THE ART OF COL­LAB­O­RA­TION

As col­lab­o­ra­tions be­come the heart of fash­ion’s ex­is­tence to­day, how do we keep the in­dus­try fresh and im­pact­ful while mov­ing for­ward? By Allysha Nila

Harper's Bazaar (Singapore) - - NEWS -

De­sign­ers, artists and cre­atives who demon­strate the beauty of part­ner­ships

TWO MINDS ARE BET­TER THAN ONE, THEY SAY.

And it cer­tainly seems like it.The mega ret­ro­spec­tive ,“Margie la: The Her­mèsYears”, orig­i­nally shown last year at MoMu, An­twerp, has been brought to a larger stage this year at the Musée des Arts Dé­co­rat­ifs, Paris. It sig­nals a ma­jor in­ter­est in what was once con­sid­ered an un­likely al­liance: Martin Margiela, whose de­con­structed aes­thetic was deemed to be at odds with that of the no­ble French lux­ury pow­er­house, was handed the man­tle by Jean-Louis Du­mas, then Cre­ative Di­rec­tor of Her­mès.The for­mer even­tu­ally went on to es­tab­lish a code of time­less­ness at Her­mès that con­tin­ues to re­ver­ber­ate through­out fash­ion to­day.

And then there’s also the part­ner­ship be­tween Yves Saint Lau­rent and Pierre Bergé, fash­ion’s most inim­itable and enig­matic union.With 2018 mark­ing the 10th an­niver­sary of Saint Lau­rent’s death and the one-year mark of Bergé’s pass­ing, we are re­minded that the fruit of their labour not only in­cluded the birth of Saint Lau­rent Rive Gauche in 1966, it also marked the mo­men­tous shift when fash­ion be­came the do­main of the greater pub­lic when the late de­signer be­came the first cou­turier to open a ready-towear bou­tique so that he could dress ev­ery­one.“I had had enough of mak­ing dresses for jaded bil­lion­aires,” he fa­mously said.Those words pro­vided an inkling of how part­ner­ships and col­lab­o­ra­tions are vi­tal in shap­ing fash­ion, whether in the past, present or fu­ture.

But how ex­actly? The past was very dif­fer­ent be­cause there were far fewer key play­ers—be it de­sign­ers, pub­li­ca­tions, or chan­nels of dis­tri­bu­tion. Mag­a­zines were still one of the few, if not only, gate­keep­ers of fash­ion. Ev­ery­thing had a higher nov­elty value and it was eas­ier for de­sign­ers to dis­rupt and es­tab­lish the sta­tus quo, not dis­count­ing the un­lim­ited chal­lenges they had to face to pave the way for this gen­er­a­tion.

Fast for­ward to the new mil­len­nium, and we now live in an age where hype is ev­ery­thing. It is also an era of col­lab­o­ra­tions. And there are count­less of them: Un­der­cover’s Jun Taka­hashi con­tin­ues to do Nike col­lec­tions un­der Gyaku­sou;Alife, Ba­len­ci­aga and Christo­pher Kane have all cre­ated ren­di­tions of Crocs (all ugly and there­fore, chic); and of course,Vir­gil Abloh un­der Off-White has de­signed clear Ri­mowa lug­gage, Mon­cler out­er­wear and a fur­ni­ture col­lec­tion for IKEA tar­geted at mil­len­ni­als. While col­labs are sup­posed to keep fash­ion fresh, the sheer num­ber of brand mash-ups vy­ing for the con­sumer’s at­ten­tion and wal­let have made such re­leases ubiq­ui­tous.

Brands with strong au­di­ences may tap the ex­per­tise of oth­ers in or­der to achieve so­phis­ti­cated con­struc­tion or over­come var­i­ous tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties of gar­ment-mak­ing.

