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Timberland- Designing a brand with global appeal and local expertise

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One of the most recognisable and popular brands in the world, premium outdoor lifestyle brand Timberland has truly universal appeal, with many people across the globe having owned a pair of its iconic yellow boots at some point in their lives. Recently, the brand has undergone an intensive Creative Vision project in which it looked back at its rich heritage of workwear and products designed for the outdoors, with a passion for nature at its core. In addition, the move reinforced Timberland’s identity and ethos, emphasising the brand’s commitment to responsible design and sustainability goals through better sourcing and raw material farming initiatives. Last year the brand appointed Christopher Raeburn as Global Creative Director, while Nick Barber continues to shape the stylistic direction of the clothing division as Global Apparel Design Director.

Diversification paves the way for future success

A key strategy that is set to lay the foundations for future success is diversification beyond the brand’s classics to offer the Timberland community a full breadth of products for their outdoor lifestyle. Apparel, and especially outerwear, plays a very important role in that diversification strategy, as well as “leveraging the footwear and apparel design hubs to design closer to the consumer and truly understand and cater to their fashion needs,” as Nick explains. With the brand represented in most core markets across the world, including the Americas, EMEA and APAC regions, and targeting further growth across all of these territories, the challenge is to capture the design DNA and to stay authentic to the brand’s unique selling point while referencing geographical considerations for each market. According to Nick, this boils down to having genuine insights into the target audience of each country and being in tune with the end consumer – wherever they may be based. “From a business perspective, it’s important that we bring authenticity to every Timberland collection. When it comes to trends, we find that Asia, heavily influenced by Japan, often leads the way. A good example of this is the oversized workwear look we were designing for Asia back in 2016; only recently have we noticed this look gain relevance with EMEA and NORA regions,” he says. The brand employs an insights team who provide regular updates on its design targets and consumer profiles. “The reports incorporate anything from their hobbies and activities to their attitudes about fashion to what social and environmental concerns they might have – so we’re really in touch with our audience. We also travel within our biggest regions ahead of each season to see first-hand how trends and consumer tastes are evolving within the marketplace. This ensures the team is always well-informed of what really matters to the Timberland community in our key markets, and then we can design accordingly,” he adds.

Harnessing local knowledge

While designing products with universal appeal is at the core of the brand’s philosophy, local knowledge is just as important in order to maximise the potential and success of a product in particular countries or regions, especially when it comes to fit, as Nick explains. “Fit is key as the typical body shape of our consumer varies between regions, and so this is something we fine tune – whilst the design is the same, the product has a specific cut according to where it is going to be shipped. We find as well that the reaction to certain colours can vary between regions; for example in Asia there are a lot of traditional meanings attached to colours, and this often influences our choices.”

As a performance and lifestyle brand, Timberland’s design ethos goes beyond fast-paced trends and fads, and instead is rooted in a strong brand identity that defines each seasonal collection. And this also applies to the choice of materials. “It’s important to us that authenticity and a strong brand expression lead the conversation in any Timberland collection and in this way we are less reliant on seasonal trends,” says Nick. “It’s not about having the latest fad, but more about owning a product that will last a long time, is weather- ready and above all is responsibly made. We set high standards for all of our materials to ensure their suitability for Timberland products. Whilst many fashion brands are reactive to the latest trends, we have come to be less dependent on them because our rigorous development process takes time. We want Timberland products to have longevity and so we build them to last with authenticity and quality in the hope that they outlive any trends and become “go-to” pieces for many years”.

According to Nick, designing and evolving a brand across a multitude of markets while staying true to its core signature is anchored in its heritage, teamed with a genuine connection with the target consumer. “It’s vital that we understand the global community and what they want Timberland products to provide. We observe many regional differences and needs, but a love of the outdoors and a desire to appreciate and protect the world that we live in are universal themes. And it all comes to life through our Creative Vision, and that sweet spot at the intersection of our passion for nature and the energy of fashion,” he says.

Timberland is part of VF Corporation. Organized in 1899, VF Corporation is a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel, footwear and accessories, with global iconic brands, 50,000 associates and $11.2 billion in revenue.

Images courtesy Timberland

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