Collaboration is a way of life. Since the opening of Dover Street Market in 2004, they have become an essential practice for brands. Rei Kawakubo described it as “sharing a space, but no one is losing their identity. If anything, what each of us does is somehow accentuated. The results can only be positive”. Essentially, it’s a way for designers to become more relatable, accessible, socially savvy. It’s also an opportunity for them to surround themselves with emerging creatives, artists and muses.
From a business perspective, it’s a well-known tactic to generate hype, increase brand exposure and tap into a new pool of customers. But outside of the corporate world, collaboration is also an age-old practice that’s closely linked with creativity. The design process in itself draws on inspiration in various forms, from literature and art history to film and dance. It’s a chance to discover old traditions and new ways of working, taking the best threads from different worlds to create something extraordinary.
To encourage us all to join forces and spark our creativity, we’ve rounded up 5 of the most inspiring brand collaborations from the past year.
Artistic director Kim Jones originally met Boafo in Miami back in 2019. Dior described it as “artistic love at first sight” as the two artists had a mutual admiration for each other’s work. From here, the collection was born out of a natural dialogue – think graphic patterns, paintbrush strokes and rich textures. Silhouettes take on a streamlined, sports-luxe theme, celebrating the idea that art has the power to transport us to somewhere new.
Taking inspiration from 70s style, this unlikely collection is packed with colour and pattern, with planet-conscious undertones. Alessandro Michele bought his playful, eclectic vision to The North Face’s signature styles, across hiking boots and puffer jackets to rucksacks and sleeping bags. It’s a collection based on the common values between the two brands: appreciating a renewed love of nature while seeking to break down boundaries in the fashion world.
Sustainability has long been one of the founding principles at Stella McCartney, thanks to her passion for environmentalism. 2020 was the year she launched an alphabetised manifesto as a roadmap for the fashion house’s future – think A is for Accountability and Z is for Zero Waste. McCartnery commissioned 26 international artists to produce bespoke artwork to represent each letter, as a reminder that creativity prevails, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves living in.
Instead of holding a traditional fashion show in lockdown, avid ceramics collector Tory Burch chose to celebrate her love of diMattio’s work instead. The artist creates sculptures that confront the idea of femininity and what it means to be feminine: the same underlying value of female empowerment that lies behind Burch’s brand. The result? Joyful, optimistic and fluid floral prints that celebrate the beauty of the everyday
Jean Michel Basquiat was a visionary artist that was pivotal in the 1980s downtown New scene, and was also one of the Coach family’s personal favourites. His work was rich with references to African art and American pop culture, often acting as “a springboard for people to open up conversations that people weren’t having as often”. Coach celebrated this creative spirit in their AW20 collection across leather crossbody bags, varsity jackets and illustrated scarves, designed to empower a new generation of revolutionaries.
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