As top streetwear label Supreme makes its foray into beauty with a new Pat McGrath Labs collaboration, the partnership marks latest example of the increasing links between beauty and streetwear.
Announced on Monday, Pat McGrath Labs is launching a single lipstick shade in Supreme’s iconic red, simply called “SUPREME,” which will use her MatteTrance hyper-pigmented lipstick formula. This marks the first time Supreme has done a beauty launch in its 26-year history. True to Supreme’s drop style, the lipstick will be sold exclusively through Supreme, on its website, with a launch sometime in “fall/winter 2020,” according to Pat McGrath’s Instagram page. A launch date is still to be announced. People can sign up on Pat McGrath’s website to receive updates.
Supreme and Pat McGrath Labs are estimated to be worth $1 billion each, but McGrath has achieved that valuation in a much shorter period of time — four years, to be exact. She launched her brand in 2016 after a successful career as a leading makeup artist and was named on the list of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2019.
Beauty’s interest in streetwear partnerships has been growing in recent years, as older brands across industries — ranging from Louis Vuitton to Oreo — have rushed to gain the clout earned through association with Supreme. But in the case of Supreme and Pat McGrath, both brands are set to benefit from the partnership.
“It’s good for Supreme, because they’re partnering with someone who obviously has a lot of legitimacy and cultural credibility,” said Liz Aviles, the vp of market intelligence at Upshot Agency.
Streetwear-beauty collaborations are not an entirely new phenomenon, but they have been on the rise in the past year. MAC Cosmetics was one of the pioneers of this type of collaboration with its A Bathing Ape collection in 2005. Both Estée Lauder and Malin + Goetz launched collaborations in 2019 with Kith. Meanwhile, Maison Kitsuné has been known to launch beauty collaborations, including one in 2019 with Shu Uemura, which followed one in 2017 with K-beauty brand 3CE.
Partnerships with streetwear brands allow established beauty labels to build awareness with a younger shopper and generate the cachet that comes from the exclusive, limited-edition sales model.
Beauty brands have also taken a page from the streetwear playbook in recent years, releasing branded merch and utilizing the drop model for limited-edition launches. They are also increasingly using streetwear spaces for promotions — KNC Beauty set up a hot pink booth at ComplexCon last year.
“Disruptive collaborations are a key part of our Estée Lauder strategy, as we look to reach a new generation of consumers in unexpected ways,” said Stéphane de la Faverie, group president of The Estée Lauder Companies and global brand president of Estée Lauder and Aerin. “Partnering with Ronnie [Fieg, the founder of Kith] gave us the opportunity to share our founder Estée Lauder’s inspiring story to this generation through a new lens.”
Kith’s collab with Malin + Goetz “brought us a whole new customer in a lot of ways,” said Malin + Goetz co-founder Andrew Goetz. He noted that the Kith partnership helped the brand reach “the kind of customer who’s really young, millennial, digitally savvy and interested in that world.”
Partnerships between established brands and streetwear can help brands appeal to a “desire for novelty” among consumers, said Aviles. “Part of the challenge for brands is that, today, the culture moves so quickly,” she said. “Part of that is just the constant connectivity that we all live with; we’re all looking for the newest thing.”
“Kith, in particular, had a much more exclusive following and business model than we did,” said Malin + Goetz co-founder Matthew Malin. The six-product Malin + Goetz Kith collaboration launched in September 2019 and was sold exclusively by the two brands, with Malin + Goetz only stocking a few hundred items in its own online store, while Kith stocked the majority of the inventory. The collection is still available online at Kith, minus the sold-out candle, which can be copped by fans on streetwear resale site Grailed.
“Every partnership that’s successful has a strong degree of exclusivity,” said Goetz. “It makes it special in a world where you can get everything you want, anytime you want it, anywhere.”
The dynamic in streetwear partnerships — and the financial agreements reached — depends on how much a brand is relying on the hip young streetwear label to boost its cool factor.
“If you’re refreshing a brand and saying, ‘I want to make my brand more relevant to younger people,’ and you look for a streetwear partner, then it’s probably the streetwear partner who has more leverage,” said Aviles. “Sometimes there’s a lot of equity in that relationship, and sometimes it’s skewed.”