Trends and brands are constantly coming in and out of style. It’s a part of the consumer cycle that’s inevitable. Thanks to the rise of social media, brands and retailers have turned towards the creator economy in order to keep themselves culturally relevant to new consumers.
Over the years, we’ve seen how not to work with creators (with the unfortunate events of Morphe…), and we’ve recently seen many success stories.
Brands that had run the risk of going out of style and popularity with their target audience have harnessed the power of long-term creator partnerships to re-stamp their relevance. Let’s take a look at how Forever 21 and Hollister redefined their creator relationships.
Hollister’s long-term creator partnerships
Hollister was one of the most popular brands for young consumers in the late 2000s and early 2010s. With its infamous Hollister models, strong scents, loud music, and dim lighting, the surfer brand successfully managed to draw in queues of teens (and their obliging parents).
The appearance of the venue (think beach nightclub), paired with the Hollister models created an aspirational frenzy for younger consumers. This lasted for a few strong years, before Hollister and its parent company Abercrombie & Fitch were at the centre of a few controversies. In the mid 2010s, the body positivity movement kicked off, leaving companies relying on the aspirational body to sell their clothes in the dust.
During this time, Hollister dropped off the map, and it remained off the map for a few years. Which brings us to 2021.
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Following the pandemic, Hollister had seemingly been sitting, waiting and listening on the sidelines. TikTok had risen to absolute popularity, and the D’Amelio sisters were the leading creators on the platform, engaging Gen Z viewers with their fun dance and music content.
Hollister seized the opportunity to work with the sisters initially with a series of exclusive items for the Hollister brands, before launching a multi-year apparel line with them, titled Social Tourist. The sub-brand is exclusively Gen Z-focused, and includes gender inclusive items, trend pieces, and premium basics. To keep up the exclusive element, each collection includes limited edition items that drop every month or so.
This collaboration marked Hollister’s move from a pay-per-post model to a long-term relationship-building strategy. The result? A brand and sub-brand that has re-reached viral status online. The new brand partnership with the TikTok stars has resulted in countless organic TikTok videos from users, and a significant uplift in both sales and positive sentiment.
The Social Tourist TikTok account has over 282K followers, and uses fashion influencers to create content for the channel, showing how various garments can be styled and the wide range of activities they can be worn to do.
@socialtourist is 65 degrees cold? lmk in the comments 💀 #socialtourist #grwm #getdressedwithme #cozyoutfit #athleisure @Elianna A ♬ Storytelling – Adriel
@socialtourist @charlidamelio building an all green fit w comfy new pieces from the november drop 💚 #socialtourist #hoodie #leggings #greenoutfit #cozyfashion ♬ smiles & sunsets – ultmt.
Forever21’s creator-first strategy
Forever21’s creator strategy used to be heavily based around one-off influencer posts, with the influencer showing one outfit. All influencers chosen had the same aesthetics and online vibe as one another, resulting in relatively generic and boring content that could have been created for any fast fashion retailer.
The company went bankrupt in 2019, but was bought out by multiple companies. The brand closed the majority of its physical stores to focus on becoming profitable again. Here commenced the creator-first focus.
Post-takeover, Forever21 phased out its traditional models across its key communication channels to highlight its creator partners (#ForeverBabes) and UGC. This content is consistently posted across its Instagram and TikTok accounts, as well as in newsletters and on the website.
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The brand has built a TikTok audience of nearly 120K, with the majority of content being repurposed and reposted influencer styling videos. The content is also posted to the influencer’s own channels a few days prior, helping build a hype around the brand.
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