Madewell Teams Up With Backdrop for ‘Studio Hours’ Collaboration

As many people’s homes continue to be their base camps, Madewell and the online paint company Backdrop have teamed up for a collaboration geared for artistic homebodies.

As the name suggests, the just-released “Studio Hours” collection is inspired by the countless hours artists and other creatives spend toiling away in studios. Inspired by workwear like overalls, chore coats and other staples, the 11-piece line also features Backdrop’s new warm taupe paint color that is being offered in a standard, semi-gloss and cabinet and door paint.

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Started three years ago by the husband and wife team Caleb and Natalie Ebel, Backdrop’s mission is that paint should be a design purchase. The pair redesigned paint cans, reconsidering the sampling process and editing the color palette with the emphasis on the digital customer, which traditionally has not been the norm. Inspired by beauty’s foray into e-commerce, Ebel said she believed that if people felt comfortable buying foundation and other makeup online, why not paint, too? F. Schumacher & Co., the parent company of the prized fabric by the same name, acquired Backdrop last year for an undisclosed sum.

The brand’s user-generated content highlights real spaces, as opposed to renderings of rooms. Fifty percent of Backdrop customers buy paint without sampling it, Natalie Ebel said.

Backdrop approaches paint with a design ethos. - Credit: Courtesy
Backdrop approaches paint with a design ethos. - Credit: Courtesy


Backdrop has dabbled in clothing since 2018, when it made a painter’s shirt imprinted with “Wet Paint” and its name. “A ton of people” inquired about buying them and requested painting clothes, too, she said. The company obliged with such items as all-white overalls. So the Madewell deal was an easy decision, she said.

Having painted her childhood bedroom eight times before she turned 16, she said she understood early on the transformational effect that color can have on changing a space and how it is the easiest way to redesign. Her father Ken Alexander’s preferred all-white outfits for house painting was another source of inspiration.

The tie-up is in line with Madewell’s interest in teaming up with brands that share a similar ethos, creating products that inspire self-expression and celebrating what makes people unique, Madewell’s senior vice president of design Joyce Lee said. Backdrop’s fresh approach to home decor and to transforming spaces were other selling points, as well as the chance to offer products outside of Madewell’s core base. With Backdrop, the retailer is amplifying its appreciation for home decor and color with a new product offering, she said.

The fact that millions are still spending a good deal of time in their homes due to the pandemic was another factor. Many are looking to freshen up where they are spending all of their time with a fresh coat of paint, she said.

Aligning with Backdrop, a digital-first brand, was another draw, as Madewell — like so many other brands — is targeting new audiences and trying to reach more online-inclined shoppers, Lee said. Backdrop’s emotion-driven marketing, which includes names for paints like “36 Hours in Marrakech,” “Surf Camp,” “Disco Nap” and “Silver Lake Dad,” made it a good fit for Madewell.

As for whether the retailer is exploring taking a more serious stance in the home decor sector as other major chains, she said, “It’s always something in the back of our minds as how we can grow organically and expand our footprint,” adding that any extensions happen naturally.

While a lot of Madewell customers have been excited about home and curious to see what its point of view would be, “this is an easy way for us to test the waters and see how our customers respond to it.” Lee said, noting that paint doesn’t require the storage space needed for larger home decor pieces.

The company recently launched its “Make Weekends Longer,” (MWL) athleisure label and rolled out “clean out kits” to help shoppers recycle garments. The latter is part of the resale program Madewell Forever with ThredUp. Other areas of interest are supporting the circular economy, resale and encouraging sustainability among customers, Lee said.

Backdrop aims to collaborate with other apparel brands and other companies. Its portfolio includes collabs with the New York brand Coming Soon and Dunkin’. Ebel added that Backdrop will announce a fashion, art and design collaboration this fall.

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