Why Puma’s Collaboration with Rihanna at NYFW shows it understands its consumer

This NYFW season was all about sportswear, it made such a mark on the catwalk that I felt compelled to blog about how this little known concept called activewear is now a bonafide billion dollar sector within the fashion industry, with high end designers and new design talent alike teaming up with active brands.

The biggest reflection of that was the Fenty by Rihanna for Puma, which was showcased on Wall Street and caused a huge stir this season. The reason for its success? Puma decided to return to its roots, acknowledging that it was once very successful with the female consumer, and keen to get back there.

So it tapped Rihanna to help reconnect with girls around the globe for their Fall/Winter 2016 Fenty collaboration. Backstage at the show we caught up with Björn Gulden, CEO of Puma, who explained the strategy:

“I came to the brand two years ago and we sat down and agreed that the roots of Puma, if you go back 10 or 15 years ago, were very successful with the female consumer; shoes like Speed Cat, Future Cat, and Mostro,” says Björn. “And, for whatever reason, we lost the female consumer. When we talked about how to get her back again, we brainstormed about what we could do and it was pretty obvious that we needed both the creative help and the symbol that connects with the young female consumer. All the research we did came up with Rihanna as number one.”

There’s no denying the sportswear industry has been very male dominant, tapping into athletic superstars to spread awareness and build hype, but Puma is strategically filling a gap of potential female hypebeasts. “I think that creatively you can play around a lot more on the female side than you can on the men’s side, and for us, when we launched the creeper with Rihanna, we had girls lining up in front of the store at five or six o’clock in the morning to buy them,” adds Gulden. “I’ve never seen that before with females. It shows how strongly that group is looking for something that is special.

We needed someone like Rihanna to open those doors;

both of course to open the door to the consumer because she’s known, but more importantly to open the door creatively.”

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