07/
11/
17

Longing for
an Instagram-Worthy
Toaster

When it comes to artist x brand collaborations, fashion brands seem to be in a league of their own. There are the fashion collabs with artists that garner cultural significance along with our attention, and then there are the rest. Even though a handful of beauty and beverage brands have been making waves with artist collaborations, it seems that brands in arenas like housewares, appliances and electronics generally have been unable to impress us the way fashion brands do.

Evian x Christian Lacroix
Shu Uemura x Yaz Bukey
Smeg refrigerators
Smeg x Dolce Gabana refrigerators

To be more precise, if one wanted to put one’s 5-year-old and still irresistible Supreme x Comme des Garcons shirt in a comparably irresistible dresser, or to chill a bottle of the endearing Paul Smith x Evian collaboration in an equally endearing refrigerator there wouldn’t be many options. That is, with one glaring exception: Evian bottles lucky enough to be owned by those with a Dolce & Gabana FAB28 refrigerator, part of a mesmerizing capsule collection with the Italian home appliances brand SMEG. However, part of the appliance’s talk-value is its eye-watering price tag of 100,000 euros*.

John Baldessari’s BMW M6 GTLM art car #19
Mac cosmetics ­­­­x Kabuki

Perhaps, there lies the point. Artist x brand collaborations outside of fashion and beauty often come with price tags that are utterly out of this world. The BMW art car, for example, just like the Dolce & Gabana x SMEG collaboration, is a limited edition of five thousand, but with a price that’s never been disclosed. The strategy behind these projects are often more about brand elevation than mass sales.

Most brands, however, don’t engage in collaborations of any kind, be it art or design. That’s to say, we will all keep cooking with perfectly-fine looking microwaves, but they most likely will never compel us to post photographs and fawn over them on social media. At Arts & Labour, we can’t help but ask … why not?

The opportunities for developing unprecedented art collaborations with brands outside of fashion, beauty and beverages are so immense that leaving them untapped seems like a wasted opportunity. Not only for the loss of brilliant business momentum that collaborations have been proven to give, but equally for consumers who’re more than ready to eschew the mundane for the extraordinary.

We like to think it’s only a matter of time before brands from different industries see the marketing light, take a page from the fashion world and consider collaborating with artists for all our sakes. Someday, they’ll see that they can go beyond helping us manage our kitchens, our laundry or our offices functionally, and start transforming our day-to-day experiences.

Wouldn’t that be something.

*Dolce & Gabana and Smeg have subsequently developed a follow up collaboration of small appliances that has not yet gone into production. No word so far on how much they will retail for or when they will launch, though we’d wager there will be a waitlist.

03/
10/
17

Attracting the Masses
by Targeting the Few

For a number of savvy brands, developing collaborations with artists has become a vital way to ensure consumers see their products with fresh eyes. Art collaborations are often seen as a way of building relationships with audiences that may be hard to connect with. Yet for that to happen, brands of all kinds need to start seeing their target audiences no longer as consumers, but as their partners. Anna Sinofzik, the editor and co-author of Taken by Surprise: Cutting Edge Collaborations Between Designers, Artists and Brands, makes the following argument about the impact of art collaborations when done right: “Target audiences become brand ambassadors, customers become collaborators and consumption becomes an experience.”

Enmasse x Canada Goose
Travis Fimmel wears Canada Goose

Not surprisingly, such multi-faceted relationships can only blossom under specific circumstances. As audiences pick out their brands of choice, and likewise, brands pick out their audiences, both must engage in each other’s vision with the mutual respect required to develop authentic and desirable products that are relevant and beneficial to both. (We can’t help but think of the New York-based street brand Supreme, whose products are a win-win thanks to their collaborations solely with artists revered by its devotees.)

While art collaborations are about building broader and deeper kinds of relationships with customers, the same can be said about partnerships with artists. Ultimately, brands must cultivate trust with their collaborators—the designers, artists, photographers, creative directors, stylists, writers and all other essential creative professionals—so they may contribute to the common goal of any artist/brand collaboration: to create unique products that generate positive talk-value, benefit both the artist and brand and positively contribute to society.

