The list of Crocs collaborators is long and diverse. This summer alone, the brand has launched new products together with Salehe Bembury, Palace and MCM. Looking further back, Crocs have also worked with everyone from Justin Bieber and Post Malone, to Nicole McLaughlin and Awake NY. Perhaps the most striking of all their collaborations, however, is the long-running work with Balenciaga, which has seen the Classic Clog twisted beyond recognition.
This collaborative strategy has helped Crocs change its reputation remarkably in recent years. While once known for its comfort alone, the brand has transitioned into a genuine player in the fashion industry, aiming to capitalize on this by hiring former Nike boss Emma Minto in 2021 with a brief to continue Crocs’ upward lane.
“Awareness was never an issue,” Crocs marketing manager Heidi Cooley tells Hypebeast. “Whether you wore Crocs or not, you knew them. It created an incredible opportunity, so we set out to revive our icon, the Classic Clog.” This silhouette has been at the center of Crocs’ new strategy, often offered up to collaborators or customized through special edition Jibbitz packs.
“We’re not overly precious, we like to have fun and take chances,” says Cooley. “No two collaborations are the same, and each project uses its own, unique DNA. This allows us to push boundaries and find new ways to reimagine our footwear and shape it into something completely unique, tailored for new and diverse target groups.” By collaborating with artists and brands in different worlds, be it music, fashion or even food, Crocs has been able to move the dial – so much so that it is now considered a design choice, rather than a comfort choice.
With this elevated status in place, the next focus is on where the brand can go from here. “Taking risks and embracing innovation got us to where we are today and will help carry us into the future,” explains Cooley. “Looking forward, we will continue to explore opportunities through a digital-first social-led approach to provide our consumers with new experiences and touchpoints to interact with our brand.”
The plan for Crocs moving forward is to blend its successful collaborations with a renewed focus on its core products, showing what exists beyond the Classic Clog. “Our collaborative strategy will continue to reinforce what we stand for as a brand, while creating unexpected moments that feel purposeful,” says Lucy Thornley, the brand’s global vice president of trend, consumer, design and product. “While our partners respect what we stand for and authenticate the brand through their own unique lens, we also have an incredibly talented design team that allows us to bring out-of-the-box ideas to life, and our ambition is to close the gap between collaboration and core product. This will allow us to remain disruptive, celebrate our brand polarization and continue to exist within that tension of love and hate.”
The focus on mainstream releases has already begun to bear fruit, with a number of new releases including the “Spray Dye” collection, new categories such as the hiking-focused “All Terrain” range and new silhouettes such as the chunky Crush sandal. “We are focused on introducing new design languages that combine innovation with our comfort DNA,” continues Thornley. “For us, it’s about creating products through the lens of consumer connection, and introducing a wider variety of new silhouettes to expand our reach as a brand. For the remainder of this year, we will be releasing several new silhouettes, allowing us to break into new categories beyond clogs including rain boots, slides, sandals and more.” Thornley singles out the upcoming Echo Clog as a particular favorite, describing “a distinctive exoskeletal design that emphasizes sculpture, bold form and premium comfort.”
Whether it’s through collaborations or changes to the main collection, Crocs isn’t letting its newfound status slip. “We’re focused on driving longevity through new product innovations that embrace what we stand for, while deepening consumer connectivity and staying relevant to the cultural zeitgeist of the moment,” concludes Thornley. “We will continue to listen to our consumers and see what they respond to, and lead infused innovation by breaking into new product categories and seizing opportunities.”