Stylish Choice: Collaboration

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Nancy Vaughn
Nancy Vaughn



Aside from having great style, most fashion followers also know the value of collaboration. Runway shows are done in collectives, and outfits are mixed and matched on models. When is the last time you personally wore one designer label from head to toe? It’s possible, but not likely.

Ideally, you have a customer to which you can sell the whole package. However, there are so many options out there nowadays, and variety is what makes our planet cool. In a fashion brand’s advertising campaign, the models are typically dressed (outfit and accessories) in that one designer label. For instance, Prada’s Spring/Summer 2012 campaign has clothes, jewelry, shoes and sunglasses, all compliments of Prada.

Now, would a designer turn down the cover of a major glossy publication because he or she didn’t get to dress the model from head-to-toe? Not usually, and typically it’s not the designer’s choice. The stylist may use one designer’s shirt and another brand’s pants or skirt, earrings by [insert brand name], shoes by whomever, etc. (Note: Despite some negative stereotypes, fashion publicists understand the value of strategic alliances and teamwork like no other.)

In business, it’s great to win it all, but occasionally there is compromise. Sometimes by choice (because you may not want to bring some services in-house) and other times out of necessity (because two teams or more are better than one). While you should always strive for 100 percent, occasionally it’s best to be open to the philosophy that 50 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing.

It’s easy to look at collaboration when it comes to getting dressed (fashion-challenged excluded), and the same principles can be applied to business. Here are some tips to assist with collaboration:

Research Your Care/Content Label

When caring for your clothes, you know whether a garment is machine washable, dry clean or hand-wash only, thanks to the care/content label. Before you collaborate or form strategic partnerships with companies, find out what they’re made of. Face-to-face meetings are ideal, and, at the least, several Skype and phone conversations. Don’t depend on interactions that are strictly based on character limits (i.e. 140 or 400) when looking to collaborate with another business. You’ll want to see nonverbal cues and how the firm you partner with may actually interact with your customers. You’ll be vouching for them and due diligence is required, as we know that one size does not fit all.

Know Where to Source

Fashion brands know where to source fabric and textile to make their gorgeous creations, and you’ll need to know where to find firms you respect. You should always be watching what’s happening in your industry. Joining organizations like the American Advertising Federation or Public Relations Society of America allows you to stay up on trends and also meet other professionals in and outside of your field or niche. These associations not only allow business owners to scout talent and job seekers to find work, they also open the doors for collaboration. When you serve together (through lobbying or via a public service campaign), you have a chance to see how well you work in conjunction with another agency and learn about strengths and specialties. You’ll want to partner with a firm that is making things happen, like yours! It’s awesome when a bunch of talented professionals from various agencies (who often compete for business in the marketplace) come together. The creative energy can be amazing!

Know What’s In Your Collection…And Theirs

When designers show each season, they’re not only highlighting next season’s trends, their collections typically show a cohesive look in structure, detail, fabric, color, etc. Sometimes there’s a signature staple or something the designer is just known for, like Diane Von Furstenberg’s wrap dress or Ralph Lauren’s quality, classic looks. If all else fails in an area of design creativity, they know what they can fall back on that fashion followers recognize.

Identifying areas that would easily partner with others is critical to collaboration. Take an inventory of what most of your business is in, types of clients, etc. and areas you’d like to explore, learn, grow or eliminate. Then find firms that offer complementary services and skills to your agency. Even if you decide to work with a firm that offers similar services, your portion on the client work will be very focused in a particular area.

For instance, our boutique PR and marketing firm has had an opportunity to work with an SEO firm on a client account. This allowed us to provide our client an ideal combination of media outreach and online support. Both agencies receive visibility on materials, and the client is happy to have two firms working for them.

When collaborating, it’s important to work with a firm that not only shares your work philosophy, but also your style. Pun intended. It’s important to share the way you work. How do you feel about turn-around times? Handle client communications? Ironing out these details early helps to avoid challenges and ensures that your brand’s style of working remains intact. In addition, all the same guidelines and NDAs must be adhered to. See here for tips that really highlight the “what happens here, stays here” motto, and when collaborating, everyone is in this together!

Discussion Questions:

What ways has collaboration and strategic partnerships been beneficial to your business?

What tips do you have to share?

When has collaboration not been an option or gone wrong?

Image via CyberEak /

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