The Age of the Luxury Collab
As the Christmas period beckons, a myriad of luxury collaborations are set to hit the shelves. We interview fashion polymath Vincenzo Borrelli to unpack why we are seeing such an influx of collaborations between established fashion houses and streetwear brands.
Like it or not fashion in an expensive game. Though many of us would love to keep up to date with the latest trends, only a select few of us have deep enough pockets to revamp our wardrobes with our favourite designers season to season. Enter the collab. For years now luxury houses have joined forces with more affordable brands to bring consumers a taste of high fashion at a fraction of the price. Collaborations such as Comme Des Garçons for H&M and J.W. Anderson for Uniqlo have allowed those of us with more limited budgets to make our foray in to the world of designer. Whilst at the same time diversifying prospective customer bases and showing added design versatility to make high fashion palatable to less experimental dressers.
There is another sort of collaboration seems to be thriving now more than ever. The mixing of streetwear and luxury. Unlike the mixing of luxury and high street, the streetwear luxury collab has nothing to do with affordability. As evidenced by the Raf Simons for Adidas Stan Smith. Where a normal Stan Smith will set you back about £65 thanks to this collaboration you can enjoy the pleasure of having exactly the same trainer with the letter R on the side for a bargain £228. The recent pictures from the imminent Prada for Adidas collaboration follows in the same vein. As well as Dior's upcoming Air Force 1 iteration, rumoured to retail at a cool $2000. Balmain have also dropped a collaboration capsule with Puma. Whatever your thoughts about paying £2595 for a crop top, at least no one can deny that this particular collaboration clearly shows Balmain's putting their stylistically imprint on to Puma's sportswear. Rather than the random logo placing which is arguably true of certain recent collabs. To try and make sense of this phenomena and unpack what makes a brand collaboration work, we sat down and spoke to our fashion expert friend (and recent YouTuber) Vincenzo Borrelli.
Why do you think we're seeing such an influx of luxury collaborations?
I think there’s 2 reasons there’s such an influx at the moment, the first is it’s good business; huge trend to mix and match work, street and luxury at the same time so why not do a collaboration with both of them to kill birds with one stone and attract as many of the biggest and the most popular markets right now (the youth).
I think the second reason is that there has been really successful art, clothing and product in the past 5 years when 2 great houses and/or brands come together. Unfortunately, I think this is now the rarer part of it. I think when collaborations are purposefully juxtaposed or mesh so well it’s just seamless integration of 2 designers that makes something new and natural - this makes for the best possible outcome. But to be honest I’d say as it’s become more of a trend as opposed to putting the art first and doing it because it makes sense. 80-90% of collaborations these days fall into the middle ground trap that just don’t work or are completely lack of intent or direction.
Do you feel the amount of luxury collaborations are a positive or negative thing for the fashion industry as a whole?
In line with my ethos in the first question, I think you have to take it case by case and sit down and really scrutinise the collaboration, luxury or streetwear. For example, although sometimes mildly cool, I think the Asian streetwear collaboration boom could be negative and for me is becoming really tedious; getting excited about what two random brands next are going to put both their logos on a plain tee isn’t interesting to me and it takes away from solo brands not focused on this making amazing art and innovating. However, although I don’t want to admit it, it can work positively and the execution and just gravity of the difference of the Louis Vuitton X Supreme collaboration was so great that I think it was really successful, although obviously a huge marketing ploy that just happened to work in my opinion. If it works, it works though.
What are the keys to a collaboration garnering respectability from genuine fashion enthusiasts?
I think there’s many different nuances in why different collections and garments ‘just work’ and therefore gain genuine respect and it’s the same for collaborations too. I think in all collaborations the product/art needs to come first still as opposed to flashing the fact that two people have come together and not really putting too much into the product. I think, as I said before, the extremes seem to work very well so huge juxtaposition or hyper symmetry where the product of a collaboration could quite easily be a solo product of either design entity. Finally, there needs to be genuine respect between and for each other behind the scenes of whichever 2 collaborators are collaborating, it starts with them so I think if the relationship begins with genuine appreciation and not just a blood lust for making a cute mash up of each other’s logos on photoshop (although it can work but rarely).
What are some collaborations on the past decade that you feel have actually worked well?
Past ones I’d say things like Louis Vuitton x Supreme, Prada x Various Architects and Kiko Kostadinov x Asics. Some of the most recent ones I like are Berluti x Pierre Jennaret (furniture) and Nike x Sacai.
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