The other day, I got up behind a Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer, and I started thinking about that popular tie-in — one that lasted for more than a decade, as Ford teamed up with well-known apparel manufacturer Eddie Bauer to bring some go-anywhere credibility to the Explorer. It was a good idea, as the Explorer was uncharted territory in the automotive world — so it was smart for Ford to work with a well-respected brand that projected the image they wanted for the Explorer.
Eventually, however, the Ford-Eddie Bauer mashup ended — maybe because the Explorer’s image had been established, or maybe because the recession started to take hold and Ford was pinching pennies. But either way, it was a long, popular duo, and many people still remember the "Eddie Bauer" Ford Explorer models.
More importantly, it was far from the only one of these automaker-and-apparel company teams. Jeep teamed up with Orvis to create the "Grand Cherokee Orvis," which had green seats and a few Orvis logos inside and out. There was a "North Face Edition" of the Chevrolet Avalanche, tying together Chevrolet and North Face. General Motors also made a "Joseph Abboud Edition" of the Buick Regal. The Mercury Villager minivan offered a "Nautica" trim level, with upscale trim and Nautical badges everywhere. Even Toyota got in on it, teaming up Lexus and Coach, the luxury goods manufacturer, to offer several "Coach Edition" Lexus models that came with a set of Coach luggage. And who can forget the "Bill Blass Edition" Lincoln models that existed throughout the 1970s, the 1980s and the early 1990s — likely the team-up that convinced Ford to try something similar with the Explorer.
The entire thing was quite a popular trend in the 1990s and early 2000s, and then it went away — and now the only cars I can think of that have recently teamed up with fashion brands are the Fiat 500, which had a special "Gucci Edition" that debuted in 2013, and the Chrysler 300 John Varvatos Edition — but both were limited production, and they’re now longer available. While automakers and fashion brands still do a lot of marketing together, the days of actual "special edition models" now seem like just a memory — one that revives itself whenever you get behind an automaker-and-apparel company special edition model at a traffic light.