Brand Collaboration is My Business

brand collaboration
Glossier X Momofoku collaboration spotted on Christopher St.

Hello, I’m Julie…I’m a creative entrepreneur who works with emerging and established brands to help them grow through licensing and brand collaboration. I have had the good fortune to work with designers who have become household names, but finding the right partners to help my clients grow and profit takes more than a stroke of luck. With over two decades of experience in this field – working with designer brands, entertainment companies, media personalities and non-profit organizations, and bridging them with retailers and manufacturers that span a range of product categories – I have learned a thing or two about what it takes to find that perfect pairing. I am here to share my knowledge and inspiration with you.

In his book The Creative Economy,  John Howkins defines creative entrepreneurs as people who “use creativity to unlock the wealth that lies within themselves rather than external capital.”  I would evolve that definition and say that my business has been born from my own instincts and creative ideas, but I have used collaboration as a means of working capital.  I will explain a bit further, but first a little bit of background:

I started my career almost two decades ago at Nickelodeon in its consumer products division, where I managed Nick’s collaborations with marketers like Mattel and Good Humor to create products based on Nickelodeon shows – Rugrats and Blues Clues (to name a few). I worked for other media companies including Discovery Communications, but I had figured out early on in my career that I would not be long for the corporate world. I wasn’t excited about moving up in the ranks and managing teams on behalf of a big company – what inspired me most about my work was collaborating with designers, the process of making products, seeing products on shelf at retail and the day to day business of working with our partners. After about 7 years in the workforce, and a lot of career coaching sessions, I finally decided to go rogue and start a co-branding business (along with a colleague that was my partner for many years). Our unique focus was on growing emerging designer brands through collaborations with manufacturers and retailers. I had learned the model of growing a brand through partnerships at my corporate jobs and I thought it would be a great way for designer brands to grow, since most of them were independent and lacked capital. So I decided to approach designers that I considered to be ripe for growth about working with me. I will share more on how I got to that place later, but back in the day we called this business of collaborations “licensing” and the nature of the business I started (and still run) is called a “licensing agency”.  My agency was branded Ripe Ideas, but today I am using my personal brand name Julie Turkel because my clients reflect my eye and my taste.

It is important to note that the word licensing does not sound as cool as collaboration, but they are essentially the same thing – partners that come together where one is lending a name, design or some other form of cachet and the other partner is actually making and selling the goods. Both parties share in the profits, but traditionally the partner that is taking on the bigger risk (the manufacturer who invests in samples, inventory and wholesale sales of the products) gets the bigger piece of the pie. On this blog I will give lots of brand licensing examples so that you understand how this works.

In the early days, many of the designers I approached about licensing their brands were wary of licensing. Martha Stewart aside, there were generally very few models for designers to  provide them with the assurances that they would not alienate their existing fan base or lose control through licensing. I personally saw it as white space that we could own together, but I understood the trepidation.

Today, the wild wild west has turned into the world of anything goes. A brand still has to be careful about entering the space, but collaborations are everywhere. There are now numerous models that exist for growing a business through collaboration and, actually, the more creative one can be, the better (for the most part).

It’s a different world now than when I got into the business decades ago. Pretty much everyone on the planet has a “personal brand” that can be leveraged. The people who run our country were licensed product lines before they became politicians (no comment). Bloggers and influencers have changed the landscape by referring to advertising partnerships as “collaborations”,  and some of them have actually developed their own product lines in true collaboration with manufacturers and retailers (think: Oh Joy for Target). Luxury brands are collaborating with casual street wear brands and emerging artists in order to appeal to the next generation (Gucci X Allegra Hicks and Louis Vuitton X Supreme). Start up brands are collaborating to build strength in numbers… These are just a few examples of our current co-branding culture and how creative partnership is now a widely accepted, if not critical, way of marketing and growth hacking for brands of all kinds.

So I woke up one day and realized I could not go a day without reading about a new brand collaboration, but that no one was sharing about the combined creative and business process behind these unions. What does it actually mean when a brand is doing a collaboration? What is the definition of a co-brand? How do brands find the right partners? How do creative make partnership work? How is collaboration changing fashion, setting trends and driving the growth of businesses, both large and small? I can shed some light on some of these topics based on my own expertise, but I have to admit that, even after 20 years of experience, I have more questions for others about how they do it than answers.

That is why I am excited to delve right in and show you the latest in creative collaborations. I’ll give you lots of brand collaboration examples to help you grow your own business, interview brands,  share my perspective on emerging trends in fashion and design and daydream a little about brands I’d personally love to collaborate with some day – if I’m lucky!

Photo by Julia Elizabeth