When it comes to game-changing, globally recognized beers, it’s hard to top Holland’s own Heineken. An unrivaled beer deserves an equally unrivaled way to represent itself, and with the #Heineken100 program—helmed in part by forward-thinking agency Team Epiphany—the world-renowned label has continuously tapped prestigious cultural figures to create a series of products and events that simultaneously embody Heineken’s more than 150-years-long commitment to premium product, while remaining relevant for today’s cultured consumer. Focusing on delivering a set of top-shelf products to present-day tastemakers and influencers, it’s a program that helps to distill the best of modern culture in a single, selective release.
Stretching back as far as 2010, Team Epiphany has worked with Heineken as the brand’s U.S. “cultural North Star” within the context of the #Heineken100 project, directing the label towards who and what is trending—especially in regards to who Heineken defines as its intelligent, well-traveled and contemporary “man of the world.”
“The #Heineken100 program started with fashion and lifestyle brands, quickly expanding to fashion entrepreneurs and retailers,”explains #Heineken100 mastermind and Team Epiphany founder and managing partner, Coltrane Curtis. “It has now evolved to working with some of the biggest and most notable brands in the world while, all along, connecting with the people that drive those businesses and culture alike.”
2010 kicked off the collaborations with limited releases featuring a watch from Cloud 9, and a small set of tees from Dee & Ricky. With heel accents in Heineken bottle green and a wheat-inspired black canvas upper, the major standout in the 2010 release was the collaboration’s Quattro C sneaker, a silhouette from premium sneaker company Gourmet.
By 2011, the partnership really started to find its footing, tapping accessories brands like TSOVET, New Era and Aerial7 to create a black-and-green take on the WW1-inspired SVT-FW44 watch, an all-black premium cap with green details, and a pair of headphones—respectively. While previous collaborators Dee & Ricky returned to create a clean canvas tote, #Heineken100 added a few new faces. This included a six-pack of co-branded blogger-specific T-shirts from Chris Gibbs’ menswear mecca Union LA. While this was the store’s first official collaboration with the #Heineken100 project, it would be the start of a long-term relationship that has continued even today. A concept returning for a brand new year, #Heineken100 created yet another limited-release sneaker, this time reworking Android Homme’s 2.5 Propulsion luxury hightop. With a sleek black leather outer (including pony hair tongue and heel accents) a Heineken green lining, and embossed branding on the side panel, this was easily one of the most premium products ever to release from the partnership up to that point.
#Heineken100 took a major tilt towards the fashion world by 2012, incorporating some major menswear heavyweights to help with its activations. Starting with Mark McNairy and returning collaborator Union LA, the pair engineered a sleek take on the former’s saddle shoe, setting black pebbled leather atop a green EVA sole to create something both contemporary and classic. Wrapped up in a custom, textured shoebox, it continued Heineken’s own focus on, not just product, but quality packaging and presentation as well. #Heineken100 also partnered up with NYC’s own Public School, utilizing designers Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow vision to craft a camouflage duffle bag. With the classic pattern done up in subtle black-and-navy jacquard twill and accented by black leather, the bag also represents Heineken’s own well-travelled consumers and connoisseurs. At the time, Chow—speaking on Heineken’s “Open Your World” mentality in a video with Team Epiphany—remarked, “The whole concept of ‘Open your World’ [is] being able to share pieces of who you are. Whether they’re material things or tangible things, or ideas, the bag—for us—was representative of being able to carry all of those things.”
Luxury lifestyle was a key component of the 2013 edition of the #Heineken100. Mark McNairy returned to help with the program, this time using his chukka saddle boot as the canvas for his collaboration. While the body of the shoe retains the iconic black-and-white colorway that’s traditional to saddle shoes, the boot bucked the trend by incorporating a green sole, with a red heel stripe. Premium accessories label KILLSPENCER lent its hand to the program via a co-branded leather daypack, featuring a top-notch suede bottom, quilted back panel, and the inclusion of iconic Heineken green via seam and interior detailing. Rounding out the lifestyle offering was a pair of jeans from the biker-influenced cult Japanese brand NEIGHBORHOOD. Speaking on the partnership, Union LA’s Chris Gibbs explained, “When working with Heineken on the partnership for this year’s program, NEIGHBORHOOD was one of the first brands that came to mind, thanks to their signature denim collection. Both Heineken and I wanted to expand the horizon of this year’s products, and also work with a brand that had international reach but selective distribution.” Crafted out of heavyweight denim, these narrow jeans stood out from the pack, thanks to their green cross stitching and eye-popping Heineken green back patch. #Heineken100 also made an appearance at Art Basel, debuting an exclusive artwork at the Raleigh Hotel created by famous New York based artist Eric Haze entitled “Keep It 100.” The installation was then divided up into 100 individual pieces, which were then seeded to influencers.
