Why Cadillac partnered with fashion designers to enhance its brand

Following on the heels of its recent relocation from Motor City to the Big Apple, Cadillac is now dabbling in the New York fashion scene as it continues to rebuild its luxe brand.

The auto retailer is continuing to restore its reputation in the wake of slumping sales over the past few decades and blighted attempts at making a comeback. Now, through a partnership with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Cadillac is establishing itself as a purveyor of style by helping cultivate young fashion designers in a new initiative called Retail Lab.

At an event yesterday at the Cadillac Global Headquarters in SoHo, members of the CFDA and Cadillac shared their vision for the Lab, which will include a custom retail shop on the ground floor of the Cadillac building and mentorship in business development, marketing, public relations and retail logistics.

“What’s great about the retail space that’s being built is there’s a lot of technology being integrated into that, so I think there’s going to be a lot of ways to communicate brand messaging with different mediums,” Steven Kolb, President and CEO of the CFDA, told Digiday.

Six designers will participate in the 2016-2017 term, using a $75,000 grant from Cadillac to help build their business and open their retail shops. The first designer will be Timo Weiland, whose shop will open to the public in early July, and the Lab’s Advisory Board will select the additional five.

Members of the Advisory Board include prominent players in the fashion world, such as Jan-Hendrick Schlottmann, CEO of Derek Lam, and Bobby Schuessler, senior fashion editor of Who What Wear, among others.

“What we’re seeing from a digital perspective in the industry is the model is shifting quickly and designers have to be very nimble,” said Melody Lee, director of brand strategy and planning at Cadillac. “That’s what makes this program so rich, it’s not just space and some hangers and tags, it’s the ability to experiment a little bit.”

Elizabeth Elder, a research associate at L2, said Cadillac’s decision to partner with the CFDA “unlocks a whole new audience for them — one that is young, digitally savvy and stylish.” Though she noted that building brand equity will require convincing consumers to make the slightly incongruous connection between stylish clothes and stylish automobiles.

Cadillac moved to Manhattan last year under the leadership of Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen who in August 2015 told The New York Times “by changing geography, you force a change.” Though the move shook up the city of Detroit — home to the big three automakers including Cadillac’s parent company, General Motors — de Nysschen has made significant progress in establishing a new brand identify for Cadillac.

“[The designers are] going to be within the Cadillac experience, and they’re going to be trying to solve the same questions we are — experimenting with what consumers really want to see and what kind of digital technologies need to enable it,” Lee said.

Photo courtesy of Cadillac



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