Semi-Obscure Influencers Might Be the Way to Make Collaborations Exciting Again

Langley Fox might not be as famous as her sister, but she was the best choice for Everlane's first collaboration. Here's why.
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Langley Fox might not be as famous as her sister, but she was the best choice for Everlane's first collaboration. Here's why.

Last week, Everlane announced its first-ever collaboration. The partner? Langley Fox: illustrator, Hemingway descendant, sister to Dree. An unexpected choice? Sure. But right all the same. Fox could be categorized as an "It" girl. Although really, she's more of a cool girl. I like her style, and I like her Instagram, and I like her art. So I took a look at the collection: two sleeveless tops -- one muscle tee, one sleek tank -- available in cream, navy and black, and I immediately placed an order, and so did a bunch of other people. As I write this, the cream and navy "drape tank" are completely sold out. 

Yasmin Sewell in a look from her Barneys New York collection. Photo: Courtesy

Yasmin Sewell in a look from her Barneys New York collection. Photo: Courtesy

Would I have bought those tops even if Langley Fox's name wasn't attached to them? Yes. But I wasn't turned off by her involvement, either. While high-low designer collaborations have earned a permanent place in the marketing plans of most retailers because they create buzz and sometimes boost sales, it's the obscure, personality-driven team-ups that are interesting right now. Everything else, especially celebrity collaborations, feels tired. 

Barneys New York is another retailer taking this more nuanced approach, bringing on Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook and fashion consultant Yasmin Sewell to design collections. (Westbrook actually collaborated with some of his favorite brands, including Del Toro and Want Les Essentiels de la Vie, on pieces. Sewell, who is also a partner in Être Cécile, worked only with Barneys.) While Westbrook is quite famous, he's no LeBron James in terms of recognition. And the London-based Sewell flies even further under the radar: she's the street style star whom street style stars love. The fashion industry might obsess over her every look, but the average Barneys customer has probably never heard of her.

Influencer collaborations are not brand new. (Alexa Chung x Madewell is a slam-dunk example, and there are dozens of blogger partnerships that fall under the category.) But there's a thoughtfulness to this current crop that I haven't observed before. The choices feel like they have very little to do with audience reach and more to do with just being good. For retailers whose collaboration strategy is not about making a ton of money -- i.e. all but a few -- using a cool person, not a crazy-prominent person, is a decent idea. 

Photo: Langley Fox, Courtesy of Everlane