Vetements x Canada Goose
Concept x Comme des Garçons

Deliberately or not, most brands are prone to classify their audiences a bit too broadly, assuming they have to appeal to the masses to achieve explosive growth. While expanding a target audience has the potential to increase profits, it also runs the risk of diluting or weakening the products, and with them, the bottom line. But we believe there’s a way to avoid this catch 22 of brand stewardship and accomplish the growth every business owner dreams of – by doing just the opposite.

Canada Goose. The company started as a family-run business in the late 1950’s manufacturing heavy-duty utilitarian winter outwear for the Canadian Rangers and those working in and around the Arctic Circle. Forty years later, Canada Goose emerged onto the global fashion scene and became renowned for its high-end duck down-filled parkas, recognizable for their Coyote fur-lined hoods and distinctive “Made in Canada” logo patches displayed proudly on every sleeve.

It took the founder’s grandson Dani Reiss, an aspiring writer, to step in and slightly re-write the brand’s original narrative. The parkas were already liked for their functional, utilitarian and northern characteristics among those on arctic expeditions and in Nordic communities. Promoting the parkas to film crews working in cold environments was an out-of-the-box, yet natural idea. Canada Goose became known in those tight-knit, trend-setting circles as the “the” coat to have on set. Dani, however, wanted the parkas in the front of the cameras as well as behind them.

Fast forward to the early 2000’s. The Scandinavian fashion scene had now been taken by storm by Canada Goose, while Hollywood and other international celebrities had begun to follow the lead of the crews behind the cameras. Canada Goose parkas were now being seen on and off screen, and on the streets north and south. Worn by Daniel Craig in the James Bond movie “Spectre” and by Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea” the parkas were now, officially, a global sensation. To add fuel to the fire, Canada Goose began to engage in numerous art and brand collaborations. Whether joining forces on highly-stylized collections with the prestigious, French avant-garde fashion house Vetements, or working in collaboration with the digital artist Eepmon, Canada Goose was becoming the parka of choice, or perhaps more importantly, of status.

All of a sudden, the parka’s lofty price tag was no longer seen as barrier, but as a mark of craftsmanship and class. By narrowing its focus on a small but influential group, Canada Goose ultimately became desirable by the widespread many.

“Want to expand your business? You should narrow your focus,” are the wise words of Al Ries, author of the business classic “Positioning”. Perhaps it’s time more brands begin taking note and in turn, taking this proven wisdom to heart.

22/
08/
17

When Being an Artist
is Good for Business

Brands of all kinds know only too well that creating a successful product takes massive amounts of time and effort. Then they have to convince people to buy it. But what if brands could build products so remarkable they sold themselves, and because of this, others would clamor sell for them?

Art of the In-Between” at The Met Fifth Avenue, New York
Art of the In-Between” at The Met Fifth Avenue, New York, Exhibition Catalogue

Rei Kawakubo, founder of the unorthodox Japanese fashion brand, Comme des Garçons, has done nothing but that her entire career. For the past forty years, she’s invested unprecedented amounts of time and effort into designing the most extraordinary and unconventional collections the fashion industry has seen. However, as the current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York (Met), Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between, has shown, it’s not only the fashion crowds that have been flocking to the Met’s architecturally-impressive gallery space, but enthusiasts of all kinds. It’s the first exhibition honouring a living designer the Met has ever done. What’s more, it’s featuring a visionary renowned for defying the most fundamental of conventions: “If we say, ‘these are clothes’, it’s all very usual, so we said ‘these are not clothes.’ It sounds like a Zen dialogue, but it is very simple,” says Kawakubo.

Naturally, Comme des Garçons is about more than clothing. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons the brand has captivated people across such varied demographics. One may argue it’s Kawakubo’s philosophy that sets the brand apart and attracts a spectrum of devotees. Or perhaps it’s her inherent need to keep challenging every assumption there is about clothing: “Is it strong or not? That’s the only question. I need to create something new, something unlike anything seen before. If a lot of people praise what I’ve made, it must have been just ordinary,” asserts Kawakubo.

