Fashion month featured a slew of designers who weren’t mentioned in a single show review. Save brand employees, their own social media followers and maybe some observant backstage dressers, nobody knew they were involved — so why did they bother?
Accessories designers are often called upon by designers who haven’t expanded their collections beyond ready-to-wear. To complete the visions for their collections, creative directors call on shoe, handbag and jewelry partners to accessorize their runway looks.
For spring 2018, runway lineups were peppered with the usual array of non-headliner names. Jewelry house David Webb bedazzled Dennis Basso’s models with chunky baubles, including beaded pendant necklaces and diamond cocktail rings. Manolo Blahnik anchored Jonathan Simkhai’s airy dresses and fluttery skirts with strappy heels and “shooties” in neutral shades.
Of course, there were also the formal accessories collaborations that debuted over the course of the four weeks. In contrast, these made waves, either due to their limited-edition status or their sheer ugliness (think: Balenciaga x Crocs). Alexander Wang teamed with Judith Leiber on a jeweled clutch modeled off a roll of $100 bills. Virgil Abloh revealed his Jimmy Choo collab, which included Cinderella-perfect heels.
These collaborations are typically sold via one or both of the lines’ go-to retail channels. Designers that collaborate in a less official capacity, however, break ties almost immediately at the show’s end.
The value, according to Emily Bezzant, head analyst at retail analytics firm Edited, is the collaborations allow accessories brands to be a part of the spectacle of the runway show, and the cachet, the press and the social media coverage that comes with it — “opportunities that are hard for an accessories brand to achieve with a low-key presentation.”
We spoke with three designers who contributed their work to another designer’s spring 2018 show. We asked them what was in it for them, and most agreed: Regardless of a lack of recognition, it was worth it.
Jodie Fox, co-founder and chief creative officer of custom footwear brand Shoes of Prey (which offers styles in sizes two to 15), is careful to ensure the brands her company works with are in sync with its message and objectives.
This season, it was the exclusive shoe partner of plus-size retailer Addition Elle’s see-now-buy-now, fall/holiday 2017 runway show held during New York Fashion Week. The show’s stylist chose custom Shoes of Prey “Alva” stilettos for each of the featured models, including Ashley Graham and reality star Jordyn Woods.
“It has always been, and continues to be, so important to us to deliver options to women that let them look and feel stylish and confident, no matter their shape or size,” said Fox. “Our partnership was a perfect alignment of our brand beliefs and Addition Elle’s mission to embrace fashion democracy, where style isn’t limited by size.”
The collaboration resonated with Shoes of Prey’s social media community, which has long backed the body positivity movement, according to Fox.
It was no surprise to Bezzant.: “The collaborations that are most successful are ones that match [shoppers’] values and personalities,” she said.
For many designers, the constant demand for fresh and compelling social media content is reason enough to get involved in a runway show.
Through September, seamless panty brand Commando teamed with 30 designers total, including Ulla Johnson, Prabal Gurung and Tibi.
Seeing how designers style her pieces — often under sheer layers — is a thrill for founder and designer Kerry O’Brien, and it’s her hope that the head-to-toe looks inspire Commando shoppers, as well.
“We are loud and proud about it on social,” she said, regarding sharing the looks. She said doing so helps to reiterate that underwear is now ready-to-wear, meaning it can be a used as part of a look, not just an undergarment.
“The Commando brand continues to evolve, and we’re seeing such growth,” she said. “Continued participation in fashion week is a very important part of that story.”
A look from the Naeem Khan spring 2018 runway, featuring Commando boyshorts
In May, Karla Gallardo and Shilpa Shah, co-founders of San Francisco–based, direct-to-consumer brand Cuyana, met Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters, designers of Creatures of the Wind. Despite being fashion world opposites — Creatures of the Wind is based in New York, has wholesale partners and regularly participates in fashion week — they hit it off right away, said Shah. They decided to collaborate on a seven-style collection of handbags to complement Creatures of the Wind’s spring 2018 runway collection.
“We both wanted to try something new,” said Shah. The Creatures of the Wind team wanted to expand its reach and learn more about the direct-to-consumer model, Gallardo and Shah wanted to get a feel for runway shows and the editorial side of the business. Both had a goal of making quality pieces that were accessible.
“We’re always thinking about the longevity and versatility of our pieces,” said Shah. “Creatures of the Wind has always made what they wanted and charged what they wanted. This allowed us to be more playful and take bigger risks.”
A look from the Creatures of the Wind spring 2018 runway, featuring a Cuyana x Creatures of the Wind bag
The Cuyana x Creatures of the Wind bags were listed in the show notes, distributed to all attendees at the Skylight Clarkson Square event. Cuyana also featured behind-the-scenes footage and a live stream of the show on Instagram.
“We found these worlds aren’t as different as we make them out to be, and we’re entering a time where they’re becoming less defined,” said Shah. “The way we approach our businesses are very different, but our process, our approach to design — we have so much alignment.”
And, as Bezzant put it, everyone collaborates with the same objectives: “At the core, collaborations are really about expanding the brand’s profile and aligning it with the consumer, who is looking at fashion as an extension of his or her personality.”
Image via Cuyana