The secrets to a winning fashion collaboration: Dries van Noten x Christian Lacroix, Louis Vuitton x Supreme, Giambattista Valli x H&M, and more

The secrets to a winning fashion collaboration: Dries van Noten x Christian Lacroix, Louis Vuitton x Supreme, Giambattista Valli x H&M, and more

Best buddies

Text: Ho Guo Xiong

Editor: Jolene Khor

The recently concluded Paris Fashion Week was abuzz for many reasons. Among them was an unexpected collaboration between two master couturiers, Dries van Noten and Christian Lacroix — or as a New York Times called it, “the collaboration to end all collaborations.”

The fashion world is incredibly saturated at the moment, with collabs ranging from Superga x Love, Bonito and MCM x Billie Eilish to Fendi x Jackson Wang announced in the last few months alone, along with a slew of other mash-ups competing for our attention (and money). They got us thinking: what is a groundbreaking fashion collaboration make? Ahead, we attempt to unlock the secrets to a winning partnership.

Partnering brands should be creatively codependent

One way to create buzz (and sales) is to put two names that don’t immediately make sense together as a pair, yet they must have enough in common that they can come together creatively. Louis Vuitton’s partnership with Supreme in 2017 is one such example. Each label retail clothing and accessories in different lifestyle categories — Louis Vuitton is known for its flair in luxury while Supreme holds fort in the casual category. This collaborative effort was highly successful because it lent Louis Vuitton street cred, and at the same time, gave Supreme a bourgeois varnish it never would have painted on its own.


Brand DNAs must be allowed to shine

While collaborations are a great way for brands to generate excitement, the participating labels cannot lose sight of their branding. The final products need to feel authentic with unique contributions from each label. Take, the ongoing Adidas merchandise launched with Stella McCartney. The former brings on its sportswear expertise while the latter adds polish with her modern aesthetic and a push for sustainability. The collaboration, as you can gather, features performance and style-focused pieces made with eco-friendly materials.

That said, a collaboration between two brands with strong identities might not always work if the products they render are so avant-garde, consumers fail to grasp or appreciate their artistic merits. Consider the Louis Vuitton x Jeff Koons Masters collections. Koons, known for his contemporary art, emblazoned classic Louis Vuitton bags with iconic paintings including Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and Titian’s ‘Mars, Venus, and Cupid’. The designs gained a ton of publicity, but their intellectual sophistication caused a lack in commercial appeal to the everyman.


Tap on star power

Remember when Beyoncé slayed us with her epic Coachella performance in 2018? Now recorded in the annals of pop culture history as Beychella, the singer served more than a killer show — she was pouring in gag-worthy looks. Dressed in the capsule she designed with Balmain, the “signature varsity styles and legacy of more than 100 America’s historically black colleges and universities” were represented in her threads, as described by the label. The collection feels genuine too. Beyoncé has been a vocal champion of the black community (see: her performance of Formation at the Super Bowl), and Olivier Rousteing, also an outspoken activist, had shown his support for a forum at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival by Aïssa Maïga. Rousteing, who is also Balmain's first black creative director, dressed all 16 of the actresses involved.

Moreover, the proceeds of the Balmain x Beyoncé collab were channeled to the United Negro College Fund — a philanthropic organisation that supports black students with funds and scholarships. Any support for good causes will always get fans in formation.

Cardi B's collabs with high-street e-tailer Fashion Nova in 2018 and 2019 further demonstrates the commercial power of a star; fans of Cardi clamoured to look like her without having to shell out thousands of dollars. The first drop, with 82 styles, was said to have sold out within minutes of its launch; the second collab earned US$1 million in one day.


Remix high and low

While we are all familiar with luxury labels and cult products everyone wants to own — the Hermès Birkin, anyone? — the truth is that many of us can’t afford the exorbitant price tag that accompanies the name. As such, luxury names rope in their high street counterparts to attract the masses who can't fork out thousands for a bag. This move allows luxury labels to diversify and expand by tapping into a different market. After all, it's called the fashion business for a reason. Furthermore, partnerships such as Givenchy x Onitsuka Tiger or the upcoming Giambattista Valli x H&M opt for a limited drop to protect the prestige and heritage of the houses, all the while ensuring sales. Let them eat cake own branded goods!


Don’t be afraid to let creativity run wild

Fashion partnerships usually fly when designers are granted full, uninhibited creative reins. Their allure however, might only work on collectors. Lady Dior Art, spearheaded by Maria Grazia Chiuri, gave 11 female designers from around the world the opportunity to reimagine the Lady Dior bag. And boy, did they run wild with it. The reworked bags were an exciting mix that featured techniques from holographic effect emboss to patchwork embroidery with beads and organza — a stark (and welcomed) contrast to classic designs we’re familiar with.

The Moncler Genius projects are particularly noteworthy too. As Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli, Simone Rocha, and Richard Quinn flexed their creative muscles, limited only by their imagination, the new collaborations revived the label, dragging it out of a creative coma it suffered from for years. In fact, Moncler is doing so well, it opened a 5,600 square-foot flagship at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands earlier this year… despite the fact that its star product is the goose down jacket and Singapore is afflicted with the tropical climate all year round.