Upscale x mainstream. New talent x old favorites. Mass market x niche. When different designers, brands, and worlds collide, we all reap the rewards. Here are seven of the coolest partnerships, co-designs, and special projects to know (and cop) this season. It's like Drake says: If you’ve got a really big team, you get really nice things.
Levi’s Made & Crafted x Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh
Levi’s is instantly recognizable around the world. It has a history older than the automobile, and boasts an archive of designer collaborations that reads like a who’s who of fashion’s biggest names. So, what could they possibly look for in a new creative partnership that they haven’t already found elsewhere?
For Jonathan Cheung, head of design at Levi’s, it’s simple: He wants to work with people he gets along with. People like Off-White founder/DJ/youth whisperer/Kanye West creative director Virgil Abloh. “I think that’s important in a collaboration,” Cheung says of the decision to co-create a Levi’s Made & Crafted capsule collection with Abloh. “We like each other.”
Of course, the meeting of the minds was more than just a mutual admiration society. “It was obvious that denim, Levi’s denim, meant something to Virgil,” Cheung adds. Abloh, 35, says he wore Levi’s 501 jeans throughout his childhood, and was eager to glean some firsthand experience from the team at a brand he has respected for so long. “Denim is an important component to my main line ready-to-wear,” he tells Complex. “When working with denim, there’s no better luxury than working with the best. Levi’s is just that.”
The collaboration became a reality when an intern stopped Cheung in the employee canteen at the Levi’s office to give him an oral history of Abloh’s career. Intrigued, Cheung then discovered that Abloh had already planted the early seeds of a partnership. “As it turns out,” Cheung recalls, “[he] already made contact with some people in another department, and he’d been asking to do something together.”
The seemingly predestined outcome is an 11-piece collection that includes stone-washed, red-cast indigo denim crafted into four different fits of jeans, plus a unisex bomber and staff coat, and two styles of trucker jackets. “Virgil was born in the ’80s,” explains Cheung. “His reference for denim is ’90s Levi’s—there’s nothing quite like it. So, close your eyes and imagine ’90s Levi’s, and you’re there.”
The collaboration was a labor of love as the two parties sought to finalize the collection in time for Abloh’s March Off-White show in Paris. That tight turnaround included one particularly brutal week of 19-hour prototyping days in San Francisco. Fortunately, the hard work resulted in a best-of-both-worlds scenario. “You definitely see the genes of both parents,” Cheung says. “They are Levi’s Made & Crafted with Virgil’s cheekbones.”
Scroll through Instagram, and you’ll be sure to see plenty of cool kids wearing pieces from the collection all season long—and probably well into seasons to come. Don’t be surprised if their parents cop, too. While Off-White is one of the labels-of-the-moment with the most hype, Levi’s has proven to have staying power that transcends time, age, and style’s unforgiving trend cycle. “Levi’s represents authenticity,” Abloh says. “It predates fashion.”
Available at off---white.com.
NikeLab x Kim Jones
How do you make a sweatsuit from the biggest athletic brand in the world feel new? Up the comfort factor with Nike Tech Fleece fabric, and then make the entire collection packable for some true cozy-on-the-go style.
Available at nike.com.
Raf Simons for Fred Perry
Kenzo x H&M
Open your closet door and decide which key items your current wardrobe is lacking. It isn’t likely that you’ll land on a neon green, faux-fur, tiger-print jacket. But with H&M’s newest designer collaboration, with Japanese-Parisian fashion house Kenzo, in stores this season with that coat included, you may push some pieces aside to make room.
“[The collection] is definitely a statement,” says designer Carol Lim, who (along with her business partner Humberto Leon) took over the reins as co-creative director of Kenzo in 2011. “But, when you incorporate [it] back into your own style, they’re just fun, great pieces that you actually could wear.”
H&M’s previous high-end collaborations with labels like Maison Martin Margiela and Balmain focused on bringing a top-level design POV to fast fashion. For Kenzo x H&M, however, “fun” is without a doubt the key word for the collection and its mission. Taken as a whole, the collab is a psychedelic thrill ride through the animal prints, vibrant patterns, and more-is-more sensibility of the Kenzo archives.
The label’s history stretches back nearly 50 years, to when it was founded by Kenzo Takada in 1970. Takada playfully injected exotic influences into the Parisian fashion scene at the time, building a cult following that has remained loyal to the brand to this day. That faux-fur jacket, for example? That’s not just the result of one of Lim and Leon’s creative whims; if you slide that on and hit the town, you have Takada himself to thank for any attention thrown your way.
“The faux fur comes from a collection that he did even before faux fur was really a thing,” Lim explains. “With almost every piece, the shape is from him, and the print is from us. We’ve combined them into something that feels super unique and modern.”
If fur isn’t your thing, there’s also a jumpsuit in a similar green tiger print, and, rest assured, a few low-key options like logo tees, reversible bomber jackets, and a denim puffer coat with a subtle animal-print trim. And since it’s H&M, you can easily find yourself knee-deep in accessories—like ’90s-tinged sunglasses and printed socks—if you so choose.
“You’re really happy when you see it,” H&M creative director Ann-Sofie Johansson says of the collection. “And with the times we are living in now, sometimes you need a little bit of happiness.”
Available at hm.com.
Esprit by Opening Ceremony
Adidas x White Mountaineering
Christopher Kane x Christopher Kane
Styling by Taylor Okata; Grooming by Christy Smith