Art of the In-Between” at The Met Fifth Avenue, New York

Despite its edgy, artistic status, Comme des Garçons has become one of the most desirable brands for fashion retailers to carry. The brand is a draw for design-conscious locals and tourists alike; a worthwhile stop to check out Comme des Garçons’ greatest and latest. For a retailer, carrying Comme des Garçons is often seen as an honour that must be earned. That’s the power of a brand that has built products so exceptional, others consider it a privilege to sell them.

Now, imagine if more companies, not just fashion brands followed Kawakubo’s enterprising steps and developed products that were at least slightly ahead of the curve? For a number of brands, collaborating with cutting edge designers or artists would be an easy first step in challenging their own status quo, and ultimately capturing a creative edge the marketplace is eagerly waiting for.

The exhibition, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons Art of the In-Between, runs at the Met until September 4, 2017. It features about 140 examples of Kawakubo’s womenswear for Comme des Garçons from 1980’s to present. It also includes one of Kawakubo’s dearest, her art collaboration with the American avant-garde dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, titled Scenario.

13/
06/
17

The Case for a Killer
Venice Biennale Bag

Every two years, thousands of journalists and photographers descend upon Venice to cover one of the greatest spectacles of the international contemporary art scene; the Venice Art Biennale. The crowds are not only recognizable for their stylish attire, but also for the various canvas tote bags nonchalantly hanging over their shoulders.

The Swiss Pavilion tote bag
The Collezione Maramotti tote bag
The British pavilion tote bag
The Venice Biennale complementary tote bag

The tote bags are part of a media package each participating country’s pavilion puts together and cautiously dispenses to its first VIP visitors. Each bag generally displays the name of the country with the title of the art exhibit imprinted on a white or died fabric. The crowds like getting these bags. The better-looking the bag, the more they like them.

Most of the bags, however, fall short of good design, even though they play such an influential role. During the Venice Art Biennale, they literally turn into mobile displays, visually publicizing each participating country—from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. It’s a surprise that the participating countries do not put more effort into designing more inspired, or better yet, inspiring bags.

It’s an even bigger surprise that none of the countries consider collaborating with their own participating artists to make the bag a corresponding part of their pavilion’s art exhibition. Instead of the free throw-away they are now, the bags would inevitably become highly desirable—an irresistible product the throngs of art lovers would not hesitate to spend a few bucks on. After all, who wouldn’t expect to pay for a well-designed, limited edition art bag from the Venice Biennale?

As an example, our Canadian Pavilion bag could have been designed in collaboration with the artist representing us at this year’s Biennale—the Vancouver-based Geoffrey Farmer. His ‘floods’ installation, with the elements of gushing water and wood logs, most definitely could have visually translated into a commemorative bag that was as refreshing as the installation itself.

In the end, we can’t help but wonder aloud – shouldn’t the bag no one cares about today play the paramount visual role it deserves to when the next Biennale comes around?

16/
05/
17

The Top 3
Art Collaboration Myths

Even though the marketplace is as saturated as ever and marketing budgets have been shrinking regularly, relatively few Canadian brands have taken advantage of the bountiful opportunities art collaborations provide, despite their success globally. At Arts & Labour, we’ve been talking to brand managers and have uncovered a few obstacles that seem to come up time and again when making the decision whether or not to collaborate with an artist on their product. What we’ve discovered is not that Canadian brands have a different set of concerns than international brands who are more willing to embrace the approach – instead, we found their top concerns were often based on lack of exposure to art collaborations and even more often, out and out myths. Naturally, we’d to take the opportunity to discuss those. Here are the top three.

Frank Gehry’s Crosscheck series of Bentwood furniture for Knoll
Frank Gehry’s Wiggle Chair

Myth No. 1: Art collaborations are costly.
Just as Frank Gehry, the celebrated Canadian architect once said, “You can do great architecture for the same cost as crappy buildings,” collaborating with an artist is not about having deep pockets, it’s about having vision.

