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Taco Bell, Forever 21 Launch Joint Fashion Line

Promotional clothing lines are a serious marketing opportunity for brands. Need proof? Consider the latest iteration that was unveiled this week in California.

Fast fashion retail chain Forever 21 and fast food chain Taco Bell have teamed up to launch the limited-edition Forever 21 x Taco Bell Collection, which officially hit the apparel retailer’s website and select brick-and-mortar stores this week. It debuted at a fashion show in Los Angeles on Tuesday and was announced on Taco Bell’s Instagram with the hashtag #F21xTacoBell.

Among the apparel pickings are cropped hoodies with the food chain’s iconic bell logo, graphic T-shirts, shiny metallic anorak jackets, and even colorful bodysuits that mimic Taco Bell’s hot sauce packets, featuring slogans like “Fire! Don’t Wait Up.” There are also youth T-shirt, hoodie and jacket options, along with iPhone cases. The men’s styles (including an anorak jacket with major color-blocking) are already sold out.

Taco Bell says the unconventional offerings are a serious part of its marketing strategy, which has focused on social media and millennial-centric branding in recent years.

“We really took pains to make this a legitimate collection that is relevant and fun and modern,” Marisa Thalberg, Taco Bell’s CMO, said in a statement. “We’ve seen our fans get individually creative in expressing their love for Taco Bell through fashion, and we believe this collection with Forever 21 is going to be everything they would expect from us in extending the Taco Bell lifestyle to fashion: original, affordable, creative, a little quirky and definitely fun.”

Taco Bell, which operates 7,000 locations across the U.S., is no stranger to branded merch. At the food chain’s online Taco Shop, fans can shop graphic T-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, notebooks, pencils and phone cases. One of its first forays into the fashion world was in 2014, through a partnership with Los Angeles-based streetwear brand The Hundreds to offer custom socks. And in 2016, Taco Bell opened a brick-and-mortar Taco Shop in Las Vegas, which sells apparel, towels, bikinis and swim trunks, caps, tie-dyed T-shirts, taco-shaped pillows and more.

In general, fast food fashion and branded merchandise are having a moment. Pizza Hut, owned by Taco Bell parent company Yum Brands, released a Hut Swag line in 2016, featuring items like snapback caps and T-shirts with slogans, such as “My Pizza My Life.” Another Yum brand, KFC opened the KFC Ltd. ecommerce store earlier this year, offering sweatshirts, T-shirts, socks, jewelry, scarves, lapel pins and pillowcases. And this summer, McDonald’s unveiled a playful Big Mac collection featuring pajamas and pillows, among other items.

Additionally, it seems tacos in particular have major branding power. The Fresno Grizzlies, a minor league baseball team, rechristen the team as the Tacos once a week during the season, with special Taco-emblazoned jerseys and caps. The name originated from Californians’ long-time affinity for taco trucks. “It definitely targets a younger crowd,” Sam Hansen, director of marketing for the Fresno Grizzlies, told Advantages magazine earlier this year. “Or at least that was the intention – I’ve noticed a lot of older people starting to wear Tacos jerseys and hats.” 

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