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Why are fashion collaborations the new big trend for whisky makers?

With multiple whisky brands rolling out new clothing collections to reel in younger consumers, will fashion collaborations be the next big trend for spirits marketing?

Why are clothing collaborations the new big trend for whisky makers?

Ballantine’s latest collaboration with Wu-Tang Clan frontman RZA hits all the buzz words when it comes to marketing trends — celebrity glamour; Japanese streetwear; a limited edition collection.

RZA’s work with the brand began earlier this year with the release of a limited edition Ballantine’s x RZA Crosley record player celebrating the 30th anniversary of the group’s debut album.

A spokesperson for Ballantine’s told db at the time that the Scotch whisky brand has a “long-term relationship with RZA” who is “closely aligned with the company’s brand values”.

Celebrity collaborations are far from a new phenomenon but have boomed in the last few years, with big names like Kendall Jenner, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Bob Dylan and Bruno Mars entering the spirits game, to name but a few.

Speaking about the collaboration with the Wu-Tang Clan frontman, the Ballantine’s spokesperson noted that the partnership meant “more than just putting a name with a brand”.

As its traditional fan base ages and consumers become more category-curious, the whisky industry is recruiting a new generation. Celebrity brands have saturated the market, but for producers who don’t have the backing of a Hollywood star, they are having to find other means to draw in new drinkers.

Recruitment of new customers lies in recruiting a more progressive culture into the brand itself, argues Dave Palmer of creative agency LOVE, which may entail changes to the culture within the organisation. Drinks brands need to take tips from brands such as Nike who, he says, are “completely on point culturally”.

“I would like to see them [drinks brands] pull people in on a recruitment point-of-view that have a broader cultural understanding,” he says. “It’s how they can keep their brands salient and lean on the culture to get that.”

When it comes to the world of whisky, fashion seems to be the answer. A number of whisky brands, from Scotch to Bourbon to Irish, have launched clothing collections in just the last few months.

Edrington-owned Bourbon brand Maker’s Mark has launched a collection with British design studio Phoebe English, a move which Edrington UK marketing director Neil Skinner says “helps us to connect with our target audience” by tapping into the circular fashion world.

“Together, Maker’s Mark and Phoebe English can elevate each other’s storytelling,” he says. “For us, it’s not as much about whisky and fashion naturally fitting together, but the synergy in the way our products are created; from the sourcing of materials and ingredients to the handmade finishing and the storytelling that can be done around the process. We hope that together, we can better engage an audience of consumers who strive to support brands committed to the planet.”

See below for a round-up of the latest fashion-forward whisky collaborations which hit the UK market over the last few months.

1. Ballantine’s x RZA

Ballantine’s has enlisted the help of Wu-Tang Clan frontman RZA on a capsule collection with Japanese streetwear brand Neighbourhood.

The limited-edition drop, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop, includes a classic black ‘zip work jacket’, emblazoned with the phrases ‘Stay True’ and ‘Craft With Pride’, as well as an array of accessories, and a bespoke ceramic whisky decanter.

When asked about the partnership, RZA said: “Fashion is one of the greatest ways to show self-expression; we use clothes to express everything, from our style to other interests such as sports and music, and even our communities and neighbourhoods. The whole collection came out great, but having Ballantine’s ‘Stay True’ motto on the jacket is my favourite detail – it encapsulates our shared belief of doing things your own way.”

2. Maker’s Mark x Phoebe English

Maker’s Mark has collaborated with fashion designer Phoebe English to unveil the (Re)Made to Party capsule collection, crafted entirely from upcycled clothing and deadstock.

The collection will be exclusively available this week at The (Re)Made to Party Boutique and Bar, a hub designed to accommodate sustainable fashion patrons and cocktail enthusiasts alike.

Opening 16 – 18 November 2023, 149 Shoreditch High St, London E1 6JQ, The (Re)made to Party Boutique will offer complimentary on-site tailors, and bespoke Maker’s Mark cocktails at the bar.

3. Glenfiddich x Priya Ahluwalia

In September, Speyside single malt Scotch whisky distillery Glenfiddich teamed up with British designer Priya Ahluwalia on a fashion collaboration for bartenders, taking inspiration from her Indian-Nigerian roots.

Following London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2024, the Speyside distillery is honouring UK bartenders with the new clothing venture, and has created just 150 bomber jackets, designed for bartenders up and down the country.

4. Jameson x Percival

Why are fashion collabs the new big trend for whisky makers?
Image credit: Instagram user percival_menswear

Pernod Ricard-owned Irish whiskey brand Jameson has collaborated with London-based menswear brand Percival on a collection of shirts inspired by football kits from the 1990s.

The limited-edition jerseys retailed for £59 and sport a retro pattern – they come in green, pink and black. In addition to having the word ‘Jameson’ emblazoned across the front, they also feature a badge listing both Jameson and Percival.

Percival claims that the series of shirts “celebrates a day in the life of your average British match-goer”. They were designed at Percival’s London studio, made by football kit manufacturer Icarus, and then embroidered and embellished in London.

5. Waterford Distillery x Lestrange

Why are fashion collabs the new big trend for whisky makers?

Organic whisky producer Waterford Distillery has announced a new fashion collaboration with London-based menswear brand Lestrange, launching an overshirt and trousers designed with nods to the whisky-making process.

The limited collection includes a Lestrange 24 Overshirt (£149) and Lestrange Heavyweight 24 Trouser (£149) made from fully-traceable, regenerative cotton.

The two garments will be on sale to customers online and at the Lestrange flagship Coal Drops Yard store in London, and will include a 100ml sample of Waterford’s Organic: Gaia 1.1 from its Arcadian Farm Origin series.

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