“For this year’s program, Heineken and I wanted designers to transcend their personal boundaries creatively,” Gibbs noted when discussing the 2014 program. “Each designer is pushing their limits to create products that utilize their signature silhouettes, but are unlike anything within their current portfolio.” For the year’s partnership, Parabellum—known for its bison leather accessories—produced its first canvas piece. Boasting a Trackr chip, the bag was designed to be easy to find if lost, a detail added with the well-travelled Heineken “man of the world” in mind. RTH, a then-rising California-based heritage Americana label, engineered its first “ponchirt:” a combination poncho and collared shirt with quilted nylon. Fellow Californians Garrett Leight California Optical followed in the theme of “firsts” by using its #Heineken100 acetate frames as its first to incorporate a zero base flat lens.
However, when it comes to the modern understanding of what the #Heineken100 program has become, 2015 is the year things truly kicked into high gear. Focusing on cities for the first time, Heineken asked retailers from five major cities—New York, Chicago, Boston, Miami, and Los Angeles—to not only create commemorative products, but highlight their city’s hidden gems. In order to showcase those city spots, Team Epiphany partnered with us here at Highsnobiety, publishing the first #Heineken100 City Guide (something that is still a central part of the program as we know it today).
Explaining the addition of the #Heineken100 City Guide, Curtis remarks, “All the things that we [had] created for #Heineken100 were co–created with new and traditional luxury brands. We decided to strategically pivot, allowing the people we connected with to identify the coolest culinary, art and fashion movements in their hometowns. The #Heineken100 City Guide ultimately connects people, places and cities.”
Of course, in true #Heineken100 fashion, premium product remains at the heart of the project. Unveiled at exclusive release events, NYC’s KITH dropped a set of custom sweats and a T-shirt to reflect the pair’s shared focus on premium quality. Over on the west coast, Union LA and Chris Gibbs crafted a reverse weave blazer built out of Japanese jersey. Showcasing something both casually comfortable and forward-thinking, it’s a pair of traits that Heineken’s key influencers embody in equal measure. Following up with an event at Chicago’s RSVP Gallery, the boutique kept to a concept that was both upscale and cozy, delivering a co-branded jersey knit and lambskin strapback hat. Representing Miami, Roma Cohen’s Alchemist prepared a “six pack” of candles, designed to look like a traditional six pack of bottles in Heineken’s signature green. Closing out the drops, Boston’s Concepts shop presented a conceptual Vanson motorcycle jacket constructed out of gray fleece.
In its seventh iteration, Heineken literally translated the concept of its globe-trotting “man of the world” by dropping a three-piece luggage set with TUMI in 2016. Consisting of a Miami-inspired tote bag, a New York-influenced convertible backpack-meets-duffle bag, a custom rolling carry-on suitcase inspired by Heineken’s native Amsterdam and a special PAX jacket that converts into a neck pillow, the drop actualizes the well-traveled concepts outlined within #Heineken100’s yearly city guides.
For 2017, the #Heineken100 program shows no signs of slowing down, launching its flagship #Heineken100 City Guide with a pop-up newsstand in New York City earlier this month. With this year’s release focusing on six cities, the guide adds a couple of new additions, (Houston and Honolulu) as well bringing back some favorite destinations from previous guides—namely New York, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles. As guests like chef and Huang’s World host Eddie Huang dropped by to support the distribution of City Guides to the public, the program’s focus on tapping the most influential and important people in contemporary culture has come full circle.
“Team Epiphany has ultimately created the collaboration space for beer brands—specifically Heineken. It’s inevitable that other beer brands have witnessed our success and have attempted to mirror, bootleg and poorly plagiarize what we have done,” Curtis said. “However, it’s our job to make sure our program evolves, ultimately keeping our competitors (Budweiser, Stella, Miller Light) tugging at our cape.”
Looking into 2017 and beyond, Curtis looks back on the progress the program has made, while constantly striving ahead (with some exciting new developments). “The #Heineken100 program has gone from luxury niche brands like NEIGHBORHOOD, Parabellum and Garrett Leight, to retailers like KITH, Union, RSVP Gallery, Concepts and Alchemist to powerhouses like TUMI.” He continues, “In 2017, we are planning to partner with an iconic Japanese powerhouse brand.”
For 2018, Team Epiphany and Heineken plan to leverage the equity created by the iconic Heineken-inspired Nike SB Dunk to create a premium lifestyle sneaker offering.
As the #Heineken100 program shows no signs of slowing down, Curtis asks a key question of himself and his team: “How can we make the program more massive in reach, while not killing the ‘cool equity’ we have engineered for Heineken?” Something tells us that, with Curtis and Team Epiphany at the helm, that’s never going to be a problem.
In case you missed it, check out Heineken’s on-point spot promoting social cohesion and dialogue.
- Images: Team Epiphany