The Opinionated Designer: McDonald’s serves up brand extensions across footwear, streetwear and celeb meals

Designer and Creative Consultant Emma Horton looks at how the fast-food titan is attacking the licensing space from many different angles.

Although the fast-food giant with the iconic golden arches has a huge global following, from previous experience trying to work with McDonald’s, the fashion industry has never been a space they have really want to play in.

Until now, it seems…

McDonald’s enjoyed a lot of hype in the fashion press last week around the launch of a Big Mac lunchbox that’s available to buy in its restaurants in Korea when purchasing certain meals. Buying their merchandise in stores – is this a model we could see more of?

The last quarter of 2020 saw McDonald’s announce two streetwear collaborations with Cactus Jack and J Balvin. While the J Balvin range was shelved back in January due to production issues, both streetwear firms gave very different twists on the McDonald’s brand.

Cactus Jack gave us an Autumnal palette using heritage looks and styling not entirely out of place with a true streetwear brand aesthetic.

Elsewhere, J Balvin’s planned range expanded on the fun and creativity of the brand’s heritage, playing around with this with some Nineties-inspired pieces and even a few novelty launches.

After covering off the streetwear collaborations, McDonald’s then moved into the sporting arena and released a duo of all-American-inspired kicks in the form of adidas’ Pro Model 2G and Eric Emanuel’s Forum ’84 High. These have already become collectibles, only one month on.

More recently, McDonald’s has collaborated with the K-Pop supergroup BTS to offer fans the option of ordering a BTS meal at its restaurants. The band’s signature order includes Chicken McNuggets, Fries, Coke and for the first time ever in the US, Sweet Chili and Cajun dipping sauces inspired by popular recipes from McDonald’s South Korea.

“We’re excited to bring customers even closer to their beloved band in a way only McDonald’s can – through our delicious food – when we introduce the BTS signature order on our menu next month,” said Morgan Flatley, Chief Marketing Officer, McDonald’s USA.

It’s yet another prong of attack for McDonald’s to move into the hype culture, without the apparel attachment.

McDonald’s is no stranger to a celebrity collaboration, but seeing it become more of an icon across different industries – and the knock-on effect this has on the brand – will be interesting.

At the moment, McDonald’s seems to be keeping out of the mainstream fashion market and working towards more of a collaboration-based model. Could I see everyone walking around in a golden arches T shirt bought from a high street retailer? I’m not sure. Would I be happy to go into a McDonald’s restaurant to buy their latest merch? I’m still not sure.

All I know is that it is definitely one to watch!

Emma Horton is a Designer and Creative Consultant at The Opinionated Designer.

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