I still remember when a collaboration was the exception and not the rule. When we first started Highsnobiety, the collaboration game was already in full swing, and you’d have an especially good one every month that got plenty of people excited. Of course, as with anything, the more it’s done, the less interesting it becomes.
Recently I saw the Undefeated x Puma Polka Dot Pack in a store and it got me thinking about the current state of collaborations.
We have always been big fans of Undefeated and love what they do with their stores and the brand – it all just seems to make sense for the most part and the Undefeated sneaker collaborations have always been among the very best over the years. These days they’re working with Converse on new sneakers every couple of months and, of course, they’ve also entered into an extended partnership with Puma around the iconic Clyde.
Puma has not had the strongest run in recent years, but the Clyde was always well regarded in footwear circles, so a big team-up with Undefeated to resurrect the shoe seemed to make perfect sense.
When the first sneaker from that collection launched, an all leather Clyde sans Puma Form Stripe, I actually thought they might be on to something. It was very simple, but the quality material update, improved in-sole and color choices really made these easy to wear – an everyday sneaker that went with anything and worked for any occasion. Well played.
At this point we’ve seen five packs from this collaboration: leather, canvas, ripstop nylon, colorblock and polka dots. What we haven’t seen is a lot of excitement from sneaker fans and we certainly haven’t seen them on anybodies feet.
Perhaps Undefeated has kept things a little too simple? Or is it an issue with the Clyde shoe itself?
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If you look at the collaboration between Undefeated and Converse, the LA brand seems to stay true to this very same concept, yet the level of excitement is always way higher. A simple ballistic nylon Chuck Taylor by UNDFTD sells out, yet a simple canvas Clyde from the same design team does not.
In a collaborative environment, when does simple and premium win out over loud and in your face, and vice versa?
I know that a Clyde with a Staple Pigeon will sell. A Clyde with dollar bills printed all over will sell and a bright metallic gold Clyde will also sell. A recent Puma Clyde by atmos from Japan, featuring leopard fur uppers received a great response on our site. Remember the Puma Monster Pack from a couple of years ago? Let’s be honest… those were among the loudest sneakers ever made… yet they sold out in a matter of days.
Simplicity, high quality, heritage – those are all things which are currently trending and have been for a long while, but when is simple successful and when do you need that big bang to move units?
Think back to 2006-2007 when A Bathing Ape came out with all those crazy all over print designs, many in collaboration with KAWS. At no other time have we witnessed so much open hatred towards the label, yet at no other time have we seen brand sell so many units. Yes, Bape looks much better today in terms of design, for us at least, but we all know that the numbers are not looking so great.
What does the future of collaborations hold?
Quite simply, choosing the right collaborator for your brand is the most important thing. No matter how much you like what the other brand is doing, their input needs to fit your brand in a way that complements or enhances the current state of your label.
In the case of Puma, the most interesting recent releases have come from their collaboration with Beams – a label focused on innovative takes on clean, classic looks. The heritage Puma runners are updated brilliantly by Beams… Of course these products are only available in Japan.
What do you think? Maybe you see this in a completely different light. We’d love to hear your thoughts.