In a market oversaturated with capsule collections, special editions and surprise drops, it takes a lot to make a jaded editor do a double take at a new product release. But that’s precisely what happened last year when D2C paint brand Backdrop announced they were releasing a collaboration with, of all partners, Dunkin’ Donuts. The mini collection—a bright pink and a bright orange—raised a few eyebrows. Then all of a sudden it was everywhere, from House Beautiful to Food & Wine to late night TV. Within a week, it had sold out.
Working with Dunkin’ wasn’t the first time Backdrop produced an attention-grabbing collab, nor was it the last. In 2020, the brand crafted some shockingly vibrant hues with New York design destination Coming Soon, and just last week Backdrop debuted another unexpected partnership, this time working with Madewell to produce both a signature hue (“Studio Hours,” a pinkish beige) and a capsule collection of apparel, including overalls and socks.
Founded in 2018 by the husband-and-wife team of Caleb and Natalie Ebel, Backdrop has quickly staked out a unique position in the home industry as a steady purveyor of what you might call the curveball collab, a union between brands that doesn’t make sense—or does it?
WTF partnerships aren’t an entirely new phenomenon. For decades, the concept of two brands teaming up to become more than the sum of their parts has been a reliable marketing play in every corner of the consumer economy. But in recent years, we’ve entered the baroque era of brand collaborations—a time in which only the most unexpected pairings can jar consumers out of their stupor. Gucci x North Face. Supreme x Hästens. Nike x Ben & Jerry’s (yes, that’s real). The list goes on.
Kooky collaborations are, however, somewhat rare in the home world. Partially that’s structural. Furniture is expensive to manufacture and distribute—it’s tough to imagine Ligne Roset cranking out 5,000 special edition Glossier x Togo sofas on the whim of an excitable marketing exec.
Courtesy of Backdrop
Culture also plays a role. Home, as an industry, is more reserved than categories like fashion, food and entertainment. As a result, the brandscape is slightly muted. It’s almost a cliche to see consumer brands engaging in wacky stunts and even feuding (who can forget Wendy’s releasing an entire mixtape of diss tracks aimed at McDonald’s and Burger King?), but you don’t see CB2’s Twitter handle dunking on West Elm’s.
Thus far Backdrop has …….