In an article at the end of last year, our founder and CEO David Fischer recounted the 2010s as the decade when “Streetwear Rewrote the Rules of Luxury.” And it is clear that the most important tool in this process of rewriting was collaboration.
The “collab” — which is now a noun and a verb — has become the win-win trade behind almost all modern fashion marketing. Larger and older brands reap the energy of outside creatives with their own loyal cohorts, and in return said creatives get a platform and an infrastructure to latch onto. This is that force that brought Kanye to Louis Vuitton, then Nike, then Adidas. It’s what turned Vetements into the Hot Tub Time Machine of ’90s trends.
But as we barrel into the deeply uncertain 2020s — where you have brands like Stone Island and Persol meeting on co-branding Tinder every other day — it’s clear that the This x That gambit needs to evolve somehow. And two big announcements this week perhaps give us a sense of where that is going.
On consecutive days, independent design legends Kerby Jean-Raymond and Kiko Kostadinov were announced to be taking on new positions at sportswear giants Reebok and Asics respectively. These announcements followed notable collabs between each designer and their new bosses, and they point to the inevitable realization that large brands probably get more out of hiring their collaborative partners than they do out doing one-off products with them.
But wait, isn’t that whole thing of luxury giants hiring big independent designers — a la Virgil Abloh, Kim Jones, and Demna Gvasalia — already a narrative of the 2010s? Yes, but this is completely different. Designing for a luxury house is an inherently smaller-scale process, and in the case of creators like Abloh and Jones, these creative gigs are limited to menswear (and now in the case of Jones and Fendi, womenswear) collections within the larger brands. Companies like Reebok and Asics, on the other hand, operate on a much larger scale and with a much larger audience. And, in this commercial context, crossing the Rubicon from niche designer collabs into “main-line” (the stuff that you can find at any Footlocker) is a really big deal.
In the case of Jean-Raymond and Reebok, a closer existing corollary is the Raf Simons experiment at Calvin Klein — one in which the designer came on to lead the creative of a global company that sells everything from ready-to-wear to boxed underwear at Macy’s. And the failure of this experiment — and the lack of creative control that Simons inevitably had to wrestle with — might be why Kostadinov’s role comes with the much different title and remit of being a semi-autonomous “consultant and curator.”
But no matter how these new relationships go, the writing is on the wall that in the post-Streetwear decade, This x That is now turning into Those.