New Footwear Licensing Partnerships Showcase Innovation, Fashion Relevance and Sustainability

A tire company and an outdoor brand form a partnership and a sustainable supply chain; two U.S. brands worn on California beaches team up for limited edition footwear and accessories; and a  streetwear brand with NYC roots collaborates with an iconic New York designer.

Three partnerships, announced in late 2014, are not your typical licensing arrangements, but Timberland, Omni Tires, Deckers Brands, Pendleton, DKNY and Pony are brand owners that are finding  unique ways to expand their product portfolios through licensing, while staying true to their respective brand DNAs. 

Timberland and Omni join forces

Timberland, a division of VF Corporation, and Omni United, a tire distributor, are co-branding Timberland and Radar Tires. The two companies initially came together over their concern that footwear and tires are the two largest users of virgin rubber and these goods will eventually go to landfills. To counter this problem, Timberland and Omni set up a partnership to make Timberland branded tires in the United States. The rubber compound used for the tires will be recycled for the outsoles of Timberland boots. Until the first Timberland tires are ready for recycling — anticipated by late 2017 — Timberland will create a special Fall 2016 boot collection from recycled rubber.

Pendleton partners with UGG Australia

The 150-year-old brand Pendleton Wool Mills recently partnered with UGG Australia, owned by Deckers Brands, on a line of UGG footwear and handbags utilizing signature Pendleton patterns. While this may seem an unlikely partnership, both brands share an interest in quality and craftsmanship, plus a common legacy: both company’s products were worn on California beaches. In the late ’70s, UGG boots were worn by surfers to keep warm after riding the waves, while in the late ’50s, surfers  wore swim trunks with their Pendleton shirts, creating a new look. Pendleton has developed several collaborations over the years, partnering with Nike, Aria boots and Opening Ceremony to expose the brand to new and younger consumers. UGG’s wildly successful sheepskin boots have spawned many copies. But Deckers continues to innovate. The Pendleton-UGG pairing was a limited-edition collection for Fall ’14, thus enabling both brands to whet consumer appetites without blanketing the marketplace.

Athletic footwear and designer collaborations hit the market

With the athletic wear boom, sneakers and streetwear have stepped onto fashion runways. This coming spring, two New York brands are joining together for a sneaker collaboration. Pony is partnering with DKNY on a unisex white leather high top sneaker.  The shoe tongue is imprinted with the words “Product of New York,” exemplifying its New York City roots. In the past few seasons, other designers, such as Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, have put sneakers front and center at their shows. Alexander Wang demonstrated the importance of athletic wear with his sell-out H&M collection in early November. And adidas continues to form interesting partnerships with designers, most recently with British designer Mary Katrantzou, known for her unique prints. These pairings address the growing consumer interest in activewear and comfort, but with a fashionable twist. When brand licensing is used as a vehicle to address consumer and sustainability needs by creating new design and product concepts, it can do more than boost the bottom line. Keeping fickle consumers engaged is a win for all. 

Nancy Gendimenico is founder and CEO of Elan Brand Licensing, a consulting business to help brand owners and companies expand into new product categories. She has a 25-year career as a corporate executive in apparel and entertainment creating brand extensions and new business for Champion, C9 by Champion, and more at Hanesbrands. Prior to Hanesbrands, Nancy built character brands, such as Peanuts and other properties at United Media and BBC Worldwide.
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