity. Market your collection as a rare luxury that only those with the means to indulge in high-end hotels are able to access and you’re on to a winner. Which goes some way to explaining the Hermes-style pricing of the Aman hotel group’s new leather goods line (the rare travel brand brave enough to expand into fashion on its own). An entry-level passport cover will set you back in excess of £200 with prices quickly soaring into the thousands for a leather tote bag. Of course, it’s the only thing to be seen carrying at the group’s recently opened New York hotel.
All of which would mean nothing if the goods weren’t actually, well, nice. It helps, for example, that Net-A-Porter’s holiday edits are chock full of vibrant, floaty pieces that would seem out of place anywhere other than Ibiza. And it doesn’t hurt that, given the backing of brands like Craig Green and David Gandy Wellwear, a simple hotel-branded dressing gown suddenly becomes a desirable, luxury garment. After all, we buy into luxury for the fine craftsmanship, impeccable quality and design expertise, and that is exactly what these collaborations are hoping to offer.
This said, there is, perhaps, something simpler at play here. After two years of cancelled flights, traffic light travel systems and rainy staycations, the Jet Set are more than ready to set off for sunnier climes – and you can bet they won’ t be doing it in last season’s Gucci.
Read more: In conversation with Dean and Dan Caten of DSquared2