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ASB  MAGAZINE: Nixon introduced the next installment of their STAR WARS™ | Nixon collaboration with the debut of Star Wars: The Last Jedi  in cinemas this summer.  The latest collection builds on a partnership first established in 2015 with Lucas Film and connects Nixon fans with one of the most respected film franchises in pop culture history. As with previous releases, the collaboration features watches and accessories inspired by characters from the film. The capsule combines Nixon’s signature watch and bag silhouettes with unique elements that pay homage to The Star Wars: The Last Jedi central characters. We are unashamedly Star Wars nerds here and so we reached out to Nixon co-founder Chad Di Nenna and Joe Babcock, Director of Product to get the Lo-Down on the partnership.

Aside from financial opportunity, what does Star Wars have to do with Nixon? Are you all just fans first, and business people second?

The amount of Star Wars fans inside the Nixon design studio here in Encinitas is off the chart. So, yes, we were fans first but that didn’t automatically green light this project. Lucas Film had been approaching us every few seasons checking our interest and while we loved the franchise we didn’t see the immediate fit. We didn’t like the idea of slapping their logo on our product and selling it just anywhere and they weren’t looking at Nixon for that. They were more interested in our ability to create product that would get people talking, and boy do those Star Wars fans like to talk so you better get it right or you’ll never hear the end of it.  Chad DiNenna, Co-Founder

How did the partnership come about? 

The partnership with Star Wars exceeded our expectations, they were great to work with and we all agreed to extend the relationship past the initial collection. – Chad DiNenna

How did you achieve so much more flexibility with product development than what we see with other SW licensees?

The Lucas Film creative team advocates pushing boundaries with ideation and design.  They wanted to work with us specifically for this reason…we drum to a similar beat in that regard.  When we started the project, we went deep.  Watching films over and over, hunting for key moments and character details that a true Star Wars fan would know and appreciate.  We looked at the landscape of licensed products and defined four quadrants where we could explore ideation.  We landed on the concept of “If You Know, You Know” vs. “Costume Wear”.  Our approach was to build the details of the film into the product experience so it’s a great product first…which happens to also be a Star Wars product. – Joe Babcock, Director of Product

It was initially released in Sept 2015. It’s now two years past that. Where (and why) does it end? 

That’s a good question.  The franchise has so much content and we barely scratched the surface on how deep we could go.  I think we will call it after the Han Solo film.  We need to keep it in check and not go too hard in the paint. – Joe Babcock, Director of Product

 Has the Star Wars collection become another vertical in the Nixon offering? 

Not at all.  We simply wanted to explore a collaboration with one of the most respected film franchises in pop culture history.  – Joe Babcock, Director of Product

How do you go about ensuring you have category exclusivity? 

In the early stages of the licensing agreement we requested total transparency to other watch brands participating in the project.  It was important we had the global exclusive and Lucas Film’s licensing team felt the same. It was a win, win for both parties. – Joe Babcock, Director of Product

How heavily does getting the inside scoop affect who to focus on, which sides are highlighted and which stories to tell when developing initial product?  

Great question.  I can’t share too much due to confidentiality agreements.  What I can say is the licensing team at Lucas does an amazing job providing insights into character and story development to help coach licensees on where to focus.  But, even they can’t predict the future for the film…for example, Kylo Ren’s light saber changed three times before the film was released.  For each film, we were invited to Lucas Films, sign a deep NDA and be escorted into a theater to see the reveal.  No phones, No cameras, No joke.  Our team absolutely loves Star Wars and the transformation from being groms waiting in line to see the films in the 80’s to now being “backstage” at the early reveal was a mind-blowing experience.  Joe Babcock, Director of Product

We consistently see the Sentry, the Unit, the 51-30 and the Time Teller pop up in each collection, what’s the working idea behind using these silo’s consistently? 

These are all top selling models and provide a great canvas to design and ideate.  Our thought was if Nixon fans are familiar with these models they’ll understand and appreciate the Star Wars details even more. –Joe Babcock, Director of Product

When developing product, are you allowed character exclusivity or partnerships?  

Nope.  All characters are open to all licensing partners. – Joe Babcock, Director of Product

Surely there’s a Crystal Foxes x Kensington watch in the pipeline Or a Porg’s backpack? 

Ha!  Good idea…We didn’t go there.  But, we did source the original Chewbacca fur and made a watch strap sample out of it …It looked funny in the design rendering but not so much on the wrist……It was horrible.  – Joe Babcock, Director of Product

How far does your product development agreement reach, are you allowed to do more than just bags and watches? 

Nixon is an accessory company so we focused on an agreement to highlight our watches, belts, wallets and backpacks.  These are the product categories we felt would execute the best from a design standpoint. – Joe Babcock, Director of Product

How many product pitches have you guys suggested that have been cancelled or just straight up copped a ‘no’ on? 

Oh man, I wish I kept a list.  For the most part, our designs weren’t edited or rejected from their creative department.  But, we definitely had some “Not Gonna Happen” moments.  It’s a partnership, we always tried to find moments to twist Star Wars x Nixon and pop culture up.  For example, we designed a Princess Leia watch with a case back drawing of Jabba The Hut with Leia on a choker chain.  The case back saying said “Off The Chain”. That was a quick “Not Gonna Happen”. Joe Babcock, Director of Product

Did you get to go to Skywalker Ranch? 

That would have been a Christmas miracle!!!  We never made it to Skywalker Ranch but we did ask and receive five guided tours of the Lucas Films offices.  Every trip up we’d bring someone new and they had to see it all.  There is so much to see in that place….it is rad.  The E.T. Kuwahara  (BMX) hanging from the ceiling was a highlight.  That, and watching Todd Richards mind get blown seeing all the archives.  Todd was a huge help throughout the process.  – Joe Babcock, Director of Product

What’s been the best thing about this partnership? 

This partnership has three big highlights;

  1. The licensing and creative management team at Lucas Films is awesome!!  Hands down some of the best people we have collaborated with…very inspiring and always pushed us to chase our best ideas.
  2. Being able to design / develop Star Wars products.  So many of us at Nixon are super nerd Star Wars fans and to be able to physically re-imagine the film on Nixon products was a game changer.
  3. Opening new doors for Nixon.  This project gave us an opportunity to engage with Star Wars fans around the world and they are so loyal to Star Wars.  Commicon is a highlight for us all to see the fans raising their wrists in support. Joe Babcock, Director of Product

And on the flip side of that question, what’s been the most challenging? 

We’re used to running things on Nixon’s schedule and when you bring in a big partner like Disney that dynamic changes quite a bit.  Learning the product approval and commercialization process was challenging.  But, after the first season we got into a rhythm which helped streamline the future season products.  Joe Babcock, Director of Product

In terms of highlights for Nixon, where does this sit and why?

I’d chalk this project up as a major highlight for the brand and the business.  This project challenged each and every department…product, marketing, sales, customer service, compliance, finance, quality, logistics, demand planning, etc.  It was amazing to see each and every person at Nixon step up to support the program and take it from good, too great…to insaneJoe Babcock, Director of Product

Thanks Chad, Thanks Joe.  Awesome.