Collaboration in fashion has always stood as one of the best providers for new products, aesthetics, and trends. Being able to juxtapose the imagination of two creatives, and produce a new look has always pushed fashion forward as a legitimate artistic expression. Yet the recent hyper-commodification and popularization of high fashion has led this progress to a halt. The phenomenon of “brand-wear” in youth culture, and the business interest of clothing brands to capitalize on this “hype” has led to a fork on the road concerning artistic expression and creation. To design and create revolutionary ideas, or to profit from young generations through brand recognition and minimal effort collaborations.
The recent collaboration between Christian Dior and Air Jordan is a perfect example of this elimination of artistic expression for capitalization. The lack of creativity concerning the product is evident, with an unchanged Jordan 1 silhouette, and little innovation concerning colorways, textures, and materials. The artistic collaboration with Dior is minimal, only evident due to the recognizable monogram fabric covering the timeless Nike “swoosh”, proving that the effort concerning collaborative design and product alteration was marginal at best.
This comes as a surprise to those who know the history of Christian Dior, a brand that, while recognizable and occasionally guilty of exploiting branding for quick capitalization, is also recognized as a creative and explorational icon in the fashion realm. Their AW/07 line Navigate, under Heidi Slimane, is consistently praised as one of their most influential and experimental seasons to date. This comes in contrast to this recent collaboration, showing little, if any, of this creative spirit. Further looking at the long marketing history of this release, the product was never meant to progress aesthetics, but rather simply sell as a “brand statement”.
Another example of this recent creative trend can be seen with recent collaborations under the Dr. Martens brand, more specifically the recent ACW and Rick Owens products. Dr. Martens is a brand that, while now extremely recognizable and profitable as a mainstream fashion piece, was first truly recognizable as a countercultural trend. A boot adopted by Glam, Punk, Goth, and other musical/cultural UK movements in the 70s, a brand synonymous with exploration, creativity, and a rejection of mainstream dogma. It is therefore surprising that these recent trends do not exude nor exemplify this brand’s history, but rather, in similar nature to Nike, attempts to boost sales. Utilizing marketing under the veil of “collaboration” in order to trap, in the majority, youthful consumers who are prone to these tactics of fabricated “hype”.
Both of these collaborations lack the main factor which makes communication between designers a great artistic tool, creative expression and creation. While the Rick Owens collaboration is seen as a collaboration between mainstream and avant-garde designers that has always come as a struggle, (plus the product is still not released and prone to possible changes). The ACW collaboration follows all the same negative steps from the Nike example. Minimal exploration, almost no changes to the Dr. Martens 1460 boot silhouette, and almost no indicators of creative input from Samuel Ross’ “A-Cold-Wall*”
Fashion companies are businesses, and as such, they will attempt to make profit whenever possible, no matter the quality of the product, and no matter if they must exploit youth culture to do so. Yet, as fashion companies, they also hold the arguable responsibility to pursue artistic quality, and to provide consumers with creativity and innovation. These recent trends in mainstream fashion prove their priorities as a business rather than those as creators of art, and as such, consumers should reflect upon the products which they look upon and consider the quality behind these products. Is the “hype” which they hold for these products real, or fabricated as a marketing scheme?