Collaborations between two fashion brands, like Levi’s and Brooks Brothers, or between a fashion brand and a retail brand like Target and Philip Lim have become quite the norm. So much so that the blogosphere has taken to calling them ‘collabs’. However for most brands, the idea of collaborating with an artist (painter, sculptor, printmaker, graphic designer) is still unchartered territory.
So far, only the avant-garde (Comme des Garçons) and well-established high-end brands (Louis Vuitton) have ventured into the realm and managed to not only pull off high-profile artist collaborations, but reap their enormous benefits. In each of these cases, the brand’s principals were either artists themselves (Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons) or had a personal interest in and connection to contemporary art (Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton). This no doubt played a hand in the success of the partnerships and not only for their brands, but equally well for the artists themselves.
Traditionally, when a brand needs to draw attention to itself and encourage a lift in sales, it defers to its advertising agency of record. As art fusion collaborations gain interest from savvy brand stewards who see their potential to gain even more attention and buzz than with traditional advertising, this is beginning to change. However, it’s a rare brand director who would consider approaching their ad agency to initiate an art fusion collaboration. Rarer still would be one who was willing to navigate through the national or international contemporary art scene on his or her own. Working with emerging and established artists can be delicate. “When there’s too much marketing and emphasis on product, the artists can suffer”, explains Hervé Mikaeloff, the art consultant and curator to LVMH and the Louis Vuitton Foundation. And without an experienced creative hand guiding the entire collaboration, the necessary balance of art and brand might not be achieved.
For some organizations, it can seem tempting to initiate collaborations directly in an effort to save money. But they must do so at their own risk. For most brands, it simply makes sense to enlist the help of a partner who can provide a ‘bridge’ between their brand and the artist and navigate through the complexities of the collaborative process. Much like an agency, the partner is able to develop creative collaboration ideas and effectively imbue them with thought-provoking communication and design before that the artist selection even begins. They have established connections with the best contemporary artists in the country and beyond, they guarantee a smoother process and the ability to approach the project strategically to achieve the results a brand desires and needs. For more on this subject, you can read about how we work at Why Arts & Labour?
In our next post, we will review some of our favourite collaborations from 2013. Until then.