Contemplating Brand Synergy

November 27, 2014

by Gracia Ventus

Rick Owens via The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde Fashion

Brand Synergy. What on earth is brand synergy? It’s not an entirely new phrase in the world of Marketing. Simply put it’s combining the strength of two brands to create a much stronger impact or influence on the consumers by multiple folds, ie. 2 + 2 = 5, or 10, or 30, etc. One example would be like putting Doctor Who and Sherlock in a single movie. The Anglophiles are bound to wet themselves to no end.

In the world of fashion however, it has become a buzz phrase that has been thrown a lot in various fashion forums, albeit without quite the same connotation. More often than not it refers to how well a brand ‘fits’ with another in an outfit, eg. Comme des Garçons with Yohji Yamamoto. I’m not hypothesising as this matter has been brought up in my presence on numerous occasions. ‘Does Rick go with SLP?’, would be a commonly asked question, as if one was putting on a playlist, making sure that the BPM matched closely to ensure smooth transitions between songs. In short, synergising brands is the act of trying to ensure that the visions and aesthetics of the brands included in a single outfit/wardrobe are coherent and complementary.

Rick Owens via The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde FashionRick Owens via The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde Fashion

I suppose the main draw of subscribing to the theory of brand synergy allows one to limit purchases within a certain circle of labels, removing most of the hassle of matching one’s clothes. However that limitation can also be a drawback. Should one find themselves fancying a garment that contradicts one’s chosen aesthetics, cognitive dissonance is most likely to occur. ‘Do I get this and let it collect dust in my closet? But I’d really love to wear this magnificent Thom piece. I may have to get the other Thom pieces. Or attempt to wear them with my Cavallis. Why is fashunz so hard OMG!?”

Opponents of brand synergy argue that subscribing to a stringent formula usually result in looking like the real life manifestation of a lookbook. And we know that in the highest tier of online fashunz, you’d be banished to the pariah class faster than you can say ‘Hood by Air’.

Personally I find that both extreme viewpoints aren’t quite beneficial to our fashion enjoyment. Indeed there’s a need for us to curate, but it doesn’t have to be done according to a strict formula of labels. Like it or not there will be instances in which labels that are mutually exclusive in aesthetics produce garments that work well with each other (even if it may just be in our heads). What I tend to do is simply concentrate of garment synergy, which is umm, my jargon for mixing and matching. I take pleasure in combining silhouettes, fabrics, textures and colours that complement each other to create looks that are often not achievable through a streamlined choice of labels. This outfit is an example of such exercise. The tunic is made of leather, the skirt linen and wool, the shoes cement. Put them together and they vaguely resemble a Roman-Japonaise peasant.

With the said I don’t see why one should worry about falling into the trap of caring about brand synergy. If you find yourself falling down the rabbit hole then simply enjoy the ride. Because at the end of the day they’re only clothes, something we should be having fun with.

Rick Owens via The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde Fashion

Rick Owens via The Rosenrot | For The Love of Avant-Garde Fashion
Wearing Rick Owens leather tunic; Comme des Garçons skirt and Margiela cement Tabis


6 thoughts on “Contemplating Brand Synergy

  • Pret A Porter P

    by Pret A Porter P on November 27, 2014 at 8:00 am

    Designers would hate to know I wear their clothes, because I wear things my way. I don’t hem my Thom Browne pants, I wear Chanel w/ F21, and Rick Owens with Brooks Brothers. Actually I get an insane amount of compliments and asking where I got it on my Rick Owens coat from average Joes and soccer moms.
    Nice watch. Also stupid question: “cement” as in actual cement or is that just a nickname for the style? I like Margiela but I’m no expert.

    • Gracia Ventus

      by Gracia Ventus on November 27, 2014 at 9:56 am

      It’s some sort of material that makes the boots actually feel and crack like cement. So potentially it could be cement, or a form of it.

      At the end of the day I think designers would be more interested in seeing how their customers mix and match their designs. At least I sure hope they do otherwise it’d be a rather elitist outlook on their part.

  • K A R L

    by K A R L on November 27, 2014 at 8:51 am

    such an interesting read Gracia! Now there’s a new thing I’ve learned today and I couldn’t thank you enough #garmentsynergy #brandsynergy


  • Gigi

    by Gigi on November 27, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    You are brilliant!

  • Bertrand

    by Bertrand on December 18, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Woo great post! I am going to inflict you another of those long-winded and incoherent reflexions which I have victimized you with before… please forgive me!
    I think I remember you work in fashion marketing irl? At any rate here are some practices which have some deep-seated impact in the way we conceive of both product and design as a practice, which I am well glad you brought to my attention.
    As I see it, synergy is somewhat akin to other practices which aim at bringing design (the conception of the object itself, but taking into account the society it is constructed for and the way it might impact it) and marketing (the conception of the “superstructure”, of all additional mecanisms aand representations destined to maximize the spread of the object) increasingly closer.
    I think its Margolin who coined the term of User-Community, which is the idea that when you design a product (say, a garment) you are actually designing not only the object but also the community that will arise from the use of the object, the group that will recognise eachothers as kindred spirits on the basis of similar style decisions. In this “user-community” concept and your “brand-synergy” I see an extension of the work of the designer, who from creating objects becomes also the conscious “organizer” (to of course a limited extant) of the life of the buyers. In a sense the design object extends into a kind of “meta-territory”.
    That’s quite exciting for the designer/marketer, and as far as high-fashion in concerned it does not shock anyone, at least not me, inasmuch as we have a long history of identifying with the brands we wear. But I think without being all naomi-klein about it, there is an ethical issue at stake:
    Brands organize themselves so as to decide, effectively curtain, what brands and garments are compatible, which are not. Are we to think that there exist an objective, “scientific” certainty about which garments goes with which one, or are such compatibility issues socially constructed? I personally would be inclined toward the second option, as in I dont believe there is a fixed notion of good taste, which in all time made sandals with socks and blue with green heretical.
    But then the decision of what goes with what, which was left for most of the XXth century to the client, is free and essentially a decision in which s/he has the opportunity to express himself. If brands (say Gucci LVMH decide they shouldn’t be mixed, this effectively limits the freedom of those two, and leave him with a difficult choice: is submit to the “laws of synergy” which were edicted by the brand (and the investors behind it) or get kicked out of the “user-community” because of lack of taste.
    I hope I am clear (I am usually not lol) – that meta-territory those new approaches of design/marketing was once the kingdom of the consumer. There were of course unspoken rules, and chances are you would get more attention dressed in 5000€ Pugh than in 5€ Uniqlo, and price was always already determinant, but there were no clear divide, no frontier because there were no strict laws. To sum up, brands already decide what makes good design, should we let thenm dictate what makes good styling too?
    You write “What I tend to do is simply concentrate of garment synergy, which is umm, my jargon for mixing and matching” which let me think we probably agree: I can tell what goes with what all by myself, I don’t need Donatella to come and tell me “dem shoes don’t go with yer tie!” but I think the sole fact that brand want to colonize our styling is somewhat scary! As you say in the comments, I think as a designer it is half of the fun to see your gear appropriated by people, taking a life of its own, but unfortunately the realities of the fashion market means that few financial backers taste this refined pleasure.


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