Collaboration Nation

Louis Vuitton x Stephen Sprouse Speedy Limited Edition bag

I remember my first time like it was yesterday. No, not that first time – I’m talking about my initial experience with designer fashion collaborations. It was actually a year before H&M’s first collaboration when the Louis Vuitton x Stephen Sprouse Graffiti collection dropped in the Spring of 2001. I can’t forget my clueless reaction to the Speedy Limited Edition 30 (the one with the faint khaki green-ish graffiti) at afternoon pickup on the arm of THE most designer-conscious mother. (I was the second most fashionable mum; she ran rings around me in the high-end goods department).

Stephen Sprouse backstage with Marc Jacobs at Spring 2001 show in Paris whre they first debuted their collaboration

A little background: as a single woman, back in the mid ‘80s I had been a huge fan and collector of anything Sprouse, yet I was completely unprepared for whatever this was. In fact I visibly recoiled – how could someone deface a perfectly good Vuitton like that? When I learned that this was not an abomination but an actual THING sanctioned by Marc Jacobs (then design director at LV) whose Marc by Marc line I also collected, it was more than a discovery. It was a wake-up call — a sign that I was way too immersed in, (the horror of it all), setting up play dates and helping with homework. Once I came to, I hied off to Bloomingdale’s, securing a (orange-lettered graffiti) bag of my own. Self forgiveness was slower in coming – truth be told I still wake up on occasion with PTSD. I had come this close to losing sight of what was to become the “It” bag of the century — what did this say about me as a fashion devotee?

Stella McCartney & Canon

Since then I’ve learned that good design is often the result of putting heads together. Collaborating between brands has become an integral part of the fashion industry. X now marks the intersection or sweet spot between what one designer/celebrity/artist/mass retail chain is doing with that of another. Oftentimes it’s a beautiful thing, bringing out the best in both brands. Occasionally the connection is a loose one or perhaps antithetical to what you would expect. Herewith are some of my “fever dream” cross promotional ideas along with the titles I’ve created for them.

Mary Katrantzou

“Mary Hartmann, Mary Hartmann” is a collab between iconic designer/fashion archeologist Mary McFadden, Queen of Prints Mary Katrantzou, and Hartmann Luggage. Besides being a short-lived TV show of the mid-seventies (1976-1977) the fictional Fernwood, Ohio titular character (with only one “N” to her last name), played by Louise Lasser and her braids, continue to live on in the public zeitgeist, at least for those of a certain age.

Mary McFadden

Octogenarian designer Mary McFadden (also known for her braids) and tricenarian designer Mary Katrantzou (now being celebrated for her 10-year anniversary at SCAD Atlanta) are a perfect fit for Hartmann luggage. For one thing, you would never have to search for your bag on an airport carousel again. Suitcases would feature an interior of McFadden’s famous Fortuny pleating or her Egyptian-inspired graphics while Katrantzou’s eye-catching, colorful, unique digital printed exterior would coax a smile from even the most hardened, I-eat-nails-for-breakfast TSA agent.

Chrisopher Kane F/W 2019

“Citizen Kane” is none other than Christopher Kane x Citizen Watches. The choice of Kane, the Scottish designer who recently sent models down the runway in designs meant, according to WWD to “explore obscure fetishes,” would seem to be going against type designing a provocative timepiece for a staid brand. From dress-like t-shirts featuring long glove graphics and the word “Rubberist,” to knits with bright balloons and the word “Looner” Kane could take his “kinky winks” into the realm of the conservative watch brand giving it an update for the weird times we live in. Maybe he could manage a “Rosebud” edition?

“Don’t Have a Cow, Man,” – a Bart Simpson-inspired Stella McCartney x McDonald’s promotion featuring a meat alternative veggie burger wrapped in an eco friendly star-motif designer container which doubles as a collectible change purse. It’s not as unlikely a partnership as you may think – McDonald’s is known for their recycling even if it’s just the reuse of their oil for the fries (that’s what makes them taste so darn good). This could be step one as the Golden Arches ease their way towards compliance with proponents of the Green New Deal. Cue Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez taking a “star” turn in TV spots urging us to save our planet by giving up “flatulent bovine” burgers.

Aurora James of Brother Vellies

“Brothers from Another Mother” – Brother Vellies x Brooks Brothers would feature a “sheepish” collaboration of sorts. The preppy outfitter is known for its Golden Fleece sheep motif while the sustainable African shoe company is known for supporting their local economy with fur directly from the source. Maybe a line of ethically produced shearling ties are in the offing?

Krewe Eyewear

“Crewe Man Group” is a partnership between J. Crew x Krewe Eyewear. J. Crew is no newbie to partnerships – in fact they’re practically “collab-ritutes.” They’ve signed on with everyone from Goldsign jeans to Lulu Frost jewelry; from Alden men’s shoes to The Laundress high-end fabric detergent; from Timex to New Balance so they know the drill. As a newer brand, Krewe, the New Orleans based eyewear company is practically a collab virgin (they were involved with equally hot, model-friendly brand Reformation). Thanks to an expansion plan and a SoHo store, Krewe is in with millennials – just what J.Crew needs to row itself back to relevancy with youth culture. I can’t “foresee” what their collaboration would look like but it would definitely be “visionary.” With a future that bright, you gotta wear shades.

Pucci Rainwear

“Pucci x Poochie” teams up Petco and Pucci to give your dog some dazzle. Walking Phydeaux (sic) late at night? Never fear – with Pucci x Poochie your dog can be seen for miles. A line of psychedelic raincoats and cute little matching booties would make any canine the talk (bark?) of the dog park. “Bone”-us round – they’ll even sell matching capes for two-legged bitches enabling you and your handsome hound to simultaneously “put on the dog.”

Elton John

Is there anything else in the pipeline? If you’re searching for a trendy tween collection with a West Coast vibe by a haute designer, check out Giambattista Valli x Hollister’s “Valli Girl.” For the home of those who “remember when rock was young,” Sir Elton teams up with Kohler for a bedazzled toilet — “The Elton John.” Want an accompanying bathroom fixture? Get a “Bennie and the Jets” hot tub. I’m positively flush with ideas…

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Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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