Streetwear brand Kith debuts a beauty collab with Estée Lauder, but it won’t save the Estée brand.

WHAT HAPPENED: Kith x Estée Lauder is a limited-edition beauty kit that includes five Estée skincare products with a Kith makeover.

Why it matters

  • Beauty continues to boom, which rationalizes Kith’s entrance into the market, but both brands are relying too heavily on aesthetics to make it meaningful. Other streetwear brands have tapped into luxury legacy brands for collabs—see Supreme x Louis Vuitton—and the novelty of these partnerships have garnered viable consumer traction. Kith is attempting the same, pulling a vintage Estée logo from 1946 for the product packaging and designing a canvas bag and acrylic case to house the skincare items. But all five Estée products included in the kit are pre-existing. While it’s true that streetwear is largely based on labels and appearances, unless a customer is carrying around the acrylic case, no one will know that she is wearing any of the skincare products in the Kith x Estée collection.
  • While Estée shoppers wouldn’t normally overlap with those of Kith and vice versa, Estée can use the collab as a marketing vehicle to attract younger audiences to its brand. This is a positive move; Estée recently acknowledged that its digital ad spend rose from 22% of total ad spend to 75% in the past five years—the company also mentioned it would double its marketing budget in the next three years. As a legacy company, it’s also lost traction over the explosion of digitally-native brands, and past attempts at collabs have floundered. In 2015, Kendall Jenner designed an exclusive Estée lipstick, which promptly sold out, but the company failed to expand the strategy, instead limiting Jenner to brand ambassadorship. Letting Kith redesign its packaging echoes this superficial collaboration, and Estée will have to go after more transformative strategies to remain a relevant brand in the 21st century, especially as newcomers strive to become the next big conglomerate.