TA L K OF THE TOWN

Why do brands do it? Be­sides tap­ping into au­di­ences that brands pre­vi­ously have no di­rect con­nec­tion with, there are mone­tary ben­e­fits to be reaped, of course. In a news re­port by the Fi­nan­cial Times, LVMH at­trib­uted its 23 per­cent profit in­crease boost to LouisVuit­ton’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Jeff Koons and the wildly suc­cess­ful Supreme line in 2017. Be­sides boast­ing im­pres­sive sales fig­ures, these col­lab­o­ra­tions alone have re­de­fined what lux­ury is, blur­ring the lines be­tween tra­di­tional con­cepts of high fash­ion and streetwear. In Louis Vuit­ton’s case es­pe­cially, the ap­point­ment of Abloh (the 38-year-old Amer­i­can de­signer who cur­rently en­joys clout un­like any other, and con­sid­ers Kanye West his men­tor) as the Cre­ative Di­rec­tor of its menswear uni­verse seemed to sig­nal its ac­knowl­edge­ment of streetwear’s in­flu­ence; and the pur­chas­ing power of a younger, more dig­i­tally- savvy cus­tomer base who have no qualms show­ing off their lat­est pur­chase on In­sta­gram. Abloh’s pre­de­ces­sor, Kim Jones, who now heads Dior Homme, has con­tin­ued his riff on streetwear by hir­ing Am­bush’s Yoon Ahn as the brand’s jew­ellery de­signer. Jones also worked with artist KAWS and 1017 ALYX 9SM’s Matthew Wil­liams to cre­ate ac­ces­sories for his de­but col­lec­tion for the House.

Thank­fully, money and fit­ting-in aren’t the only rea­sons for seem­ingly sep­a­rate fash­ion en­ti­ties to join forces. For those of us look­ing for mean­ing be­yond fi­nances, there’s hope. Col­lab­o­ra­tions are of­ten still about clothes—or the prod­uct—rather than sim­ply means to cash in on hype. But what is the fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence be­tween those who cre­ate alone from those who cre­ate to­gether? Past de­signer duos such as Pier­paolo Pic­ci­oli and Maria Grazia Chi­uri made women dream with their fan­tas­ti­cal vi­sions of fem­i­nin­ity when both were at the helm atValentino. Os­car de la Renta’s Fer­nando Gar­cia and Laura Kim are not only shak­ing up NewYork’s fash­ion scene as new guards of the House, but are also bring­ing their fresh eye to red-car­pet style.

Be­yond con­tribut­ing to the dis­course or in­sert­ing an in­ter­est­ing point-of-view to the fash­ion con­ver­sa­tion (Margiela’s ten­ure at Her­mès, for ex­am­ple, has taught us that when minds con­nect, the col­li­sion gives birth to some­thing mag­i­cal), such projects can hap­pen for a more prac­ti­cal rea­son. Brands with strong au­di­ences may tap the ex­per­tise of oth­ers in or­der to achieve so­phis­ti­cated

Col­lab­o­ra­tions are of­ten still about clothes—or the prod­uct—rather than sim­ply means to cash in on hype.

con­struc­tion or over­come var­i­ous tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties of gar­ment-mak­ing. For its spring/sum­mer 2017 col­lec­tion, the Demna Gvasalia-led Vete­ments, for ex­am­ple, pur­sued 18 rep­utable la­bels (such as Canada Goose, Carhartt, Hanes, Juicy Cou­ture and Levi’s) for its joint men’s and women’s col­lec­tion, shown dur­ing Paris cou­ture week. Speak­ing to me­dia af­ter the pre­sen­ta­tion, Gvasalia ex­plained that these al­lowed them to tap on the pro­duc­tion base of the more es­tab­lished brands to fur­ther its own nar­ra­tive.

VIL­LAGE PEO­PLE

At the top of the game is de­signer Raf Si­mons, who’s fre­quently worked with Peter Sav­ille, the graphic de­signer re­spon­si­ble for the iconic cover art­work for Joy Di­vi­sion’s Un­known Plea­sures al­bum, the sound­track of ev­ery angsty teenager. Si­mons has also worked closely with artist Ster­ling Ruby and the Andy Warhol Foun­da­tion for the Visual Arts for both Dior and Calvin Klein, pro­duc­ing more af­ford­able goods dur­ing his cur­rent ten­ure at the lat­ter. Mean­while, his col­lab­o­ra­tors, pho­tog­ra­pher Willy Van­der­perre and stylist Olivier Rizzo, have been work­ing with him since the found­ing of his la­bel in 1995.

This alone is a re­minder of the im­por­tance of hav­ing a strong team to grow with—fash­ion takes an en­tire vil­lage.There’s also the phe­nom­e­non of su­per-stylists who have in­creas­ing im­por­tance in a brand’s vi­sion and strat­egy. Me­lanie Ward’s work with pho­tog­ra­pher Corinne Day gave birth to grunge and she for­ti­fied Hel­mut Lang’s fash­ion di­rec­tion; Carine Roit­feld and Tom Ford’s provoca­tive, sexed up im­ages when he was at Gucci elec­tri­fied the ’90s; Lot­taVolkova and her clos­est col­lab­o­ra­tor, Demna Gvasalia, have set the tone of what we see to­day with their sub­ver­sive eyes and fash­ions.

