No creative worth their salt will ever admit to being out of ideas. Even no idea is an idea these days. Collabs. have become the go-to to fill the gaps in fashion’s creativity and its continual appetite for product over the past decade. Two empty heads are always better than one?
Fashion is a cycle and like the Ouroboros, an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail, it goes around and around. But, today, that coil has become so tight it has almost devoured itself. In a ‘pop will eat itself’ moment, former rivals are now collaborating and even swapping creative roles, while retailers, desperate for new ideas are trying to incubate new designers, labels and ideas to fill the ideas vacuum.
Is fashion officially out of ideas?
The biggest ‘hacking’ of the season, (not a collab. anymore - FYI), was the tie up between Balenciaga and Gucci. Both Kering brands, and in Gucci’s centenary year, Gucci’s ‘Aria’ collection, meaning air in Italian, featured no-doubt sell out product the resellers will only dream about.
Left - Balenciaga & Gucci's 'Hack' in retail form
Tagged as Balenciagucci or (Gucciaga), the internet blew up in April when Alessandro Michele added Balenciaga’s silhouettes and branding across Gucci product.
Two of the biggest and most desirable names in luxury fashion merging like this is unprecedented. A classic Jackie bag was emblazoned with the diagonal Balenciaga font, while Balenciaga’s Triple S was reimagined with the recognisable Gucci Flora print.
If this wasn’t enough rehashing of ideas, the collection also mined the famous Tom Ford era of the mid to late 90’s, reproducing some of his vintage looks from the Gucci archive. Balenciaga’s creative director, Demna Gvasalia said on Instagram Stories after the Gucci show with regards to the homage to Tom Ford’s Gucci. “It really defined the decade in fashion, I think. But I love how today everything mixes in together — ’70s, ’90s, ’00s, etc. Anything is really possible and fashion is such a melting pot of the past, present, and future. That’s what makes it so special and intriguing I guess.”
This product will be in great demand - it isn’t currently available on the main Gucci website - and is therefore guaranteed that it will be swapping hands for a premium when it enters the market. While fun, it does a reek of an ideas cul-de-sac.
Mario Abad, Fashion Editor at Paper Magazine wrote on Twitter (Nov 8th) “Something about Balenciaga tagging their stores with “Gucci” to mark the collab’s launch is making me lose it.”
The biggest ‘swap’ of the SS22 season, (not a collab. anymore - FYI), was Fendi by Versace, Versace by Fendi. Donatella Versace and Fendi’s Kim Jones swapped roles and designed collections for each other’s brands. Versace and Fendi, Capri Holdings and LVMH brands, respectively, unveiled “two iconic collections that celebrate their friendship and the cultural impact of Versace and Fendi.”
Right - Versace's Medusa looks very natural with Fendi's Greek key
Labelled ‘Fendace’, the collection saw Fendi directors Kim Jones and Silvia Venturini Fendi create 25 Versace looks while Donatella Versace reciprocated with 25 Fendi ensembles. Items included Fendi Baguette bags with Medusa heads and Versace’s signature safety pins scattered across Fendi looks all set to hit stores next spring.
Considering Kim Jones only joined Fendi as artistic director of women's collections in September 2020, we’ve yet to clearly see what he can do with the brand. He is also men’s creative director at the giant, LVMH owned, Dior. Fashion conglomerates are finding it increasingly hard to attract big names designers to their houses. Note Daniel Lee just exciting Bottega Veneta.
Left - Kim Jones & Donatella Versace at the launch of 'Fendace'
On the retailer front, MRPORTER.COM announced a competition to find the next menswear design stars to celebrate its 10th anniversary in April 2021. Called MR PORTER FUTURES, the three lucky candidates could not already own a registered or trademarked business with an annual turnover of over €10,000 and was open to anybody regardless of experience of background.
Sam Kershaw, Mr Porter buying director, “We have always been committed to championing a diverse mix of new and emerging designers throughout Mr Porter's decade in business, but if this year has taught us anything, it is that we have the responsibility to use our global platform to give equal opportunities to all new aspiring menswear voices, no matter their experience or background”
Announcing the winners in September 2021, MRPORTER said. “Fashion, after all, can be a tough place to succeed, and, if we’re being honest, isn’t quite as diverse as it could be. For all that it speaks to a global audience, the industry that drives it is largely centralised in just a handful of cities – historically New York, London, Milan and Paris – while talent is disproportionately drawn from a small number of high-profile schools.”
The winners began a year-long design programme to turn their ideas into reality. At the end of the year, they will debut their very own menswear collections exclusively on MR PORTER.
Exclusivity is the way forward for multi-brand luxury sites all battling for the same customers. This also offers MR PORTER the potential of a fresh wave of ideas and a newness that isn’t just another collaboration. It also looks as though it is supporting the fashion industry and diversity.
Another brand desperate for cool is Tiffany & Co. A much-rumoured high profile collaboration between Supreme and Tiffany & Co. is set to drop this week.
Right - Would you return this to Tiffany? Tiffany & Co.s collab with Supreme
The VF and LVMH owned businesses’ collection called ‘Return To Tiffany’ is inspired by pieces originally launched in the 1960s and comprised of pendants, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, and keyrings. Tiffany’s new CEO, Alexandre Arnault, was also the head of Rimowa when they did a collaboration with Supreme.
Fashion consumers have reached collaboration fatigue and this is why the big brands are spinning these as ‘hacks’ or ‘swaps’. It is also why they are upping the ante by partnering with brands of equal stature. Collaborations needed to get bigger to have any impact. Collaborations before were always a David and Goliath type relationship of big brand supporting little. There was no threat there and everybody knew who was the bigger and more important of the two. Where will the brands go from here?
These do look like a desperate grappling for new ideas and attention. Brands not coming up with fresh ideas and therefore not impressing the retailers is making them look elsewhere to nurture a new crop of ideas and designers, especially outside of the main fashion capitals. Considering fashion had something of a pandemic break, for the last 18 months, the latest round of shows in September didn’t feel like a group of creatives burgeoning with fresh ideas. It felt like an industry fully burnt out and these partnerships do nothing to argue against that.
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Bottega Veneta’s Daniel Lee is it killing atm. Move over Givenchy, as his new interpretation of the famous weaved intrecciato gets the fashion folk in a tizzy. Those new clutches turned messenger bags look fresh as, FYI. These classic lace-ups are getting in on the squidgy, cuddly and cushioned trend while referencing the brand and let those in the know - Fashion Wankers - that you know exactly what you are doing.
Left & Below - Bottega Veneta - Derby Shoes In Nappa Dream - £845
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If you hadn’t already heard it’s time to start buying back into Bottega Veneta. The Italian luxury goods brand known for more weave than Beyoncé, they call it ‘Intrecciato’, has a new Brit designer at the helm, Daniel Lee.
The replacement for Tomas Maier, Lee, 32, was previously director of ready-to-wear at Céline, but a relative unknown. He is a graduate of Central Saint Martins and has worked at Maison Marginal, Balenciaga and Donna Karan, before joining Céline in 2012.
His first full show of AW19 luxe-grunge caused a frisson when it was shown in February, but the pre-fall collection is available now.
Leather trousers are something that have been bubbling up for a few seasons. They fit into that naff, retro aesthetic pioneered by Balenciaga. These are subtly Bottega with the woven knees and will tell everybody you’re in the know with the hottest label right now. Wear with biker boots and oversized anything.
Left & Below - Bottega Veneta - Trousers In Lamb Satiné - £3825