Publications

A Fashion Statement: the Energy of Collaboration

The energy of Collaboration is a powerful force when harnessed by companies seeking reinvigoration.

Collaboration between companies, brands and individuals is not a new concept, however large numbers of brands, both national and global, have recently found themselves at a plateau in their lifespan and concurrently experiencing turbulent economic times which are testing their staying power. They are finding themselves compelled to seek innovative ways to deepen their engagement with consumers and either improve upon or maintain market share.

The concept of collaboration can often play a key role in the need to (re)design a company’s future. Once undertaken, it can infuse a brand and company with valuable new ‘currency’, creativity and relevance. A wider audience of consumers can ensue from both sides of the collaboration and beyond, as new consumers are attracted by the results. On its broadest level, a successful collaboration pushes industry innovation and creates multi-leveled, positive flow-on effects.

Because of its enormous potential and benefits such as these, collaboration is a fundamental strategy for consideration by any organisation. However, it must be undertaken carefully, with due consideration of the match between the brands, the communication strategy to consumers and the desired outcome for both. A number of collaborations have failed when their success is assumed, with disastrous effects on the bottom line and the perception of the brands involved.

This doesn’t mean that the partnerships have to be ones that are obvious natural fits. Brave, well-executed collaborations between polar opposite brands can work and pay large dividends. A number of years ago, the high street fashion retailer H&M was in dire need of revitalisation. The resulting collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld ensuing PR and media coverage would have left many brands wondering why they had not thought of it themselves and wishing they had. Collaborations between H&M and other high-end fashion labels, such as Stella McCarthy and Lanvin, have since followed.

 

H&M haven’t rested on the benefits, sales and repositioning brought to them by their collaborative strategy. More recently they have moved with the times… and consumer interest in bloggers and celebrity sports players, signing up with Elin Kling, known as Sweden’s leading fashionista blogger, and sports star David Beckham to bring out collaborative ranges.

H&M’s direction reflects the understanding that increasingly it is not just luxury fashion labels consumers aspire to. More and more they are becoming avid followers of the styles of people who they can relate to more easily.

This highlights an important aspect of collaboration. Success is not just about having all the elements in place and bringing them to the desired result. It is about active engagement during and after the process and asking questions such as: where has it brought us? How is this strategy being received? Where are we going next? Ultimately it is about ongoing engagement on every level and not harvesting the superficial benefits until they become dissipated and meaningless. Staying attuned to the dynamics of the collaborative process and their effects, both internally within the business and outwardly in the marketplace, is of utmost importance. 

Though naturally company profit plays a pivotal role in the success of collaborations, not all have this ultimate aim. The annual ‘Eat Street’ fundraising event, held in Melbourne recently, created a fusion between food and fashion for the first time in its history. The event showcased the collaboration between 10 of Australia’s leading fashion designers, such as Willow, Sass & Bide, Fleur Wood and Gwendolynne and 10 top Australian chefs, paired off to create an apron depicting each chef’s ‘signature dish’. Proceeds from the night went to the Australian Childhood Foundation, which provides trauma counselling to children.

These partnerships proved to be an exciting catalyst for creativity. Gwendolynne spoke of her design, inspired by Ian Curly’s Moreton Bay Bug Salad. “We wanted the apron to symbolize hope for kids that have suffered abuse so we used feathers to represents flight and freedom. The terracotta beads have been scattered to season the apron as the chicken has been with paprika and sprinkle of crystal as salt. The fringing creates a fluid effect which represents the julienne cabbage,” she shared.

 

Collaboration for, and inspired by, an important cause.

Collaboration can work across industries and mediums to evolve a new form, such as the surging ‘fashion and film’ genre. No Home, a new Australian film festival, recognises its powerful allure, and has brought together designers and filmmakers to express themselves via the No Home platform.

Justin Watson, the creative mind behind No Home, explains  the collaborative difference No Home seeks to evolve. «The relationship between film and fashion has existed for a long time, but recently we’ve seen this develop from fashion being a part of film to fashion being the point of the film.» 

 The brief for those participating inspires those involved to «be creative and capture the mood or spirit of a brand». The inaugural 2010 event screen included collaborations between film creatives such as Krosm, Alex Goddard and Yianni Warnock and cutting edge, exciting Australian designers, amongst them SOSUME, Limedrop and Carly Hunter.

At its highest level, collaboration has effects that are positive, broad, far-reaching and ongoing. Australian design company Schiavello's latest product range Climate is an example. Climate is described as «... a malleable work environment tool… an exciting, expressive environment which fosters alignment with your cultural values » and is the result of Schiavello’s cross-disciplinary design work with four diverse collaborators: Akira Isogawa, LAVA, S!X and Giuilo Ridolfo.

The collaborative ranges resulted in designer Akira creating origami screens and unique shibori-patterned dividers which possesses a functional ability that transcend his renowned styling and beautiful fabrics. Whilst design studio S!X’s deconstructed philosophy to fashion design, via fabric manipulation and recycling, is imbued within their range, expressing and encouraging edgy individuality in the workplace.

On an industry level, the Climate collaboration propels innovation by answering the increasing need to service consumer's desire for flexibilty and individual expression within the workplace, with creative flair and ingenuity. On a business-to-business level, it inspires cultural change away from the utilitarian, homogenous office fitout, giving impetus to the discourse on how the environment in which business is conducted affects the mindset of the organisation and its employees. Whilst on an individual level, it participates in a two-way conversation with the consumer to fulfill their needs, encouraging  creative expression in the workplace and giving them multiple, interactive, flexible choices.

Collaborations, whether on a large scale or small, are very much about the psyche of an organization and that of those it chooses to partner with.  They can make deep changes within a company and invest it with fundamental invigoration. Importantly, they can result in the emergence of a new entity, be it product or concept, which has been born of the convergence of the collaborators and is imbued with its own energy, beyond the sum of its parts. Exciting potential indeed.

 

Tara Strong

Guest Editor

Fashion