Comme des Garçons does it. Louis Vuitton does it. Even Hermès does it. They are among the handful of highly progressive fashion houses that have fused their highbrow brands with lowbrow street art by collaborating with avant-garde and sought-after national and international graffiti artists to help them disguise the luxury they’ve become known for. Why, you ask?
With the increasing popularity of online shopping, retail stores have more than ever become venues for experiences rather than just buying goods. While many high-end brands have been selling their sophisticated collections in equally high-end boutiques, the more avant-garde brands have been pushing the boundaries much further. By disguising and transforming retail spaces into art spaces with interchangeable street or store installations, such brands are able to truly heighten their brand’s publicity. And by using the work of the most cutting-edge artists the national and international art scene has to offer, they give a new and interesting platform to soft-sell their own high-ticketed and acclaimed collections from.
Paying attention to brands that deconstruct their store interiors or exteriors and offer extreme contrasts to their sophisticated collections has become something of a movement we all enjoy taking part in – whether just by visiting these makeshift storefronts or by exploring the art installations themselves; or simply by talking or reading about them in social media. In other words, retail is no longer about selling products that appeal to us, but about providing experiences that can truly seduce us.
The art fusion collaboration between Louis Vuitton Miami Project and the American mural graffiti artist RETNA in 2012 was one of numerous examples that set the blogosphere ablaze. RETNA, with his hieroglyphics and calligraphic designs, created murals that helped to disguise the traditional looking Louis Vuitton storefront. The store was easily spotted for its vandalized look, instead of its usual Louis Vuitton elegance. Provocative enough?
We know that by thoughtfully juxtaposing and contrasting opposites, a truly winning formula can arise. Take a look at the London or Tokyo or New York Comme des Garçons’ Dover Street Market in particular. In each and every location, fashion fuses with art ever-so tastefully and thoughtfully. You may ask yourself whether you want to look at avant-garde clothing displayed in cheap looking plywood structures or walk around beams covered in low-end graffiti knitting in order to spend so many of your hard-earned dollars. But in the end, who these days is interested in looking at innovative collections in traditionally intimidating and unwelcoming store settings that seem unfriendly for some while fatiguing, if not boring for others?
If you’re curious about what the next paradoxical differentiator brands have been experimenting with, stay tuned for our next post coming in September when we return from our summer break.