To illustrate Gehry’s theory, consider that manufacturing a limited-edition run of art-inspired watering cans designed by a buzz-worthy artist will most likely cost the same as manufacturing a series of conventional watering cans. But as you can imagine, the social media leverage and resulting sales would be far from similar.

Keeping costs manageable comes down to conceiving the right art collaboration idea to achieve the most beneficial effect within brand’s given budget and requirements. Just as Mr. Gehry advises working with the right architect for a building, we’d recommend working with the right creative director for an art collaboration. In both cases, you’re hiring a creative professional who is capable of guiding one through the complexities of the process from start to finish effectively, successfully and fiscally responsibly.

Comme des Garçons x Nke
Gucci x Comme des Garçons
Supreme x Comme des Garçons
Supreme x Louis Vuitton

Myth No. 2: Art collaborations are gamble.
For many brands who are accustomed to using marketing to stimulate sales, collaborating with an artist seems too filled with unknowns to provide a reliable return on investment.

What they may not realize is that developing an effective art collaboration, like all good business, is based on a solid strategy that’s followed through with great ideas and strong execution. Using ourselves as an example, Arts & Labour looks to art collaboration successes worldwide as a guide and employs proven techniques to achieve a great result; we use what we call “modules” to break down the process and help guide brand managers and product designers. While our tactical modules help uncover a brand’s needs and wants, our creative modules help define a collaborative strategy to inject a product with the most inherent newsworthiness and appeal. With the right process, creativity does not have to equate to risk.

Myth No. 3: Art collaborations are for luxury brands only.
Perhaps it’s because the most celebrated and memorable art collaborations of late have come from luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Comme des Garcons, but many brands assume the approach is too avant-garde for them, or even “out of their league.”

illy art cup collection x Gillo Dorfless
Illy art collection x Dasha Zaichanka

Nonsense. Developing an art collaboration is an essential way for brands of all kinds to ensure consumers see their product with fresh eyes. For instance, Illy, the Italian coffee company, uses art collaboration as a way to help them de-commodify their offering. Whether it’s a coffee cup, a can of beans or a trade booth, Illy is a brand that takes full advantage of collaborating with artists as a way to stay relevant, top of mind and most of all, inspiring.

As Rachel Somers Miles wrote in her Huffington Post article called “Collaboration Validation,” “Focusing on culture, by developing brand-artist collaborations, is a way of building authentic relationships with audiences that may be hard to connect with. Brands need to work with artists, whose relationships with consumers come from consumers’ genuine excitement.” Indeed.

We wish you plenty of courage to crush each obstacle that stands between your brand and your next art-fusion collaboration.

04/
04/
17

Work Clothes, Reimagined

Imagine walking into a clothing shop and wanting pretty much everything there—only nothing is for sale. No, this isn’t a fashionista’s nightmare, it’s WORKWEAR, a travelling exhibition produced by the Triennale di Milano and curated by Italian designer Alessandro Guerriero. Imaginative, stylish and utterly original and unusual, it’s a collection of whimsical work outfits one has no choice but to fall in love with—and rightly so. The exhibit features clothes for a “Vegetable Ice Cream Man”, a “Cloud Hunter”, and a “Researcher of the Divine.” These are uniforms for occupations you may say have never existed and perhaps never will, yet they help us examine how work clothes can be transformed from protective gear and symbols of a profession, into the expression of individual identity. All 40 thought-provoking examples were designed by creative professionals from a wide range of disciplines; art, architecture, design and fashion.

GUDA KOSTER: RED WITH WHITE DOTS
MELLA JAARSMA: THE SENSES CHEAT YOU
ISSEY MIYAKE: EXTREME FILM
FRÉDÉRIQUE MORREL: ADAM & EVE ARE SHOPPING COSTUMES

Fashion, despite its flamboyant reputation, tends to prefer predictability and safety. It favours flooding the marketplace with a singular “look” and merchandise that’s surprisingly similar to the competition’s. Taking unexpected risks can come with pricey consequences––but so can boundless rewards. Clearly Allessandro Guerriero, the Italian designer and curator of the WORKWEAR exhibit, has taken plenty of them. However, by collaborating with people like the internationally renowned artist and designer Faye Toogood as well as fashion designers like Vivienne Westwood and Issey Miyake, he’s managed to transform the potential risks into definite rewards.

