Hubert Burda Media

The Trend of Artist-Brand Collaborations

Think of artist commissions by luxury retailers and corporations and one or two collaborative efforts may spring to mind. 

Takashi Murakami x Louis Vuitton

Initially unexpected, yet in hindsight so apt, the relationship between Takashi Murakami and Louis Vuitton from 2003 until 2015 saw the Japanese artist’s playful and bright Monogram Multicolore collection bring freshness to the familiar old brown and beige. It was all thanks to a redesign idea tabled by then-designer Marc Jacobs. Murakami teamed up with the fashion house once more for Art Basel 2009, with a small collection of hand-woven rugs. While working with Louis Vuitton, the artist also took time to enlist a Tokyo-based creative studio to produce quirky QR codes that used core elements of both his and the fashion brand’s aesthetics.

Louis Vuitton’s work with artists extends as far back as 2001, when Stephen Sprouse sprayed his punk fonts across the house wares, and more recently includes the grand dame of Japanese contemporary art – Yayoi Kusama. The painter’s signature polka dots appeared on everything from wallets to bikinis back in 2012. 

Zaha Hadid x Chanel

In 2008, a travelling art space designed by Zaha Hadid Architects landed in Hong Kong. The Chanel Contemporary Art Container pavilion, commissioned by the design house’s head designer, Karl Lagerfeld, hosted Mobile Art, a 20-artist exhibition of works inspired by Chanel bags. The curvaceous white shell, with black lines that defined the pavilion’s rectangular modular segments, was inspired by one of Chanel’s signature creations: the quilted bag. The mobile exhibition then moved on to Tokyo, New York and Paris.  

Mirf x Marc Jacobs 

New York-based graffiti duo Mint and Serf (known together as Mirf) produced a Halloween-themed series of window displays for Marc Jacobs’ Bleecker Street boutique in the Big Apple in October 2009. Each window was tagged with the Mirf logo – a lime green dripping, almost incomprehensible signature. Halloween was suggested by the arrangement of myriad skulls clustered against the display window of the shop. Mirf tagging motifs have also appeared on Hermès bags.

Tracey Emin x Banjo & Matilda  

A massive year for artist and designer-label collaborations, 2011 saw Australian contemporary luxury cashmere-clothing label Banjo & Matilda launch three tops, each inspired by one of Emin’s works. A portion of the sales revenue was donated to the Terrence Higgins Trust to raise awareness around HIV and Aids. The designs of these black-and-white cashmere jumpers referenced Emin’s previous works. An Eiffel Tower sketch and a light bulb drew from other conceptual pieces by the artist. 

Matt Groening x Comme des Garçons 

In the same year, edgy fashion house Comme des Garçons teamed up with The Simpsons creator Matt Groening to design a casual collection inspired by the cartoonist’s Life in Hell comic strip, which started in 1977 and was based on a depressed, disenchanted rabbit called Binky.

Kongo x Hermès 

Also in 2011, French-Vietnamese street artist Kongo teamed up with Hermès to produce a range of silk scarves based around his signature style, with blasts of colourful forms that often reflect urban surroundings, sometimes incorporating chaotic typography taken from street signs. 

Damien Hirst x Levi’s

In 2012, big-name Brit artist Damien Hirst teamed up with jeans and casual-wear brand Levi’s for the release of a new denim collection. Visually explosive splash, skull and mosaic motifs in multicoloured splatter patterns covered fabrics. The most exclusive – Spin Jeans, comprising just eight pairs worldwide – had a suggested retail price of US$27,000. 

Charming Baker x Paul Smith 

Charming Baker, a UK artist who works in two- and three-dimensional art that is usually figurative and sometimes disconcerting, teamed up with British designer Sir Paul Smith for a sculpture titled Triumph in the Face of Absurdity. Upon close investigation it depicted a mouse holding up an enormous bicycle on its shoulders. 

Rob Pruitt x Jimmy Choo

American contemporary pop artist Rob Pruitt collaborated with Jimmy Choo on a collection for the spring/summer 2013 season. Shoes, handbags and small leather accessories all referenced Pruitt’s mostly vibrant animal motifs.

Jeff Koons x Dom Pérignon

American contemporary artist Jeff Koons is a prolific collaborationist. In a renowned 2013 work with champagne house Dom Pérignon, a limited-edition Rosé Vintage 2003 was presented in a package adapted from Koons’ monumental sculpture Balloon Venus. The pink, reflective, polyurethane Balloon Venus for Dom Pérignon was released at a purchase price of about US$15,000.

Daniel Arsham x Stampd 

In 2014, celebrated US sculptor Daniel Arsham got together with Los Angeles streetwear brand Stampd for a limited-run collaboration featuring long-sleeve black or white T-shirts printed with images of classical-world busts – with box shapes protruding from their eyes. The tees debuted during Paris Fashion Week.

Seven young artists x Dior 

In 2016, Dior asked seven artists (painters Daniel Gordon and Chris Martin, and photographer Matthew Porter – all American; and multimedia artist Mat Collishaw, painter and sculptor Jason Martin, sculptor Marc Quinn and abstract painter Ian Vandeport – all British) to use the Lady Dior bag as a starting point for their own creations. Resulting designs (some are pictured right) were then gathered together for a limited-edition collection, with print detailing that ranged from the monochromatic to the metallic, and from the photographic to the surrealistic.

Ed Ruscha x Stella McCartney 

Again in 2016, Stella McCartney unveiled images for her winter ad campaign (#Stellacares), created in collaboration with American pop artist Ed Ruscha, known for his screen prints of iconic, melancholic Californian landscapes. For the Stella McCartney campaign, Ruscha made a series of photographs superimposed with phrases and words redolent of his paintings, creating an art and fashion-advertising hybrid. 

Steve McCurry x Vacheron Constantin 

US photographer Steve McCurry – perhaps best known for his 1985 “Afghan Girl” cover for National Geographic magazine – was hired by Vacheron Constantin to photograph a dozen scenic locations around the globe for the unveiling of the brand’s Overseas World Timer watch in 2016. The results (one example from China is below left) were exhibited in their own right, as well as being used as promo backdrops.

Annie Leibovitz x UBS

Last year, Swiss bank UBS sponsored a touring exhibition by legendary American photographer Annie Leibovitz. The show, entitled Woman, was launched in London and later travelled to Kennedy
Town in Hong Kong. It featured a series of portraits, the exhibition aimed to explore women’s numerous  and varied roles – and it  included striking portraits of actress Meryl Streep, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and primatologist Jane Goodall.