In this industry we’re never too far from a collaboration, and the “COLLAB” (recognise the speech marks?) is something that has become an integral part of streetwear culture. Rarely a week goes by where we don’t hear of another collab, whether it be A-COLD-WALL* x Dr Marten, Nike x Stussy or Virgil Abloh x Everyone and Their Mother. Like it or loathe it, it’s here to stay and it’s important for us to consider how this wave of collaborations can become more sustainable.
First, let’s make something clear – we don’t mind collabs – a good collab can lead to a contemporary take on an out-dated (or out-of-trend) product from years gone by. They’re also a great way to raise a brand’s profile; collaboration with the most influential celebrities or designers can raise awareness of a brand within a new audience or age group. In 2018, Moncler launched the Genius Project, a new business structure centred entirely around collaborations with a range of designers, such as Valentino and Palm Angels. The Italian brand saw a 27% jump in sales in the first six months, which they entirely ascribed to the project.
But not all collaborations blossom into higher brand sales or greater credibility. In fact, they can be a total flop. Eugene Rabkin, the founder of StyleZeitgeist writes in his piece for HIGHSNOBIETY:
“There are collaborations that are cringe-worthy in their pathetic attempt to chase the millennial customer — that elusive unicorn that’s responsible for a lot of anxiety in corporate boardrooms. But as the number of collaborations in the past couple of years have grown exponentially, they have become more and more indiscriminate, and sometimes downright absurd — an inevitable consequence when brands begin to run out of options.”
Rabkin mentions the undisputed king here, Virgil Abloh, who’ll slap quotation marks on anything he can get his “hands” on: clocks; rugs; bottles of champagne – you name it! If it exists and it’s tangible, he’ll find a way to get quotations marks on it.
So how do we make them meaningful again? The ‘buy less, but better’ ethos is growing. Conscious consumers are demanding transparency and the fashion industry is facing pressure to change its ways. Where does the collab exist within this new world?
Let’s remind ourselves of what a ‘collaboration’ actually is. It doesn’t necessarily have to be driving false demand for hype products to re-sell to your teenage brother’s friends. It’s simply the ‘action of working with someone to produce something’ and it’s becoming more popular amongst sustainable and ethical fashion brands. The big difference is that these collaborations are giving back for what they take away, be it removing ocean waste, re-using deadstock materials or finding a new life for that tent you left at Glastonbury in 2018. No false hype, just brands working together to create limited pieces from leftover materials. We’ve listed some of the leading examples below and, who knows, maybe we’ll have PF [labs] in the near future.
Adidas partnered with Parley on a shared mission to use 100% recycled polyester in their products by 2024, creating Primeblue. A high-performance recycled material made in part with Parley Ocean Plastic.
Christopher Raeburn, known for reworking excess fabrics and garments with his label RÆBURN, collaborated with The North Face to create a range of three bags made from discarded tents.
Each item is made by upcycling existing Millet fabrics from within their archives, creating special limited-edition pieces to reduce waste.
Let’s appreciate and support this new creativity: there is a space for the collaboration but through a slightly different lens; less hype and more positive outcomes from the new products we create. On that note, we’ve collaborated with The Eden Reforestation Projects to plant 1 tree for every person that subscribes to our mailing list below.
So give us that email address and save the forest, baby!*
*We’ll also send you more stories like this one, fit inspiration and new product releases.