Not unexpectedly, the exhibition has been a success since its opening at Milano’s Triennale in 2014. Making its way to New York and now Toronto, the exhibit continues its dialogue on the value of design, in the fields that Italy truly excels. For the Milano Triennale, it’s the first in a series of projects bringing art, architecture, design and fashion together. Hopefully brands of all kinds will soon join this incredible collaborative platform where good design and art meet and create something truly spectacular.

The travelling exhibition was also produced with the Associazione Tam Tam, who made the clothes with the assistance of the Arkadia, a nonprofit organization. The exhibition is on display at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, Ontario until April 23, 2017.

14/
03/
17

The New Currency: Creative Vision

Last fall, the BMW Group published the fourth edition of its Independent Collectors’ Art Guide. Like many luxury brands, the German carmaker has been busy developing a variety of partnerships with the arts in their ambition to consistently remain culturally and socially relevant. It’s a true balancing act, nurturing that delicate relationship between commercial and creative vision. Getting involved in art collaborations and art partnerships with emerging and established contemporary artists or institutions has become quite a skilled endeavor among the world’s most prestigious brands. But why, we wonder, do only luxury brands seem to take advantage of the power of art for its instant injection of relevance, interest and “nowness”?

Olafur Eliasson BMW H2R, 2007
Jeff Koons BMW M3GT2, 2010

The BMW Art Guide is a collaborative publication between the German luxury carmaker and Independent Collectors of contemporary art, presenting 256 private yet publicly accessible art collections, large and small, famous and unknown, across 180 cities and 43 countries. It started in 2012 to simply gather and enlist privately owned contemporary art collections with public access around the world. The result was a well-designed, pocked-sized publication that has, according to the BMW Group, become the go-to-guide to discover new art collections in the most diverse settings on the planet. And so, the concept of “art experience collecting” was born.

BMW’s first foray into the arts dates back to 1975 when the French auctioneer and racecar driver Hervé Poulain commissioned the American artist (and personal friend), Alexander Calder, to paint his racecar. The result was to become the very first BMW Art Car. Since then, a number of well-known artists like Frank Stella, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons have joined the ranks of the BMW Art Cars Project’s featured artists. BMW Art Cars initially only appeared at car races, without any public participation, so to speak. Only later, as the public’s interest in contemporary art and artists grew, the art collaborations started to take a different shape; they soon began serving as travelling advertisements, reinforcing BMW’s elevated image and borrowing the cache of the many rock-star artists they collaborated with.

Nowadays, it’s a known fact that the tighter brands are able to align their commercial and creative visions, the more original and desirable they become. Yet, at Arts & Labour we can’t stop asking two simple questions. First, why aren’t more brands, high-end or not, taking advantage of the art collaborative model that has proven time and time again to work for the BMW Group and a handful of other savvy brands so effectively and for so long?

Second, why do brands who do not have creative visionaries the caliber of Herve Poulain in-house, not make a point of outsourcing the creative vision they so desperately need to succeed? Why are they not aligning their marketing and product development teams to bring their creative and commercial visions together to reach their full capacities?

The BMW Art Guide can be purchased directly via Amazon or as an Ebook download.

07/
02/
17

An Inspiring Product is Better than Inspiring Marketing

Brands that recognize the value of fostering not only a commercial vision, but a creative one have been leading the way of late. Take for instance, the continuing success of the London-based Cambridge Satchel Company. Founded in 2008 and celebrated intensively ever since for its locally handmade and globally desired bags —a result of not only hiring the best-of-the-best British leather workers, but also their strategy of continuously collaborating with a handful of cutting-edge designers and relevant bloggers. Or Supreme, the New York based skateboarding shop, founded in 1994, and notorious for its many sold-out international capsule collaborations with artists. Or Artek, the ultra-innovative Finish design company founded in 1935 by two visionaries who, just like the founders of the previous two brands, believed in a synthesis of the arts with technology, architecture, design and lifestyle at large. The successes of each of these three brands have been remarkable. At Arts & Labour, we relish their ability to invent and reinvent their products through art and serving them up in a way the world simply can’t get enough of.

