2020 was a year of unbridled collaborations; McDonald's, Dior, KFC, Colgate, LIDL, literally everything was on the table.
As we detailed in our recent reporting, the essence of a modern collaboration is the ability to turn non-culture into culture, but in pursuit of that, it feels like some of 2020's partnership efforts may have become a bit unhinged in the process.
Looking back at the year that gave us supermarket sneakers and chicken-scented crocs, Highsnobiety editors revisit the scope of some of this year's most memorable collaborations.
Virgil x Nigo
"Did Covid-19 save streetwear? Before WFH-couch culture lit a fire under hoodies and sweats, there was a bubbling notion that your typical line rat was ready for something different; something a little more, how do we say, debonair. Enter Virgil Abloh and Nigo, whose multifaceted LV2 capsule showed that, actually, Savile Row and Fairfax needn’t be the sartorial equivalent of oil and water. Here was tailoring with an impertinent twist; Quadrophenia’s Jimmy Cooper navigating the post-sneaker world on a monogram tip. It taught us that streetwear wasn’t really dying — rather, formalwear was ready to speak its language, at last." - Graeme Campbell, style editor
Telfar x UGG
"Telfar was kind of shafted earlier this year after a deal with GAP appeared to fall through at the last minute. However, it didn't seem to matter too much, as the Telfar x Ugg collab delivered a covetable remix of an already iconic product. The cozy creamy shearling bag, brimming with mid-’00s nostalgia, gave us respite from the mass of played out ’90s references.
Telfar’s community-driven marketing paid dividends, too. The collaboration launched via their bag security program on its own channel, with Ian Isiah and Jorge Gitoo Wright streaming live from Instagram. This kind of drop speaks to the content-driven shift of fashion brands becoming their own media, and to Telfar’s ability to sustain excitement for product not expected until May or June next year." - Max Grobe, associate fashion editor
Dior x Air Jordan
"Arguably the most hyped sneaker of the year was the Dior x Air Jordan 1. First unveiled at Dior's Fall 2020 show in Miami, the sneaker was social media rocket fuel, adding a new luxe chapter to Air Jordan's storied history. The Dior x Air Jordan 1 retailed at $2,200 for the high-tops, $2,000 for the lows, and a resell value of up to around $10,000 on StockX.
Artistic director Kim Jones said his goal was to make 'the most luxurious Air Jordan 1 ever,' and it is. The sneaker's leather construction and swoosh stitched in the house's oblique patterning makes the sneaker feel more like a luxury 'It bag' than a shoe. It's relatively plain compared to some of the other hyped sneaker designs out there, but the execution was very much in the style of a heritage house with silver Dior aglets, the 'Air Dior' lettering on the leather tongue, as well as some louder details on the soles." - Max Grobe, associate fashion editor
Uniqlo x Jil Sander
"Uniqlo x Jil Sander — a revival of a line from 2009/2011 — demonstrated how a precise and singular vision is a good rule of thumb for creating collaborative products which are purposeful, intentional, and deserving of the hype.
Sander commented: 'Fashion experienced a resurrection online, albeit with different rules. [...] I feel that we need more critical discourse online to differentiate between flashy looks and designs that actually improve the looks of real human beings.' This impetus to simply improve the look of human beings (and not just generate content for the IG feed) generated socially distanced queues outside EU Uniqlo stores of up to 650 feet, for people wanting Uniqlo basics with architectural silhouettes and paneled detailing." - Max Grobe, associate fashion editor
MM6 x The North Face
"It’s hard to re-invent a classic. However, the collaboration between MM6 and The North Face took some of the most popular items of the decade, like the ubiquitous Nuptse puffer, and gave it new circular dimensions, repositioning outerwear for the year of being stuck inside, as highlighted during our indoor camping trip for Not in Paris." - Max Grobe, associate fashion editor
Stüssy x Our Legacy
"This collaboration from Our Legacy’s workshop sub-label succeeded because both brands worked in sync to bring out the best in one another. Louche, relaxed Our Legacy silhouettes made out of deadstock Stüssy fabrics and vice versa freshened up some classic pieces.
