The name of a high street sausage roll vendor may not seem an obvious choice for consumers looking for what is fresh in fashion, but Greggs is again proving its sartorial chops with a second collaboration with Primark. Bucket hats, bumbags, cycling shorts and hoodies emblazoned with the name of the steak bake seller will be on sale in Primark from 5 August.
The retailers will be hoping to match the success of their first collaboration, which went on sale in February and was reportedly selling for three times its original price on eBay within a week.
Seemingly unlikely partnerships are the bread and butter of fashion collaborations. “Whether it’s Burberry x Vivienne Westwood, Supreme x Louis Vuitton or Balenciaga x The Simpsons, it’s all about catching the customer unawares,” says Anthony McGrath, course leader in fashion marketing at London College of Fashion and founder of the Men’s Style Blog.
It is the latest of a series of business logos making their way ironically on to garments in the past few years. In luxury fashion, items mimicking the look of a bootleg have been selling for eye-watering prices, from the now infamous 2016 T-shirt by Vetements that featured the logo of the global logistics company DHL and sold for £185, to a Balenciaga bag that looked a lot like Ikea’s practical blue Frakta bag but that retailed for more than £1,500 rather than 50p, with wearers hoping to communicate an in-the-know wink through their wardrobes.
In the world of streetwear, labels have also in recent years been revisiting the 1990s taste for taking quotidian logos and reworking them. The Tottenham label Sports Banger, for instance, made a cult favourite by emblazoning the logo of the Doncaster company Heras, which makes fences used at raves and festivals, on to a T-shirt.
Key to the popularity of this collaboration, though, may not be irony but a genuine love of Greggs. “It works because British culture has a soft spot for Greggs,” says Matt Poile, deputy foresight editor at a strategic foresight consultancy, The Future Laboratory. It is a brand that has its own superfans and, long before any official collection, independent sellers were touting earrings in the shape of sausage rolls.
“It’s seen as an unpretentious and affordable brand,” says Poile, “and people want to align themselves with that everyday quality.” This is perhaps particularly true at a time when national discourse is dominated by talk of elitism; a bumbag with a sausage roll on it couldn’t be further from a prime ministerial hopeful wearing Prada loafers if it tried.
Greggs is also, unusually, seen as a brand worth its salt. “Despite being a large chain in the UK, it still manages to project a sort of humble egalitarianism,” says Matthew Whitehouse, editor of the iconic youth culture magazine The Face. “To paraphrase Andy Warhol, a steak bake is a steak bake.” Plus, he says, citing staff bonuses and free breakfasts for primary schoolchildren, “it appears to be a really brilliantly run company.”
The same has not always been said of Primark, which does not pay the “real living wage” in the UK and has been criticised for alleged maltreatment of garment workers abroad. But it is the Greggs name that will appear on the clothing for all to see.
“Those wearing the clothes can poke fun at high fashion and be proud of who they are: straight up, real and unafraid to be themselves,” says Paul Taylor, chief creative officer at design agency BrandOpus. “Where some might look down their nose at a fast food chain, by wearing its logo, you’re sticking two fingers up at that type of food and fashion snobbery.”
Sabrina Faramarzi, a social-cultural trends expert and founder of the data and trends agency Dust in Translation, also sees it as an example of “the Gen Z habit of elevating the niche. Where millennials have worshipped unattainable influencers, Gen Z’s prefer the homegrown hero.”
It is a savvy move on the part of both retailers. As McGrath says, even if like him you aren’t going to run out and buy a pair of Greggs cycling shorts, “people are talking about this range, therefore it’s creating a buzz”. For Poile, “these are items that are made to be photographed and posted on social media – a bit like wearing a meme.”
Humour is also key, says Faramarzi. “Life right now feels overwhelmingly negative. Fashion is about escapism, community, and perhaps even a little nostalgia for simpler times – like taking a break with a hot cheese and onion pasty.”