Artek x Tobias Rehberger
Artek x Kvadrat x Raf Simons

So. What’s the magic formula?
To start, it’s best to look inward and see if the formula you’re currently following is actually one for mediocrity. More than ever, brands need to cultivate their own creative vision to be able to achieve their commercial vision. Yet for many brands, their creative vision, for various reasons, only goes so far. This often translates to working with an advertising agency to help develop glossy ad campaigns to make their products seem inspiring.

What Supreme, Artek and The Cambridge Satchel Company have in common is that their creative visions and commercial strategies are equally robust and most importantly, they’re intertwined. They’ve invested in reinforcing their already well-designed products with a continuous cycle of art collaborations, be it with architects, artists, designers, photographers, musicians or bloggers to continually ensure their products don’t need to be made to seem inspiring by marketing; they actually are inspiring. All three brands collaborate with creative talents who are naturally adept at recognizing what society craves and end up with buzzy products that sell themselves.

In our next post, we delve more into the subject of creative vision and explore a brand that leveraged theirs to its benefit for over 40 years: BMW. Until then.

18/
10/
16

It’s Time to Reinvent the Trade Booth

As much as brands pour their energy into the things they sell, it’s a mistake to think that those products alone will make a trade show booth stand out, no matter how new or innovative those products are. If you’ve ever walked the dizzying miles of a trade show floor and experienced the visual exhaustion than sets in soon after the first or second aisle of product display after product display, you might agree that it’s time for a rethink.

Let’s put ourselves in an attendee’s shoes for a moment. What would one be more likely to notice – a booth that looks like yet another displaced product showroom, or a dynamic installation with a story to tell? A visually striking site installation with a narrative that demonstrates a brand’s environmental, cultural or social relevance, perhaps?

Brands traditionally think of trade shows as a way to promote their products to their industry. But if instead, we perceived trade shows as an opportunity to demonstrate a brand’s relevance to society, those brands would give people a more compelling reason to consider their products. Instead of just replicating a showroom, lets think of the trade booth as a “hook” and aim to reel guests in with a story that inspires.

Imagine if the famed Swedish brand Hästens left their stunning beds behind and instead collaborated with a designer on an art installation incorporating their iconic blue check. Or if Knoll collaborated with a sculptor to create an oversized mid-century modern Bertoia chair, large enough to walk under, Gulliver’s Travels style? Their booths would not only stand out, but also become something delightful to make noise about.

You may be thinking, “That sounds expensive,” or, “Only big brands can afford big booths with powerful installations.” But if you ask us, small is not the problem. Lack of imagination is the problem. The size of a booth does not have to dictate the size of our ideas, resourcefulness or creativity. Small brands have a tendency to – but absolutely shouldn’t – think small. Interesting ideas and self-assured vision have a way of standing out, despite square footage.

The American avant-garde composer John Cage once observed, “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” Yet, doing something unconventional to get noticed can be intimidating. In fact, brands (and the humans behind them) can be equally afraid to stand out as they are to get noticed. But if we let the fear of loosing existing customers govern us completely, we resign ourselves to the same-old, safe, cookie-cutter approach that is sure to exhaust all our tired eyes at the next trade show.

In our next post we’ll look at brands that have been courageous about taking on risks, have reaped their just rewards and are encouraging others to do the same.

hästens trade show booth
hästens trade show booth
Knoll trade show booth
Knoll trade show booth
ROBERT THERRIEN’s monumental sculpture
ROBERT THERRIEN’s monumental sculpture
ROBERT THERRIEN’s monumental sculpture
ROBERT THERRIEN’s monumental sculpture
Lee Broom LIGHTS exhibition display
Lee Broom LIGHTS exhibition display
Brunner group SEATING EXHIBITION display
Brunner group SEATING EXHIBITION display

05/
04/
16

Heavens, what’d you do with my boring city guide!