Of course, it’s su­per hard for good ideas to come by and for peo­ple to no­tice. Not only is mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion more gru­elling than ever due to the sheer vol­ume of brands avail­able in the mar­ket, brands also have to con­tend with the in­fi­nite vast­ness of the In­ter­net and how to lever­age on noise gen­er­ated by so­cial me­dia. They sim­ply must fight to stand out by cre­at­ing truly in­no­va­tive or even out­landish ideas.

There are two ways to do this: Ei­ther by beat­ing tech­nol­ogy at its own game, or work­ing hand-in-hand with it to tackle im­por­tant is­sues. A cou­ple of years back, J.W. An­der­son hooked up with Grindr, the gay dat­ing app, to ex­clu­sively live stream its fall/win­ter 2016 menswear col­lec­tion. With one mil­lion users, J.W. An­der­son got vis­i­bil­ity from those out­side the usual fash­ion cir­cle.The Adi­das x Par­ley for the Oceans part­ner­ship, on the other hand, ad­dresses fash­ion’s ma­jor sus­tain­abil­ity is­sues and its en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact. By cre­at­ing shoes made from plas­tics that are pol­lut­ing the oceans, the prod­uct serves as a small-scale so­lu­tion that si­mul­ta­ne­ously ed­u­cates its con­sumers to de­mand busi­nesses to change their na­ture of pro­duc­tion. These two cross-in­dus­try cases also show us the im­por­tance of think­ing out­side the boxes of fash­ion.

THE WAY FOR­WARD

The rise of so­cial me­dia has re­sulted in plat­forms such as In­sta­gram be­com­ing a plat­form where tal­ent is sourced and pro­moted.

Harper’s BAZAAR cover stars Lucky Blue and Pyper Amer­ica Smith are amongst a siz­able league of savvy mil­len­ni­als who are par­lay­ing their In­sta­gram fame into ca­reers across the realms of fash­ion, film and mu­sic. In­creas­ingly, art and fash­ion col­lab­o­ra­tions have oc­curred on­line, too. Prada’s De­sign Di­rec­tor, Fabio Zam­bernardi, for ex­am­ple, tapped the self-taught artist Christophe Chemin through his In­sta­gram ac­count. His paint­ings wound up as prints on the highly cov­etable fall/win­ter 2016 col­lec­tion through this col­lab­o­ra­tive process. Un­der the charge of Luke and Lu­cie Meier, Jil San­der also tapped In­sta­gram pho­tog­ra­phers and sis­ters Tanya and Zhenya Poster­nak for one of its on­line cam­paigns; Gucci in­vited en­to­mol­o­gist Adrian Koza­kiewicz for one of its ac­ces­sories projects… The list goes on.The so­cial me­dia plat­form has also cre­ated fash­ion’s guard dog duo, Diet Prada, who not only call out copy­cats, but have opened the con­ver­sa­tion about what con­sti­tutes orig­i­nal­ity.

The bot­tom line is: Fash­ion’s part­ner­ships aren’t just about keep­ing things fresh. They are nec­es­sary to bring change for the bet­ter.To cre­ate a bet­ter fash­ion ecosys­tem, the in­dus­try must aim to be even more in­clu­sive, in­no­va­tive and crit­i­cal. And col­lab­o­ra­tions are vi­tal to that. ■

From top left: Her­mès un­der Martin Margiela was all about prac­ti­cal­ity. Vir­gil Abloh and Kanye West share a col­lab­o­ra­tor-men­tor re­la­tion­ship. Adrian Koza­kiewicz’s ob­ses­sion with bugs re­sulted in their ap­pear­ance on Gucci’s bags. Ba­len­ci­aga’s Crocs broke the In­ter­net. Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Lau­rent at an af­ter-party. Fer­nando Gar­cia and Laura Kim’s re­make of Os­car de la Renta is one to look out for

From left: Art and fash­ion col­lide at Prada fall/win­ter 2016. Tom Ford and Carine Roit­feld. Graphic de­tails at Valentino fall/ win­ter 2016. Pier­paolo Pic­ci­oli and Maria Grazia Chi­uri OP­PO­SITE (clock­wise from left): Andy Warhol’s prints on-set at Calvin Klein 205W39NYC. Jeff Koons turned Louis Vuit­ton bags into works of art. Matthew Wil­liams’ util­ity buckle on a Dior Homme cap. Kim Jones and Yoon Ahn take their lap of hon­our. A gi­ant KAWS statue at Dior Homme

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