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Red or Dead

One of the 1980s’ most popular brands is using a complex structure of licences to spread its reach.

The potentially lucrative but sometimes thorny issue of brand licensing fuelled a discussion at last month’s London Fashion Network panel debate.

The fashion arena offered examples of brands that had partnered with licensing specialists to create new merchandise using existing brands for a fee.

Few examples were discussed with as much reverence as Red or Dead, which is as much of a vivid player on the UK high street today as it was in its 1980s heyday.

“The market is always looking for products that are edgy, different, and fashion forward,” enthuses Red or Dead brand president Julia Massey. “Coupled with our brand awareness, we have a really successful formula.”

Owned by brand house Pentland, which counts Boxfresh, One True Saxon and Berghaus among its portfolio, the Red or Dead offer extends to clothing, footwear, watches, eyewear and bags.

Each of these collections is produced through a network of licences managed by Pentland.

The brand has exclusive men’s and women’s footwear licences with Schuh, optical eyewear developed and sold by high street optician Specsavers, and for spring 09 it is launching a women’s clothing range exclusively with Bank, the young fashion chain owned by the JD Group.

Massey says: “Our licensing partners are all experts in what they do. Our creative director Katie Greenyer provides steering on the creative DNA and we have day-to-day contact with the partners to ensure that they get the look and feel right.”

Greenyer joined Pentland from Red or Dead after it acquired the brand in 1996. Having seen how the brand has evolved since its infancy, Greenyer’s creative eye has remained instrumental in extending Red or Dead to new product categories. A recent example is the collaborative work the brand has done with Brenton, its partner on bags.

“The Brenton design team went through the Red or Dead archive and we worked together on developing prints, shapes and logos,” says Greenyer.

Other licensees include Fabris Lane, which sells Red or Dead sunglasses in 200 branches of Boots, and Hana Time, which is trialling the brand’s new watch collection in 30
H Samuel stores in the run-up to Christmas.

Keen to capitalise on the brand’s current momentum, Pentland’s Massey is in negotiations with three potential partners already involved with the hosiery, beauty and fragrance sectors.

“We talked to the biggest retailers in each of those categories and worked out who the most impressive players were,” says Massey. “But the most important factor in terms of any brand extension for Red or Dead boils down to product. Our partners have to create fantastic product. If they don’t, they’re not worth working with.”

Red or Dead 020 8346 2600 or

1982: The year Red or Dead was established
1996: The year Pentland acquired Red or Dead
1,500: Number of UK doors Red or Dead sells through
50: Number of Bank stores the clothing range will be sold through

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