Collaborative Creativity: Why the Fashion World is Working Together

Collaborative Creativity: Why the Fashion World is Working Together

Historically the fashion industry has exuded exclusivity and even secrecy that only the wealthy, upper class and celebrities were privy to. Luxury fashion houses such as Chanel kept their highly sought-after designs under lock and key. Yet, fashion has now begun to capitalise on collaboration and accessibility instead, particularly in an age of social media. At times, emerging brands must collaborate merely to succeed, at others the aim of collaboration is to build on brand identity and expand their target audiences.

Collaboration comes in numerous forms, whether matching designers with other designers, social influencers, or other creative types such as photographers and artists. There’s numerous reasons for collaboration too, from a way to push your brand beyond your own imagination or change its stereotype, to reaching a wider target audience. At times it is necessary for an emerging designer to collaborate to progress or survive. They may need to share costs and use of facilities, fill gaps in their skills and use the foundations of a larger brand to push their ideas through and gain exposure. The way creatives work, their outcomes and how they gain exposure have changed, particularly with the rise of social media.

Social media has opened the fashion industry up and made it more accessible than ever before. Designers want to collaborate with seemingly more ‘everyday’ people who have large followings on platforms such as Instagram. They are more accessible and relatable to the consumer than the typical Hollywood celebrity. Site makes it easier to buy via social platforms by sending an email of outfit credits to their 1.1 million subscribers gathered from photos they have ‘liked’ on Instagram. They already work with 4000 retailers and 200,000 brands across 130 countries. Brands are now able to reach new consumers and bridge the gap between brand and consumer online. This is true of large brands, (take Levis’ ‘Live in Levis’ project as an example), as well as upcoming designers.

Spell Designs, initially a small design team from Byron Bay, have had their items worn by the likes of Taylor Swift and Sienna Miller yet they still continue to partner with local Instagrammers such as Billie Edwards, who currently has 81,000 followers. The brand remains accessible by using muses and models who their customers find it easier to connect and associate with. Billie also works with brands such as Tigerlily and Auguste, both as a model and ambassador. Most recently she attended Bluesfest, where her adventure could be followed on the Instagrams of Tigerlily, Spell, and Auguste. This is demonstrative of the interactive methods brands now implement as a collaborative tool to engage with their audience. Fashion has started to idealise being ‘yourself’ and has moved away from celebrity endorsement. Many consumers respond positively to brands championing everyday individuals as muses and beauty icons so brands need to get on board with these sort of collaborations to stay current and reach the right audiences.

Business ideas, such as Sydney-based Collabosaurus, have also sprung up around collaboration. Collabosaurus creates strategic brand alliances to share costs and help brands reach a wider or different audience. Collaborations can also change the consumer’s view of a brand and cross fashion with other art forms such as the New York City Ballet’s pairing of three choreographers with three designers, which added the fashion set to their audience. Aussie-based fashion and lifestyle brand Mambo, formed in 1984 and focused on surf and skate culture, recently partnered with emerging designer Emma Mulholland. In choosing Mulholland rather than a larger brand, it brought a new edge to their work and allowed them to tap into a new pool of consumers. Mulholland benefited hugely from the exposure to a larger market but was still able to keep financial and creative control. For young brands who wish to stay independent, collaboration is a beneficial alternative to committing to the requests of investors.

It can be necessary for emerging designers and young labels to collaborate simply to survive. In this age of entrepreneurialism, young designers may be less likely to work their way up a brand before branching out on their own. Some are self-taught but determined and therefore need help in the form of collaboration whether it be with other young designers or from larger companies that are already established. Laura Apsit Livens, a London-based headwear designer, has her own label but also collaborates with other design houses to build her brand awareness and exposure. At a time when the internet can enable the success of a new business to outrun its creator’s knowledge and experience, the chance to fill these gaps is invaluable. Collaboration can also help lower costs, provide advice in the form of mentoring, provide contacts and shared facilities and widen the market. Brooklyn Sewn owner David Gensler, has opened his factory to other independent designers so they can use his facilities to manufacture their product in their entirety. It encourages designers to produce locally, sustainably and, of course, to collaborate.

Some collectives are a duo of designers, some are multiple designers and others incorporate creatives in other fields, such as artists and photographers. Cave Collective is duo Cat Lauigan and Alex Wolkowicz, their joint portfolio includes photography, design, styling and art direction, even jewellery. They encourage others to collaborate with them, expanding the talents their company offers in the process. In doing so collectives, as a showcase of talents, standout from alternatives that have a singular offering. This is beneficial to the creative process in terms of exposure and attracting freelance work. The new age has moved from individuality to collectivity in an attempt to encourage shared creativity and provide more chances for emerging talents that may not have the facilities or wealth to go at it alone.

Co-working spaces have become popular, both to share facilities and costs but also as a way to expand one’s ideas. Collaboration keeps the creative control in the hands of the individual, while generating inspiration from a larger range of influences. The collective view of the group, as well as all the individual mind-sets, can facilitate the evolution of a brand’s perspective and, in doing so, overcome a potentially limiting idea of what that brand represents. Even established brands, such as award-winning Norwegian designer Veronica B Vallenes hopes that, by collaborating with artists, photographers and musicians, her brand can continue to develop in ways she may not have imagined solely on her own. After all, as Einstein said, “Creativity is contagious, pass it on”.