For Converse, art fusion hasn’t just been a way of staying fashionable, or ahead of their competition. It has been a way to stay culturally relevant. How many other shoe Brands can you name that have survived for over a century? And how many other Brands can boast that they are worn by celebrities, not because they’re paid to, but because the stars want amplify their own authenticity? Kudos, Converse. Through collaboration, you have achieved the Marketing Holy Grail; you’ve stayed relevant and new, without ever changing the DNA of your Brand.
Converse owes its remarkable transformation from its roots as a basketball shoemaker in the 1900’s to its position today as an iconic, ever-hip casual footwear Brand, to shrewd brand-stewardship and numerous successful art fusion collaborations over the years. Among the most recent are “Converse ♥ Marimekko” and “Comme des Garçon’s PLAY Converse”, which like their collaborative predecessors Nigel Cabourn, Stussy, U2 and Metallica, have set the pace as talk-value instigators.
Creating art fusion with culturally and politically pertinent artists, fashion designers and musicians has been key for Converse. Not only has it kept their shoes on their consumers’ feet, but it has reinforced their relevance to the counter-culture, social and political swings of the last century – helping them stay the ‘rebel’ Brand, and us the ‘cool’ customers.
While Converse has been placing their bets on rebellious artistic collaborations, Junya Watanabe of Comme des Garçons has been taking a different approach. He has been handpicking and collaborating only with genuine, traditional and hard-working craftspeople who stand for the utmost in quality and integrity – like the Danish knitting company S.N.S. HERNING known for their traditionally knitted sailor’s sweaters, or the almost two-century old British shoe company Tricker’s. His collaborative additions, at times have only been a very subtle, yet strategically ingenious twist that only Junya Watanabe could think of. And the result? Crowds of appreciative followers, bloggers and collectors.
The bottom line? Manufacturers and marketers alike often default to developing the ‘new’ and perhaps overlook ways to invest in, and keep their existing products or services ‘relevant’ and desirable. However, as in alchemy, the real treasure is in finding the right combination of ingredients and knowing how to make the familiar unfamiliar again.
The moral of the story? Stay curious. Gain an appreciation for the fusion of the traditional with the contemporary (visually and conceptually), the organic with the graphic, the constructed with the deconstructed. They are just a few ways to keep products and services relevant, stimulating and truly interesting, with no need to sell.
Stay tuned for our next post on creating art fusion – by integration or deconstruction?