Even before its buzzy collaboration with Telfar in July, Melissa had already partnered with designers including Marc Jacobs and Vivienne Westwood.
The 44-year-old Brazilian brand has launched 63 product collaborations since tackling its first collab in the 1980s. Among its first collaborators was Vivienne Westwood, and Marc Jacobs, Teflar and Marine Serre have since followed. Each collaboration has centered on a partner brand designing shoes that leverage Melissa’s signature jelly material.
“Designers get very excited by Melissa’s technology,” said Graziele Toscan, head of global brand and communications at Melissa. “A lot can be done with the jelly and plastic material that is harder to achieve with other materials.” Melissa has no limitations, in terms of the number and shape of the shoe forms it uses to create its designs. Brands have leaned into that opportunity by teaming with the company to create styles including princess slippers, clogs, boots and high heels, all made in the jelly material.
And the collaborations drive sales. Melissa has sold 32 million pairs of shoes in the last 10 years, according to the company. They’re also effective at getting the brand in front of new audiences and into new markets. For example, collaborations with higher-end brands get Melissa into high-end retailers that otherwise would not have carried the brand. The Y project collaboration is stocked on Ssense, while Marc Jacobs sells the collaboration on the brand’s site. The collaborations are typically priced between $89-$500, while Melissa’s core range sells for $49-$139.
As for entering new markets, Toscan said, “We have done a couple of collaborations with Asian brands like Jason Wu and Hikaru Matsumura, so that the brand could establish a larger presence in the Asian markets.” The brand’s largest market is still Brazil, where it was founded, followed by the U.S. and China. The brand declined to disclose its current revenue.
Likewise, the brand has used collaborations with contemporary brands, including Collina Strada, Y Project and Telfar, to reach niche fashion customers. The Telfar collaboration was its biggest to date, based on sales. The included jelly shoes and bags had large distribution in the U.S. through the brand’s own channels, as well as the Telfar site. To date, Telfar has only released four bag collaborations, with Ugg, Moose Knuckles, Eastpak and Melissa.
“The designers, like Glenn Martens [for Y Project] and Hillary Taymour [for Collina Strada], were very involved in the design process,” said Toscan. “The final results come from the core design IDs of [our partner] brands.”
“We are also looking to art- and design-related companies for collaborations, because, along with fashion, art and design are important pillars of our brand,” Toscan said. The brand’s footwear collaborators have included Brazilian furniture designers like the Campana brothers and artists including Tarsila de Amaral. Those collabs have extended the brand’s distribution to modern art museum shops, like the Sao Paolo’s MASP Art Gallery. Museums have increasingly championed fashion and beauty collaborations.
Melissa also selects partners that align with its core values around sustainability and community. For example, both Collina Strada and Melissa focus on creating low-carbon products, and Melissa produces in a zero-emissions factory.
“We try to strike a good balance of [collaborators] that are more related to fashion and [collaborators] that are more related to art,” said Toscan. “For global expansion, it makes more sense for us to collaborate with fashion brands,” due to their wider, often global audience.
To promote the collaborations, Melissa enlists celebrities and influencers who speak to its target audience at the time. The Marc Jacobs campaign featured model Iris Law, who has a large Gen-Z audience. Melissa has 4.3 million Instagram followers, and 79,900 TikTok followers, and it regularly posts about its new collaborations and videos of customers unboxing styles.
The spring 2024 shows have been heavy in high fashion and mass market collaborations, including Chopova Lowena for Uggs and Simone Rocha for Crocs. For Melissa’s part, its collaborations with Collina Strada and Y Project bring a big designer name to a more value-focused product, which has translated to demand. The first drops of both collections quickly sold out.