Usually Kassl Editions’ luxe trench coats appear next to the likes of Celine and Bottega Veneta at retailers such as Net-a-Porter, Browns and Lane Crawford. But now the brand is heading to the high street, thanks to a tie-up with fast-fashion company Zara.
Inditex-owned Zara is launching a collaboration with the young Dutch label best known for its $900 utilitarian coats and padded Pillow Bags. Kassl Editions x Zara spans ready-to-wear and home products like cupboards, mirrors, artwork and rugs, which will be sold under the Zara Woman and Zara Home umbrellas respectively.
The collection will debut at Salone del Mobile in Milan, running from September 5 to 10, with a takeover of the ground floor of the city’s Zara Home store and an installation in the womenswear store on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. The collections will be available to shop via Zara’s online channels and at selected stores from September 12.
A tie-up like this is an unusual move from Zara, which only recently started launching brand collaborations and “so far...unlike H&M’s, were with less hype and not with star-designer names,” said Jelena Sokolova, senior equity analyst at Morningstar.
Zara’s peers have used brand collaborations as a marketing tool for decades. H&M, for example, has been launching collections by guest designers since 2004, pioneering the high-low collab model in a tie-up with Karl Lagerfeld. Since then, it has teamed with some of the biggest names in fashion, including Comme des Garçons, Stella McCartney, Versace and Balmain. Meanwhile, mass retailer Target has teamed up with a host of designers including Jean Paul Gaultier and Missoni on accessibly priced capsule collections.
By contrast, Zara only recently started experimenting with similar fashion brand partnerships. The retailer debuted a limited edition collection designed by four CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalists last December, before launching brand collabs with sportswear labels Everlast and Starter, and a collection with publishing house Assouline for Zara Man, earlier this year. Now, it’s teamed with high-end label Kassl Editions.
“This is a relatively new departure for Zara as in the past it has preferred to rely on its own designers and product teams, which we think has helped to motivate them and ensure consistency in its offer,” said Richard Chamberlain, equity analyst at RBC Capital Markets.
There can be significant value for mass retailers in tie-ups with high-end fashion players. While collaborations may not be massive revenue drivers, they can be a way to elevate a high street retailer’s brand image while simultaneously appealing to a new audience, generating buzz and fuelling customer desire for newness.
Partnerships with smaller luxury brands “would help increase Zara’s appeal to a more premium shopper, particularly as the industry has polarised to some extent in recent years between fashion and price,” said Chamberlain.
Plus, the retailer is still recovering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. While Morningstar estimates Inditex has maintained its global market shares of apparel and accessories despite lockdowns hammering brick and mortar sales, group revenue in the most recent quarter ending April 30, 2021 was €4.9 billion ($5.8 billion), 17 percent below 2019 levels. Collaborations may be an effective way for the Spain-based retailer to drive more traffic to its website, among other benefits.
For an independent, self-funded label like Kassl Editions, partnering with a retailer like Zara is a strategic brand-building exercise promising instant international exposure and access to a new and larger consumer base, according to the company’s co-founders.
“We expect that the brand awareness and being out there, having people talk about who we are and who we will be in the future, is the most important [success of the collaboration],” said Ilse Cornelissens, who co-founded Kassl Editions in 2018 with fellow industry veterans Bart Ramakers, Tim van Geloven, Charlotte Schreuder and Christian Salez.
It also provides Kassl Editions with an opportunity to experiment with expanding its product offering beyond fashion, said Ramakers. It’s a segue Kassl Editions has been planning to following the commercial success of a sofa collaboration with Belgian design duo Muller Van Severen last year, which now accounts for “a significant amount” of brand revenues.
“[The Zara partnership] allowed us to do categories we would never be able to do otherwise,” he said. “That we were able to do the lighting, that we were able to do a rug and objects for the home, art work — for a self-financed, young company, that would have never been possible.”