Fashion trend seekers, when you think of Jean-Michel Basquait, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Bright colours, neo-expressionism? (look at me using big words), 1980s New York?.......how about phones cases?
Lets try a British fashion brand this time. What comes to mind when you think of Stone Island? Oasis? 1990s British football terraces? Brit pop subculture?…. How about running trainers?
Ok one more. A nice easy one.
What do you think of when you think of Italian fashion colossus Gucci? Italian glamour and sophistication? Luxury leatherware? Maybe even Lady Gaga (Sorry to the connoisseurs amongst you)?..........How about a games console case? Seriously…..
One of the biggest fashion trends for 2022 for fashion trend seekers, are fashion collaborations! As sure as the sun is to rise in the East and set in the West, each week we can expect fashionable designer x fashionable designer to drop on our IG feed right in between the influencers flogging protein powder and pictures of someone's night out. You can spend a whole day scrolling and you will be guaranteed to hit at least one fashion collaboration 2022, each one more obscure than the last.
Like a matrix formula designed by one of your finance team in excel, betting on what collaboration will drop can be a cottage industry in itself.
Which begs the question:
What are fashion collaborations?
Why are there so many collaborations in fashion?
Does this fashion trend of endless partnerships actually increase the value or either brand?
Is the endless recycling, combining and mashing up of sometimes conflicting brand DNAs and customer personas really having a positive impact on either participant?
Like a chemist in a movie mixing various potions, which always result in an exploding beaker, I fear fashion collaborations are heading down the same path.
Does Jean- Michel Basquiat work really belong on a $60 iPhone case (thanks YSL)? Does the YSL brand really grow its audience by putting Basquiat work on a phone case? How about Keith Haring and Uniqlo? Off-White and Ikea or Supreme and a brick.......🛹
In my humble opinion, the trend of fashion collaborations we are seeing in 2022 kind of misses the point. Rather than increasing the prospective consumers and target market for fashion trend seekers of either brand, the confused nature of many recent fashion collaborations in 2022 not only potentially devalues the brand, but gives consumers death by endless choices. This thereby overrides the very exclusivity the fashion collaboration was meant to represent in the first place. Seriously though, Gucci x Xbox. We’re definitely being trolled here. I mean an Xbox isn't even meant to be carried and moved for a start, let alone the confusing nature of combining each customer base…..(sigh)
This month alone (Jan22) we've had Off-white x Nike, Supreme x Tiffany's, Salehe Bembury x Crox, Jordan x Clot, Hoka x Moncler, Rick Owens x Converse, Jil Sander x Arc'Tery, Nike x Comme des Garcons.... You get the idea. Ps. I wrote this article a month before publication and since then there’s been 20 odd or more to drop. Skittles x Supreme…. what?!
As a fashion trend seeker myself, the original Off-White x Nike collaboration was groundbreaking, experimental and set the stage for the migration of street wear into the mainstream. I could never imagine I'd get a pair of those exclusive sneakers, which made them all the more valuable, drove up demand and enhanced both brands' value (RIP great man. Your legacy will forever live on).
That and other fashion collaborations of past and sometimes present make sense, and allow a brand to tap into new markets or alter its brand DNA to move with the times. Vigil’s work at Louis Vuitton is certainly a reflection of the move into the mainstream of streetwear and the effect it had on brands at each end of the spectrum.
Louis Vuitton has always been ground breaking, and this embrace is just another example of that.
Today, however, I know that if I miss out on the latest Off-White x Jordan collaboration (fingers crossed please folks), there's always Supreme x Nike around the corner, or Reebok x Keith Haring for Reebok x Jurassic Park, if I fancy a bit of childhood nostalgia 🦖
And what does it say about the artist whose work sits on these items? Why pay thousands of dollars for a Keith Haring painting when you can simply get it for $20 on a Uniqlo tee-shirt? Likewise with Jean-Michel Basquaits and a ‘’collection’’ of cases made for Casetify. Is this a homage to their greatness or does it cheapen these legends' work? So they become nothing more than an instantly recognisable part of society. No more than Ronald McDonald or Colonel Sanders.
So, let's keep doing fashion collaborations in 2022, but let's keep them limited, keep the demand high and keep using brands that are natural partners and make sense. The core component of a collaboration should always be to increase brand value and drive innovation, by combining elements of both that push the needle forward.
Oh, and tell Supreme to never try and sell us a brick again 🧱
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