Today, Slack has a new product. No, it’s not another workplace communication tool; it’s a sneaker. The tech unicorn has partnered with heritage footwear brand Cole Haan to launch a unisex sneaker in the four colors of the Slack logo.
This is the first time Slack—or really any major tech company, to our knowledge—has collaborated with a fashion brand. Sure, these companies often make swag for their own employees to cultivate team spirit. But they haven’t splashed their brand on apparel or accessories for everyday consumers to buy. Will people want to drop $120 on Slack-branded sneakers to express their loyalty to the company or align themselves with the values it represents? Both Slack and Cole Haan are counting on it.
The partnership first came about in the lead-up to Slack’s IPO last summer. Cole Haan decided to create custom shoes for Stewart Butterfield and Cal Henderson, the company’s cofounders, as a surprise. That day at the Stock Exchange, Slack had little booths featuring products that companies had created entirely through the platform, including ice cream flavors and these sneakers. (Slack and Cole Haan created a Slack channel together to discuss all the details of the shoe and provide updates.) As Slack fans gathered to show their support, many wanted to know where they could buy the sneakers. In the months that followed, Cole Haan decided that a full-on collaboration made sense.
Over the past few years, Cole Haan has tried to stand out in the footwear market by investing in technology. Associating itself with Slack allows it to deepen its identity as a tech-forward brand. “Slack has become a verb,” says David Maddocks, Cole Haan’s CMO. “It has become an integral part of the lives of our customers, so we wanted to create a fun collaboration based on the values that Slack represents, like collaboration and creativity.”
Julie Leigl, Slack’s CMO, says the shoes are likely to appeal to Slack’s superfans, for whom the platform has been integral to running their businesses or creating their products. Many of these fans will be gathering at Slack Frontiers, the company’s annual conference, which happens to start today. “The launch of the shoe comes at a convenient time because we’ll be able to show it to attendees,” she says.
Do consumers really want to buy shoes and other gear emblazoned with the logos of tech brands? If this partnership takes off, maybe we’ll have Instagram dresses in our future. Or TikTok watches. Or customized Facebook T-shirts covered in our friends’ faces.
Or we’ll all just stick to sweatpants.