Whether owing to the pandemic’s financial strain, new entrepreneurial thinking entering museums, or a renewed focus from brands and licensing companies on cultural assets, the past year-and-a-half has seen large cultural institutions refresh their approach to brand collaborations.
One facet of this shift is the new emphasis on working with technology companies. This includes new exhibitions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s AR project with Verizon or LACMA’s Snapchat monuments or co-creating products as shown by the Louvre’s tie-up with Netflix. More traditional licensing projects are also flourishing, as demonstrated at the Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards 2021 held in London on October 21, which saw more cultural winners than in previous years. Here’s a breakdown of three winners’ products and the thinking behind their success.
Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A)
Best Brand Licensed Fashion Accessories or Lifestyle Product or Range
London’s V&A has been a trailblazer in the space, long boasting a dedicated department and digital asset management system to facilitate product licensing. Its latest recognition was for a bag and accessory collection designed together with Mulberry. The products, which used floral designs from the museum’s archives and include a Bayswater Tote, a shoulder bag, and a card slip, were released as part of a sponsorship deal for the V&A’s Bags: Inside Out, which explored the contemporary history of bag design and craftsmanship.
Natural History Museum, London
Best Brand Licensed Adult Apparel Product or Range
The first of two awards picked up by the London institution — the second being for Best Licensed Heritage or Institution Brand — comes after a year of strong partnerships, including working with Alibaba to reach Chinese audiences digitally and pairing with the New York Times for COP26 in Glasgow. The award was for a limited-edition range of clothing with Finisterre, a British sustainability label, the second time the two have worked together. Framed around “The Resilience of Nature,” the collection of Hawaiian shirts, ponchos, and dresses integrated designs from 18th and 19th century naturalists into sustainable products. In short, the Natural History Museum is prioritizing partnerships with brands aligned with its own environmental priorities.
The Van Gogh Museum
Best Brand Licensed Gifting Product or Range
The Amsterdam institution has a recent history of eye catching brand collaborations — including Vans, Samsonite, and DHL — but it strengthened operations during the pandemic through choosing IMG as its new licensing agent in mid-2020. Recognition came for its stationary and gift range with Blueprint Collections, a brand specializing in quality licensed goods. In a deal brokered by Licensing Link, the museum’s 21-item release arrived at the end of last year and deployed famous works including “Sunflowers” and “Self-Portrait with Pipe and Straw Hat.” “[Blueprint Collections] have given so much care and attention to our IP,” said Laurine van Rooijen, the museum’s Head of Global Partnerships & Licensing. “Like Vincent said: ‘That which is done with love is well done.'”