A Collection of Museum Collaborations

Designer collaborations encompassing apparel, accessories, and footwear involve a variety of licensed properties, from characters and sports leagues to corporate brands and celebrities. Museums have been less frequent players, aside from a few key institutions. But more and more, museums with a range of specialties are pairing with fashion labels in a number of ways:

  • Retail exclusives: The U.K.’s Natural History Museum debuted its inaugural women’s collection with fashion retailer Oasis last year. The 34-piece capsule, under the theme Wild and Wonderful, took its inspiration from rare book illustrations by famous naturalists. Back in 2013, meanwhile, New York’s MoMA partnered with Uniqlo for a range of t-shirts and accessories under the SPRZ NY label, which was tied to the institution’s Free Fridays, sponsored by the retailer. SPRZ NY items are still available.
  • Brand collaborations: Late last summer, the V&A, a longtime player in partnerships with Oasis and others, paired with Coco de Mer for its first lingerie collection. And the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts has an ongoing partnership with Calvin Klein, which launched last summer; an iteration earlier this year included denim as well as a coordinating collection of apparel, accessories, and footwear featuring Warhol’s self-portraits.
  • Limited-edition sneakers: MoMA paired last year with designer Virgil Abloh and his Off White label for a special edition of Nike Air Force Ones, which got some play on social media and among celebrity fans. (Abloh and MoMA have collaborated on a number of products.) And last summer the Van Gogh Museum partnered with Vans for a collection of Vans Classics as well as some apparel items.
  • Exhibit-specific initiatives. In this, the most popular and longest-running facet of the trend, museums such as MOCA Los Angeles (with Levi’s and Nike Skateboarding), MoMA (again with Uniqlo), and the Brooklyn Museum (with Louis Vuitton) have created collections of apparel and accessories tied directly to an exhibit or other museum venture. Most collaborations of this type are sold primarily in the museums’ own stores, but some have broader distribution.

This list presents just a taste of the kinds of ventures that have appeared on the market over the past few years. It serves as a demonstration of how leading museums have been pairing with the world of fashion to promote their brands, collections, and exhibits, as well as illustrating how more institutions have been entering the fray over the past year or so.

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