From the ground up

Last weekend we gave you a detailed preview of the Hanon VCMP Project. Today we give you some more background information on how it all came together.

Since we do not come across many collaborative projects these days that go much beyond wanting to create a product, but rather have a strong message behind the project and communicate something in a meaningful way, we took some time out to sit down with Chris Johns to talk about how the VCMP Project came about.

Highsnobiety: Hi guys, can you give you tell us how the project started? Who had the idea, what was your inspiration?

Chris Johns: The idea for VCMP came from Reebok designers Christopher Torres (now working elsewhere) and Chris Johns. The project started in November 2006 as a simple discussion about a Vanity Fair article Chris Johns had read. The article, written by Henry Porter, was both shocking and enlightening. It described how disturbing things were in the UK vis a vis an erosion of privacy rights and civil liberties. It also detailed the proliferation of CCTV’s and other ways to monitor the public. Torres thought we should create a project bringing light to the subject, and we went from there. Without him seeing it as a viable idea, it would have ended there.

HS: The project involves lots of partners. How did you choose the collaborators?

Read the rest of the interview after the jump.

CJ: Carefully.

Torres wanted to make it UK centric from the get go. Though these issues are a rising problem in many countries, the UK seems to have pioneered many of these invasive and scary techniques, including pushing CCTV monitoring countrywide. Torres had the great idea to break up the work and have different partners, with different strengths, each handling their own part. All of it under a compelling narrative.

Reebok would do the footwear, since thats what we do best.

Henry Porter was an obvious choice, and we approached him about creating an original story for the project.

Nino had created a compelling film on the key issues inspiring VCMP, so we reached out to him to provide DVD’s that would accompany the product.

Reebok had just done a small project with Kai and Sunny from COTW that went very well and we were looking for opportunities to partner with them on something else if the project was right. Thus we tapped COTW to handle the great tees.

6876 was the perfect choice for a technical jacket. We admired Kenneth Mackenzie and 6876 and felt that the inspiration behind a lot of what he does was in the spirit of the concept and that he would be interested in being a part of it.

At the end of the day we needed a retail partner in the UK that could launch a sophisticated concept like VCMP and had a customer that would understand it. And being that Hanon shop already sold COTW and 6876 and had close ties to Kenneth, we really saw them as the perfect fit for this project. Hanon shop has been instrumental in managing the apparel side of the project, as well as building a web presence.

But it really all happened on our initial trip to London for the project, which was a bit of a marathon, to meet with all the eventual partners and explain the concept to them. By the end of that 4 day trip we had managed to get all the parties signed on.

HS: We see lots of collaborations these days, between retailers, designers, brands. Most of the time there is not a lot of background story in such a project. What we love about the VCMP Project is the link between the story and the product. What is your stand on collaborations in the market today?

CJ: There really is no reason to do a collab in this day in age if there isn’t a true and relevant story that inspired it.

Most collaborations are tired. The scenario of a footwear company handing off the work to a small label to add a spin has been done. Alot. This is a fresh approach. The story for VCMP is well researched, its original, and it addresses compelling issues that young people need to be aware of. Its more real, and its a huge departure from a retro pack or what have you. Plus the business model for VCMP was new and untested. Its a new approach to partnering on a project. This newness, and the fact that this was an issue driven project, meant the process took much longer ­ 4 years in the making.

HS: What makes in your mind for a successful collaboration?

CJ: Very strong, very focused art direction. Plus a fresh idea.

The partners have to make sense together based on what you are trying to convey with the project. And the shoes need to be wearable. No point having a shoe sit on a shelf ­ it needs to have a useful purpose.

The VCMP Product is now available from Hanon in store and online.

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