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How Claire’s Left the ’90s to Reach a New Generation



For women who grew up in the 1990s or 2000s, retailer Claire’s may trigger a wave of nostalgia. Once a fixture of suburban shopping malls, the store was a mecca for tween girls: the place for first ear piercings and a treasure trove of glittery scrunchies, butterfly clips and berry-flavored lip gloss. 

As those girls have entered new phases, so too has the brand. After a rocky period in which it filed for bankruptcy in 2018, Claire’s has reinvented itself, branching out from the mall to Parisian boulevards, Walmart and the metaverse.

Its latest campaign, “The Collab,” is a year-long effort to cement that transformation and connect with the next generation of youth. 

The Collab celebrates “Generation Zalpha,” the term referring to a combination of Gen Z and Gen Alpha. These young people are Claire’s primary audience, so it has put them front and center in the campaign–not only as stars but also as co-creators of the content.

The inaugural “Collab” cast range in age from seven to early 20s, with occupations spanning fashion designer, surfer, drummer, singer, skateboarder, filmmaker and TikTok-famous chef. They model Claire’s spring collection in the ads, but also collaborated on the social content and videos. For example, the dress worn by 15-year-old fashion designer Ashlyn So is her own design, while documentary producer Maggie Sophie Brown captured behind-the-scenes photography and films. 

“This is the first time we let kids behind the camera from a creative perspective,” Kristin Patrick, executive vice-president and chief marketing officer of Claire’s, told ADWEEK. 

Claire’s will add new faces and collaborators to The Collab’s cast over the coming year. Patrick said it was important to include not only influencers but also “regular kids” representing diverse voices and talents, to create a “showcase for the generation.” 

“This is a special generation and you have to listen to them,” she said. 

Revamping the brand

Founded in 1961, Claire’s has long been synonymous with a certain facet of youth culture. But back in 2018, as overall foot traffic at malls declined, Claire’s suffered falling sales, shut down dozens of stores and filed for bankruptcy in the U.S.

In 2021, Patrick joined Claire’s as CMO after previously serving as global CMO of PepsiCo. Her mission was to upgrade Claire’s image from a dusty mall store to a global fashion brand. 

Claire's store
Claire’s was a fixture of shopping malls but has since partnered with other retailers.Claire’s

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