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Co-branding, the buzzword

Do two names grab more eyeballs than one? T. KRITHIKA REDDY on how big international brands are tying up with Indian designers to tap new markets


The new Nivea Soft pack has a persona. Designed by Manish Arora, India's icon of tongue-in-cheek preppy style, it suggests shine and suppleness with circus-inspired sprightly motifs. While the jojoba oil and vitamin E moisture boost formula is absorbed quickly into the skin, the packaging ngages your mind endlessly.

Manish's work for Nivea Soft is a recent inclusion in the growing list of creative collaborations between top-notch Indian designers and established international brands. A fortnight ago, global-fame Puma signed Aki Narula for an exclusive design tie-up. Says Narula, who will soon launch a women's line for the sports lifestyle brand, "It's a revolutionary model for a partnership. Combining Puma's infrastructure and technological platform, we will soon be able to turn experimental ideas into reality."


Brandwidth

While Puma is looking at "moving into a new market space" with Aki's collection, the designer hopes to cater for a wider audience with his "wellrounded, 360 degree concept featuring footwear, apparel and accessories from mid to premium range." Sounding businesslike, he adds, "It will be a great opening for me internationally. The line will combine my quirky design sensibility with Puma's performance fabric. I'm so happy to join the brand's big list of designer collaborations that includes Alexander McQueen, Yasuhiro Mihara and Sergio Rossi."

When it comes to collaborations, Manish Arora is clearly a favourite. Earlier, his Fish Fry collection for Reebok, make up line for MAC and work for Absolut Vodka (the company's fashion friends already includes Tom Ford, Versace, Stella McCartney and Gaultier) created interest among consumers. Says Reebok's Sajid Shamim, director, marketing and product, "When we launched our pilot project to promote Manish's Fish Fry line internationally, it drew a lot of interest in markets like Japan and Europe. It's a niche product. But within its consumer segment, it's been received very well in India too. Design-wise, Fish Fry has Manish's distinct aesthetic. At the same time, it is true to the sports genre it represents."

Creativity and commerce

The co-branding list does not end here. Swiss watch major Swatch too recently introduced Manish's line inspired by pop art graphics and kitsch artworks. Clusters of the designer's trademark heart motifs and charms add colour and humour to the line.


"Such tie-ups are a coming together of creativity and commerce. Within weeks of its launch, the sales of the watches have exceeded expectation in New York. Those who can't wear my clothes now get to wear my designs on their wrists! Swatch gave me complete creative freedom in terms of inspiration and colour," says Manish.

Ask him about collaborations and brand-building and he explains, "Tie-ups work both ways. It's an already saturated market. With such collaborations, brands have something new and interesting to offer the customer. The designer, on the other hand, by adding aesthetic value to a product, widens his consumer base and diversifies his creative output. Nivea, Reebok, MAC or Swatch. they are all globally loved brands with reputed records. I see such collaborations as a great opportunity and experience."

Co-branding is fast becoming the buzzword in fashion biz. While collaboration brings different perspectives into the business, it also allows brands and the designers to crossover to new markets with greater credibility. Surely, two names can be stronger than one in the eyes of the consumer.

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