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Talking Business: M&S and Alexa Chung - a credible collaboration?

There are many examples of actors and singers who ultimately failed to transform their celebrity equity into successful fashion collaborations, writes Nick Stickland, creative director at marketing agency ODD.

Sarah Jessica Parker’s failed ‘Bitten’ clothing line, which filed for bankruptcy after just one year despite launching at the same time as the first Sex and the City movie, is a prime example that just because you (or indeed your on-screen character) love clothes, it does not qualify you as a fashion designer.

The rise of brand communication across various social media platforms, the emergence of vloggers as influencers and the increased access consumers get ‘behind the scenes’ of big brand houses, demonstrates just how important authenticity is today. The reason so many celebrity fashion collaborations have failed is because people can all too easily see that celebrities have had little-to-no involvement in the design process, and in some cases don’t even embody the brand that they have collaborated with.

This is why Marks & Spencer’s decision to collaborate with Alexa Chung on a line that brings pieces from the brand’s archive back to life is a smart one. Respect for Alexa’s fashion credentials runs deep within the industry and fashion mainstream. Instead of just badging a newly designed collection with her name, they have strategically used her strength and eye-for-style to curate a ‘best-of’ collection.

Whilst the partnership will undoubtedly be met with scepticism within the industry owing to Alexa’s long list of previous collaborations, most recently with AG Jeans and beauty brand Eyeko, no one can deny the success of these ventures.

Alexa’s fashion credentials are numerous: she is a contributing editor at British Vogue and more recently she supported ethical fashion brand The Deep End Club’s ‘Give a Damn’ campaign: a shop/clubhouse in Manhattan’s East Village where she regularly curates a collection made by local, independent designers and artists. She’s even been awarded the British Style Award by the British Fashion Council.

When speaking about her collaboration with Marks & Spencer, Alexa said, “There was something very touching about looking back through the British fashion and social history, with which M&S is synonymous.” As an authentic icon of classic British fashion, Alexa seems the perfect partner for this British heritage brand. She has the credibility to influence and inspire existing, new or lapsed customers, redefining classic British fashion and reinvigorating the Marks & Spencer brand.

This project marks the first of the ‘M&S &’ series, a sequence of unique, exclusive collections in collaboration with exciting brands, designers and fashion icons. Having set the bar high with Alexa Chung, it will be interesting to see how Mark & Spencer intends to keep up the momentum she has created.

However, with growing scepticism around the authenticity of celebrity collaborations, Marks & Spencer must make sure that is not Alexa and those that follow her, but the clothes themselves, that are the true stars of the show. In doing this M&S can create a longevity from the campaign, post-Alexa and ensure that people don’t just buy one item and never walk through their doors again.




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