The Brand Radar: Clogau, Julien Macdonald and the Age of Collabs

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes looks at how a recent partnership between jewellery firm Clogau and design Julien Macdonald highlights the benefits of smart, design-led collabs.

In the world of brand licensing, we are in the ‘Age of the Collab’ – collaborations between two or more brands to develop special or bespoke collections.

The apparel sector is a particularly heavy user of the collab, with new tie ups announced regularly. Many of these involve fashion designers, celebrities or established brands working with IP owners, most often centred on established character brands.

It would be dangerous to assume why these collaborations are developed, but it seems some common reasons include a desire to create momentum around a brand that might generate PR coverage, social media engagement and sales. Other reasons seem to be to open up new retail distribution – a collab partner can bring in a new route to market. It also seems to be a way of injecting some fresh energy into the design direction of an established brand.

“Macdonald has helped Clogau enter a new era, but with an approach that embraces their tradition and heritage.”

Working with third party designers or brands can bring fresh thinking and, in some cases, show an established property in a new light. For example, Aardman worked with street artist Cheo to develop designs for Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep. These were used by e-commerce retailer TruffleShuffle to develop a capsule apparel collection. Another part of the collaboration saw Cheo paint a bespoke street art mural at one of Aardman’s offices in Bristol, which is now on the Bristol tourist map.

Ian Downes, The Brand Radar, Julien Macdonald

Sometimes collaborations can be short lived and only pop up in the market for a short period. This can lead to questions about the purpose of them. It’s probably fair to say that some collaborations work better than others and generate more impact. There is a skill to managing them and to striking the right partnership.

It’s sometimes unclear as to how the partnership works financially as well. Not all collaborations are created equally. They don’t all follow the traditional licensing model and indeed there is a suggestion that, in some cases, IP owners fund them to create marketing momentum, with designers picking up development fees.

Against this backdrop, it’s always good to learn about a collaboration that seems to have been developed with a long-term outlook in mind and with a clear vision behind it. Welsh fashion designer Julien Macdonald MBE has partnered with Welsh jewellery company Clogau to develop four distinct jewellery collections.

Ian Downes, The Brand Radar, Julien Macdonald

Clogau is a Welsh jewellery company whose jewellery contains Welsh gold. It has a long history and is a well-known brand, but also one that was regarded in a particular way by consumers.

Tradition can be a strength, but it can also restrict development – particularly in a product category like jewellery which is fast moving and has new players entering the market regularly. Styles, themes and consumer taste can change quickly, and it can be hard for a traditional brand to keep pace. This is where a well-chosen partnership can make an impact.

Clogau linking with Julien Macdonald makes a lot of sense. Macdonald is well regarded and has a good track record in brand licensing. He has a contemporary outlook, is Welsh and has family members who collected Clogau jewellery. This helps underpin the partnership and makes it feel more authentic.

Ian Downes, The Brand Radar, Julien Macdonald

Clogau’s Managing Director noted that the collaboration ‘marks an exciting new era for Clogau’ noting it ‘broadens the range of jewellery available that contains our rare Welsh gold’. It feels like a partnership with a purpose and a plan.

Design-wise, the collections Macdonald has created are bold, modern and challenge the traditional image of Clogau’s collections. The four distinct collections are the Betrayal Collection inspired by the betrayal that comes from being enticed by a beautiful rose only to receive an unpleasant surprise from its thorns; the Crown Collection inspired by the Platinum Jubilee; the Showstopper Collection with nods to the world of high fashion and the Facets Collection, inspired by the thought that seeing things from a different angle can open up new possibilities.

Ian Downes, The Brand Radar, Julien Macdonald

The collections include pendants, rings, earrings, bangles and necklaces with price points ranging from £270 up to £3260. The collection is a high-end one, but Clogau are backing it with a specially developed promotional campaign that includes bespoke photo shoots, a direct marketing brochure and distinctive packaging which includes Julien Macdonald’s branding.

It’s a bold move by Clogau but one that has used the flair and vision of Julien Macdonald well. It seems to embody all the elements a well-constructed collaboration should have. Game changing design, an authenticity and a rationale behind it; it’s a partnership that has been thought through on both sides.

Ian Downes, The Brand Radar, Julien Macdonald

Clogau noted one benefit of the partnership has been that it has ‘unlocked an astounding amount of pent-up creativity from the Clogau team’. Macdonald has helped Clogau enter a new era, but with an approach that embraces their tradition and heritage. It’s a collaboration that will be interesting to follow and one that is centred on authenticity.

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