The art of collaboration.

By James Parr on Aug 31, 2021

The art of collaboration

You can’t deny that across the last half century or so, lines between fashion, art, music and nearly every cultural channel have become more and more blurred. With each release of a joint record, collection of a brand or drop of a product, what we once considered specialist brands have started to venture onwards.

From adidas x Juventus x Palace kit launches to Jean-Michel Basquiat x Andy Warhol iconic joint works, MF Doom x Madlib’s ground-breaking Madvillainy record to the now infamous Supreme x Louis Vuitton collection, the most surprising collaborative efforts often yield the best results. This is especially true when both parties challenge themselves to bring something new and unexpected to the table. In a world where no idea is original, finding ways to innovate has become vital for any brand or artist that wants to stand out.

Amsterdam based streetwear brand, Patta, in mine and most eyes, lead the way when it comes to meaningful collaborations. Widely known for their prolific joint efforts with the likes of Nike, Karhu, Asics, Rockwell by Parra and as of recently Freddie Gibbs of all people, they have found a way to retain and inject their own DNA in each of these products. They strategically choose the partner, the platform and the product in which they’ll share their stand.

Co-founders Edson Sabajo and Gee Schmidt, speaking on Jeff Staples podcast ‘A Business of Hype’ detailed what makes their collaborations the holy grail to not only consumers, but to brands who want to join the famed list of Patta collaborators; a conscious decision that is made only if it benefits their label –

“…you can never expect it, when you think you’re in that position and you expect it to happen that’s a big no for us. We need to hold onto something, our independence is sacred.

…we learned from that collab (Kangaroo). It was two worlds collide, from scratch, and that for me personally was one of the most beautiful things… they believed in our vision.”

…collaborating isn’t about partnering with different brands, it’s about partnering with different people. Once you’re able to break it down and see the human element of collaborating, that’s where the magic happens.”

It’s clear that streetwear, and more recently high-end fashion brands, understand the art of collaboration. They know the ingredients needed to create meaningful projects that stand the test of time, and culture. Music is another world in which this rings true.

Kanye West, while recording his widely regarded magnum opus (and my favourite album if anyone is interested in such a detail), My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, hired a recording studio in Hawaii for an indefinite amount of time. Labelled as ‘Rap Camp’, this studio housed the biggest and best artists from rap and rock, alongside electronic producers and classical conductors – and even comedians. That confined space, where this diverse group of artists lived, worked and played together, gave birth to arguably the 21st century’s most influential musician’s most influential work.  

A celebration of contrasting and conflicting musical styles, tonalities, lyrics, genres and beliefs, it’s an album that works on every level. I wouldn’t be afraid to put money on the reason this is true is because of the environment the team allowed themselves to be in, both mentally and physically.

Now ask yourself this question – how would that record have sounded if it was produced in a Covid or post-Covid world? How would Patta develop their collaborations if they couldn’t meet a Nike sales rep monthly over three years, gaining enough trust to be provided with a sacred canvas like the Air Max 1?

It may have taken us to line 41 before mentioning the ‘C’ word, but I think it’s an important question to ask. How, by being alone together, have we adapted our communications when collaborating on a campaign or project? The art of collaboration is now seemingly closer to home. No longer a challenge for fashion brands or musicians, but for every single one of us.

Collaboration is now working with Teams, Google or Facetime from your home office to your colleague’s kitchen. Or just whatever flat surface you can find in your bedroom while speaking to a client in their living room, all while their children climb over their shoulders (true story).

Covid has taught us many things, in society and professionally. Though on a very human level, it’s taught us the value of communication and staying connected with a wider network. It’s allowed us to collaborate in ways none of us would have imagined. And, just like how in the last fifty years the lines have blurred between artistic disciplines, the lines are once again muddied by the simple fact that you no longer need to be in your place of work, or the same room as your colleagues, to create something special.

We’re more globally connected than we care to think, and we must continue to adapt, to connect, to create and develop relationships with each other while these barriers are in place. Turning to innovation and the sheer will to produce high standards of work we can be proud of.

It may be a different form of collaboration, it may not be a sneaker or a piece of art, but the red thread across each of the examples laid out above is a very human trait. Collaboration connects us all.