Fancy a designer toothpaste?

Jan 22, 2014, 08:00 IST | Dhara Vora

Or even a television with a designer touch? Several companies today are working with fashion designers to come up with exclusive collections so that consumers can own designer products at a steal. Dhara Vora traces how this trend is taking the industry by storm

When you think Chanel, you think bags, perfumes, apparel — all luxury galore. Yet the luxury dream of fashion lovers worldwide took a kooky turn when Chanel’s creative director Karl Lagerfeld collaborated with Coca Cola to come up with one-of-a-kind bottles for Coke Light.

Models pose with designer Manish Arora in his creations

Designer dream, just a cola away
A trend that is gaining much ground on home turf as well, the idea behind such designer collaborations is to reach out to new customers and add a dash of glamour to their product.

Karl Lagerfeld stands with his designs for Coca Cola (PIC/AFP)

A few years back, designers Wendell Rodricks and Narendra Kumar teamed up with the retail chain, Westside to create an affordable prêt line that carried the designer tag as a bonus. And off-late, fashion designer Rohit Bal too had heads turning as he collaborated with women’s wear brand, Biba for one such collection. While high street brand H&M hasn’t entered Indian shores yet, shopaholics the world over rejoiced when they announced their association with luxury label Marni.

Joining the line is designer Manish Arora’s prêt line for online shopping portal Myntra. “We have a multitude of brands for wide choices. Strategic partnerships with Bollywood celebrities and designers is one way for us to offer aspirational brands, and provide access to the same to people across the length and breadth of the country. Both Bollywood celebrities, and fashion designers define trends and are aspirational to Indian shoppers,” says Vikas Ahuja, CMO, Myntra. Other than making designer wear more accessible, Ahuja tells us that such partnerships help them stand out from the crowd and offer something that is not available anywhere else.

Not just pocket-friendly
Consider yourself mistaken if you think the trend’s spread is only limited to clothes. India has seen a wide variety of products following this route. Though not all collaborations are easy on the pocket with each association designed for different audiences. Vu Technologies came up with the world’s first designer TV, embellished in Swarovski crystals in collaboration with designer Tarun Tahiliani. Devita Saraf, CEO, tells us, “Vu technologies endeavoured to redefine the concept of luxury viewing experience for the discerning customer. Being the world’s first designer television, it helped us to create a unique brand positioning. Since Tarun understood the brand incredibly well, he helped highlight the quality and the uber luxury aspect of Vu for a niche customer base.”

Designer beauty, this
One of the most successful campaigns and frontrunners of this concept is cosmetic brand Lakmé that launches a limited edition collection every season in association with a designer and takes the idea a step further with the fashion week in the city.

Manish Malhotra’s design for Dulux

Purnima Lamba, Head of Innovation at th ecompany tells us, “Beauty and fashion rely on trends. The products that are a result of our collaborations with designers have helped us explore a younger audience, which is aware of the trends in the industry and follows them. And trends change every season, neons were in two seasons ago and it isn’t the same now. Hence, we need to innovate constantly and the designers help us get a sharper perspective of the season with their point of view, which in turn helps us come up with our products.”

The selection process
Brands have their own identities and so do designers. Hence, a lot goes through in choosing the name of the designer to work with in order to attract new customers and not alienate the existing ones. Home linen brand Portico New York has worked with three designers with different sensibilities for variety in their products. “Every designer has their own unique signature style and the right kind of associations can add a lot of value to the brand stature and personality. Manish Arora adds his quirky signature sensibilities yet for special collections like the luxury bridal trousseau, Neeta Lulla makes the cut. Nishka Lulla brings to fore a very fresh perspective with her favourite bohemian style in unique colour mixes, ideal for the young home fashionista, for whom the style statement of her home is as important as her own,” informs Arun Bhawsingka, CEO, Creative Portico.

Neeta Lulla with her collection for Portico New York

Jewellery brand Amrapali —known for its ethnic jewellery — wowed stylistas the around the world when they launched a supremely edgy collection in association with Arora. “Even if we innovate every season, Amrapali can be very ethnic and traditional in its designs. So, when Arora’s team approached us for the collaboration, we had to think since we hadn’t done one before. After the talks, we decided to experiment with enamelling, which is very traditional but in a way that was never seen before. The customers today are well read and do their own research and this collection helped us gain new grounds in both India and abroad,” says Tarang Arora from Amrapali.

Though designers help in creating limited edition and exclusive products for various brands, we hope that the trend isn’t overdone, so much that it loses its ‘exclusive’ charm.

Designer’s take

Manish Malhotra with actress Sonam Kapoor at a fashion show for a toothpaste brand
Manish Malhotra with actress Sonam Kapoor at a fashion show for a toothpaste brand

I think one of the main reasons for co-branding is to create a win-win situation for both the brands involved. As a luxury brand, we mainly step into this collaboration in order to meet a new target audience / aspirational buyers, and to reach the changing needs of the society. The only thing to be cautious about is to choose the brand strategically; so that the brand doesn’t misinterpret its image in the process of adding more to its image.

It’s about going beyond the fashion world; It’s about reaching new buyers who may not be very luxury fashion conscious or that exposed to the luxury world of fashion. Also, this helps in staying strong in the world of fashion as your collaborations constantly reflect your image and as a designer it gives me a chance to create something new via limited edition collections — keeping the brand association in mind. It just adds a new dimension to the whole brand image, without trying too hard.
Manish Malhotra

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