The list of Crocs collaborators is long and diverse. In the course of this summer alone, the brand has launched new products together with Salehe Bembury, Palace and MCM. Looking further back, Crocs has also worked with everyone from Justin Bieber and Post Malone, to Nicole McLaughlin and Awake NY. Perhaps the most striking of all his collaborations, however, is his long-standing work with Balenciaga, which has seen the Classic Clog twisted beyond recognition.
This collaborative strategy has helped Crocs dramatically change its reputation in recent years. While once known only for comfort, the brand has become a bona fide player in the fashion industry, aiming to capitalize on this by hiring former Nike executive Emma Minto in 2021 with the aim of continuing the Crocs upward trajectory.
“Awareness was never an issue,” Crocs chief marketing officer Heidi Cooley tells Hypebeast. “Whether or not you wore Crocs, you knew them. That created an incredible opportunity, so we set out to revive our icon, the Classic Clog.” This silhouette has been at the core of Crocs’ new strategy, frequently offered to partners or customized through special edition Jibbitz packages.
“We’re not too valuable, we like to have fun and take risks,” says Cooley. “No two collaborations are the same, and each project embraces its own unique DNA. This allows us to push boundaries and find new ways to reinvent our footwear and mold it into something completely unique, tailored to new and diverse audiences.” Through its collaborations 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 where the brand can go from here. “Taking risks and embracing innovation got us to where we are today and will help us move into the future,” explains Cooley. “Looking ahead, we will continue to explore opportunities through a digital-first, social approach to provide our consumers with new experiences and touchpoints to interact with our brand.”
Crocs’ plan as it moves forward is to blend its successful collaborations with a renewed focus on its mainline products, showcasing what exists beyond the Classic Clog. “Our collaborative strategy will continue to amplify what we stand for as a brand, while creating unexpected moments that feel purposeful,” says Lucy Thornley, Global Vice President of Trend, Consumer, Design and Product for the brand. “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 enables us to bring ideas to life out of the box, and our aspiration is to bridge the gap between collaborations and the main product. This will allow us to continue to be disruptive, celebrate the polarization of our brand, and continue to exist within that tension of love and hate.”
The focus on mainline releases has already begun to pay off, 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 Crush chunky sandal. “We are focused on introducing new design languages that marry innovation with our comfort DNA,” continues Thornley. “For us, it’s about creating a product through the lens of consumer connectivity, introducing a wider range of new silhouettes to broaden our reach as a brand. Throughout the rest of this year, we will be launching several new silhouettes, allowing us to enter new categories beyond clogs, such as wellies, slides, sandals and more.” Thornley singles out the upcoming Echo Clog as one of his favorites, describing “a distinctive exoskeletal design that emphasizes sculpting, bold form and superior comfort.”
Whether through collaborations or changes to its core collection, Crocs isn’t letting its new status slip away. “We’re focused on driving longevity through new product innovations that embrace what we stand for while also deepening consumer connectivity and staying relevant to the cultural zeitgeist of the moment,” Thornley concludes. “We will continue to listen to our consumers and see what they respond to, leading innovation shaped by disruptively breaking into new product categories and usage occasions.”