Case Study: Celebrity And Luxury Brand Collaborations With Greater Meaning


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What Pharrell, Beyonce, and Rihanna All Have in Common

We often hear of a collaboration between a fashion brand and a celebrity. Sales are translated into the prestige of owning a rare piece from an extremely limited production run and then blasting photos for bragging rights all across social media platforms.

But what happens when celebrities use this partnership platform for more than just another revenue stream? In this blog post, Hollywood Branded examines how the power of celebrity can give greater meaning to the world of luxury brands through case studies of Pharrell with Chanel, Beyonce and Balmain, and Rihanna with LVMH.

Celebrity and Luxury Brand Collaborations with Greater Meaning

Perks of Partnering With Celebrities

The ability to acquire new target markets and provide their loyal customers with something new, exciting, and different is possibly the greatest benefit and major factor behind many brand collaborations. Collaborations provide an opportunity for luxury brands to not only analyze their roots, but also redefine their product offerings to reflect what their consumer is looking for. It’s all about providing current customers with something new, with the hope of further strengthening brand loyalty. Alec Leach, Highsnobiety’s Digital Fashion Editor, explained in an interview that, “The way media works now, you can't just do a collection and hope people care six months later — you've got to always be on. Collabs are a handy way of doing that.

With social media being the foundation and base of fan outreach, celebrities started seeing the impact of their own star power. They could see the direct influence they were having on the brand. These celebrity and brand collections have become all about the bragging rights spread through the internet with selfies, tagged and posted across all social media platforms.

From another Hollywood Branded blog post, our agency CEO, Stacy Jones writes, “The biggest tool entertainment marketing provides for luxury brands is not only the potential for immediate sales, but that it opens the doors to a massive opportunity to engage millennials who may not quite have the ability to afford luxury now – but will aspire to purchase that brand one day in the near future, as they rise in their careers. This includes celebrity endorsement deals inclusive of social posts; product placement in films, TV shows and music videos; as well as event sponsorship activation at trendy fashion driven events like Coachella.  Brands participating in these hip and cool opportunities with celebrities make the brand less stuffy, less like their mom’s or worse yet, grandmother’s brands, and more appealing.  Using entertainment marketing to communicate with these younger buyers is key to luxury brands’ success.” 

In the following examples, each celebrity has not only accomplished a collaboration with a luxury fashion house, but the collaboration also speaks to a higher social cause. Whether they are breaking gender norms, paying homage to the culture of historically black colleges and donating 100% of sales to UNCF (United Negro College Fund), or breaking glass ceilings by being the first woman to create an original brand at LVMH, the first woman of color at the top of an LVMH maison, these celebrities are making more waves than a mere fashion collaboration.

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Pharrell x Chanel

For Pharrell, Chanel was a brand that he always aspired to. Well before any official partnerships were created, he would customize his own sneakers with the interlocking CC logo or even scrawling the word Chanel on his shoes. Those days are long behind him, as Williams has now starred in Chanel campaigns, walked its runway, and even wrote a song for the fashion house, and is one of its few male ambassadors.

The product collaboration between Pharrell and Chanel started off with a pair of sneakers, collaborating with Chanel Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld (RIP) and Adidas Originals. “Officially, it’s the first time to my knowledge that the Chanel name has appeared on a product made by another brand, so it’s true that this makes it something very special,” according to Sarah Andelman, creative director and purchasing manager at Colette. Collette was a concept boutique known for not only unexpected collaborations, but also for being the only shop that Karl Lagerfeld claimed to frequent. For the final farewell while the iconic store was open, Karl teamed up with the store and launched an Adidas Hu NMD shoe, specially customized by Pharrell. Chanel took over at Colette from Oct. 30 to Nov. 25, 2017, right before the store closed its doors for good on Dec. 20.

Williams has never let gender norms keep him from shopping the luxury brand (which has no menswear line). As a Chanel brand ambassador, Pharrell made history as the first man to star in an ad campaign for the Gabrielle Chanel bag in the year 2017. Not only is this the first collaboration in the brand’s HISTORY, he took it a step further by creating Chanel’s first unisex capsule collection. This has made this once women’s-only brand finally available to all identities. It is inspired by hip hop, art, and design, with a more vibrant streetwear aesthetic, something quite different, yet just as iconic as tweed suits and pearls.