In addition to the Ophelia-esque imagery of floating in a lake, the styling of this collaboration was on point, with big shirts, loose shorts, and an easygoing, barefoot, no-T-shirt-under-blazer vibe tapping into Stüssy’s casual reputation, but with an underpinning of formality." - Max Grobe, associate fashion editor
Supreme x Pat McGrath
"Supreme's FW20 accessories were as diverse as ever, but the pivot into beauty products — with legendary make-up artist Pat McGrath — stood out as a possible new bridge between different worlds. The streetwear and beauty industry have more in common than you might think, with an equal devotion to products, unboxing, and new releases. The Supreme lipstick, in the brand's classic shade of red, may bring about more such crossovers in the future... BAPE camo nail art, Palace sheet masks, Off-White™ "CONCEALER"? Here for it." - Max Grobe, associate fashion editor
Jimmy Choo x Timberland
"This might sound like a total troll to most, but Timberland and Jimmy Choo collaborating makes more sense than many of the other collabs that happened this year. Yes, Timberland has worked with high-end brands before, but this is the first time it seems like the approach has been to fully elevate the boot instead of finding a new way to make it an updated work boot. These are constructions you can dress up, and they deserve to have a night out on the town which doesn't require blood, sweat, and tears. It is also two classic companies coming together to do something neither does often, which is what a collaboration is all about." - Noah Thomas, digital fashion editor
Salomon x OrganicLab
"In my book, there’s two kinds of good collabs. There’s the collabs that marry strange and exciting bedfellows — Supreme toothpaste, anyone? — and then there are the collabs that unite entities that always should have been together. Instagrammer Organiclab.zip’s new sneaker with Salomon falls into the latter category. Not only is the spongy oxblood-on-black take on Salomon’s cross-running silhouette a handsome sneaker, I find it to be a symbol of the fact that brands are finally realizing that the inspiration accounts that fawn over them understand them better than they understand themselves." - Thom Bettridge, editor-in-chief
Travis Scott x McDonald's
"Travis Scott was arguably more of a brand that an artist this year, delivering collaborations with Playstation, McDonald's, Byredo, a new line of new alcoholic seltzers, and zero albums. Fair enough — he is 2020's king of merchandise after all.
However, the McDonald's collaboration left a slightly bad taste in our mouths. Out of all the possible food outlets that would be willing to pay big bucks to develop something with Scott, jumping into bed with a brand as suspicious as McDonald's felt questionable for someone with the amount of influence that he wields, especially on young people. As one of our writers said at the time: "A Cactus Jack co-sign legitimizes and lends an aura of cool to a brand that, ultimately, does little for the health of society."
While Travis Scott x McDonald's made total sense from a commercial perspective, the unmitigated success will probably encourage more corporate hype-washing of contentious products to come in the future, which will kind of suck." - Max Grobe, associate fashion editor
Dior x Kenny Scharf
"Dior’s artistic collaborations could potentially spark a discussion of the good, the bad, and the ugly, all in itself. There have been cool remixes of Dior's in the past, such as with Hajime Sorayama and Raymond Pettibon, but the Kenny Scharf collaboration felt like a miss. While Scharf’s artwork is interesting in its own right, the way it clashed with silky suiting and zipped-up shirts felt kind of off-putting. Who is this for?" - Max Grobe, associate fashion editor
Cole Haan x Slack
"Looking at our list of ugly collaborations, it seems 2020’s motto was 'throw everything at the wall to see what sticks.' Without sounding too much like an angry old gatekeeper, there are some brands or companies that should leave collaborations and product to the professionals. Cole Haan definitely has a respected place in the footwear industry, but do they really need to be making shoes for Slack? Do people walk around wearing MSN or Facebook Messenger sneakers? Who knows, maybe this will come back to bite me in the ass. Either way, I’ll be the last person on earth to wear a pair of Slack shoes. I use it enough on my laptop, I don’t need to see it on my feet when I’m not at work." - Fabian Gorsler, sneaker and sportswear editor
KFC x Crocs
"Make no mistake, Crocs had a huge 2020. The brand pumped out collaboration after collaboration with some of the biggest names in the game, including Bad Bunny, Justin Bieber, and Post Malone. The brand also had some luck in that most sneakerheads were stuck inside for a large part of the year, and buying habits therefore shifted towards slides, sandals, and clogs. However, this KFC collaboration is no more than a marketing gimmick, and it’s hard to imagine anyone seriously wearing these." - Fabian Gorsler, sneaker and sportswear editor
"This year, LIDL dropped (and subsequently sold out of) sneakers that quite clearly riffed off of the design of Nike’s Air Huarache. Putting aside our own personal feelings about the outright vulture-like appropriation of sneaker culture, these shoes are just really ugly. Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying shoes at a low price or from a discounter like LIDL, but do they have to be yellow, blue, and white, and look like actual Southeast Asian fakes?" - Fabian Gorsler, sneaker and sportswear editor
2020 was the year when so much didn’t happen — sometimes it was disappointing, sometimes it came as a relief. From sporting events to sex parties, Highsnobiety's latest collection "This Never Happened" is built around the events — big and small — that didn't happen this year. Dropping December 28 exclusively at our online store.