On your next visit to Berlin or Portland (should you be so lucky to visit either amazing city once, never mind multiple times), you may, as we did, stumble upon each city’s less predictable and subsequently notable city guides.

We discovered that a handful of forward-thinking businesses had decided to take tourism and recreation matters into their own hands and have started to publicize their cities in new and different ways.

In Berlin, businesses in a small, historic but otherwise little-known square collaborated with a couple of art organizations, do you read me?! and Gallery Print, to develop a city guide that’s actually worthy of exploration itself. The following is an insert from Berlin’s POTSE district’s website:

What you’re holding in your hands is a sketched-out guide to culture, food, and shopping on and around Potsdamer Strasse – a street affectionately known as “Potse” to locals and fans. Over the past five years, Potse has quietly evolved from being a nondescript thoroughfare connecting two re-emerging western Berlin districts to the city’s most concentrated hub for visual art and the things that go with it – studios, galleries, a cozy bar or two, a reading room, and even avant-garde shops for the daring.

How does Potse differ from Berlin’s many past art hubs? HISTORY: It was here that the city’s most celebrated art galleries and antique dealers congregated in the 1920s. HYPE: There’s less of it. Serious galleries have put down serious roots, and they’re often in spaces that aren’t necessarily visible from the street. Look, then look again – inside, upstairs, in the backyard. Potse reveals itself slowly, and rewards the diligent.

By producing their own guide, the forward-thinking collection of POTSE businesses have not only made their little square more distinguishable and detectable, they’ve elevated their area to the ultimate artistic shopping, seeing, eating and drinking experience. Not bad, considering the majority of the listed businesses would likely never have made it into any of the mainstream city guides.

Across the globe in Portland Oregon, something similar, though aesthetically more individualistic and authentic is afoot.

Table of Contents (TOC), the local clothing store behind Portland’s unique and engaging guide, is also a resource studio and a concept store. Their guide is truly brief. It’s half of POTSE’s size, but then again, so is Portland compared to Berlin. However, when it comes to having a distinct artistic voice, the TOC guide is equally thrilling and thriving. Unlike POTSE, TOC has curated their guide to encompass only the ultimate destinations – the crème de la crème that Portland offers. All tried, tested and trusted.

So, what’s refreshing about such a customized, aesthetically specific guide? Instead of creating competitiveness, they’ve managed to promote a sense of camaraderie among all the businesses listed. And that feeling of tribe also extends to the locals and tourists who make such great use of them. After all, who wouldn’t want a reliable recommendation for a place to eat or drink, art show to see or store to shop, especially while visiting a new city? And likewise, what like-minded entrepreneur would not wish to be part of the guide’s discerning and collaborative spirit?

While the Portland guide is not an art-fusion collaboration, being simply an initiative by an artistic company, we applaud their unique approach and progressive collaboration with competitive businesses to improve both their city’s image and the visitor’s experience. Even though guides like theirs may not be for everyone, they offer a craved-for opportunity to discover quality, authenticity and innovation, instead of the same-old–same-old.

In our next post we’ll zero in on our favourite art-fusion collaborations from Milan Design Week 2016. Till then.

POTSE GUIDE BERLIN (segment)
POTSE GUIDE BERLIN
POSTDAMMER STRASSE, BERLIN, Germany
POSTDAMMER STRASSE, BERLIN, GERMANY
POSTDAMER STRASSE THEN
POSTDAMER STRASSE NOW
TABLE OF CONTENTS STORE INTERIORS, PORTLAND, OREGON
TABLE OF CONTENTS STORE INTERIORS, PORTLAND, OREGON
TABLE OF CONTENTS STORE ENTRANCE SIGN, PORTLAND, OREGON
Portland-places-to-go BY yo-vintage