Pharrell Chanel

Check out the Behind the Scenes of Chanel Pharrell and his Gabrielle Chanel ad campaign.


Beyonce x Balmain

Beyoncé’s performance at Coachella, dubbed Beychella, made history as she was the first black woman EVER to headline the music festival. She recognized the history-making occasion with the theme of Homecoming, which recognized the culture of historically black colleges and universities around the country. Beyoncé also partnered with a man of color to custom create her wardrobe: Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing. Olivier and Beyoncé directly worked together on the marching band–inspired costumes, telling Vogue that he sat on the floor with her between rehearsals “cutting fabric.”

He added, “She would give me direct feedback about how the lighting should hit the clothes, what the music had to emphasize about each look—I never had to guess what to do next.

Her performance, message and music — along with the looks that we created together — made for one of those rare, indelible images that I believe will long remain in my generation's collective memory.” Following Beyoncé's unforgettable performance, she continued to pay tribute to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) by donating a total of $100,000 to four Black universities. $25,000 each to Tuskegee University, Bethune-Cookman University, Xavier University of Louisiana and Wilberforce University, where one student from each school will receive the scholarship money. Her Balmain x Beyoncé collection is no different, as proceeds from the collaboration's purchases will go towards the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). 

Beyonce Balmain

Rihanna x LVMH

Rihanna knows no glass ceilings, as she will become the first woman to: create an original brand at LVMH, the first woman of color at the top of an LVMH maison, AND her line will be the first new house (maison) created by the group since Christian Lacroix in 1987. By aligning themselves with Rihanna, the brand was able to gain the attention of a younger, style-conscious, Millennial market.

In an interview with Women's Wear Daily (WWD), our agency's CEO, Stacy Jones, said, “Instead of having celebrity faces like Natalie Portman at Dior or Nicole Kidman at Chanel, it’s now about how a celebrity can own a brand... In the past, celebs have become brand ambassadors, and they have had partnerships that involved this many days of PR, event attendances, this many photo shoots, video shoots and usage rights. The celeb didn’t really participate in the creative process.” She continues, “And Rihanna gives LVMH access to a new demographic. Luxury conglomerates are having major issues reaching Millennials…This new luxury brand will allow them to open the floodgates to Millennial customers.

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The new Maison is developed by and centered around all things Rihanna, creating ready-to-wear, shoes, and accessories. "Women are forces of this earth. We are multifaceted, complex, vulnerable yet bulletproof, and Fenty speaks to all of our intricacies. Some days I want to be submissive, many days I'm completely in charge and most days I feel like being both ... so it was imperative that we created a line versatile enough to embrace and celebrate us in that way," Rihanna said in a LVMH statement.

Rihanna, or more formally known as Robyn Rihanna Fenty, said, “Mr. Arnault has given me a unique opportunity to develop a fashion house in the luxury sector, with no artistic limits. I couldn’t imagine a better partner both creatively and business-wise, and I’m ready for the world to see what we have built together.” Bernard Arnault, Chairman and CEO of LVMH added, “ported by the Group resources. I am proud that LVMH is leading this venture and wish it will be a great success.

The brand will not stick to a traditional fashion schedule, but will rather operate on incremental releases on a "See-Now-Wear-Now" model. Limited releases will be supported by pop-up stores – a unique experience for both a physical and digital audience. Releases will include special-edition pieces, available for limited time frames, and core items. If you miss the pop-up shop, you can buy via the digital flagship:

Rihanna LVMH

Check out the preview of the FENTY line:

There's Lot's More to Learn!

Are you interested in reading more about how celebrity fashion brands are shaking up retail? Check out our blog How the Celebrity Fashion Brand is Taking Over the Retail Industry.

Our team is often writing about the partnerships between celebrities and brand marketing. Topics include the marketing perspective, best practices, the role social media plays in advertising, and more! Read more about Celebrities and Marketing in these helpful blogs:

Do you want to understand more about how to capture the marketing power behind a celebrity? Download the Celebrity Event Calendar to access WHAT and WHEN options exist for your brand to sponsor events.

Celebrity Event Planning Calendar by Hollywood Branded