A handful of collaborations this past summer involving schools of fashion served as a reminder that working with student designers can be a good way to infuse fresh looks into products tied to established properties or brands:
- In August, the Girl Scouts of the USA paired with three design students from the Fashion Institute of Technology—Nidhi Bhasin, Jenny Feng, and Melissa Posner—to create a mix-and-match, customizable, 18-piece apparel line for girls in grades 6 through 12, as well as the organization’s new official uniform for older girls. (Bill Blass, Halston, and Diane von Furstenberg are among the professional designers who have collaborated with the Girl Scouts over the years.) The apparel line includes t-shirts, hoodies, joggers, leggings, cargo pants, a denim jacket, and a skater dress, each incorporating the Girl Scouts’ trefoil logo. All are sold through the Girl Scouts online shop.
- In July, Mercis and its European agent WildBrain CPLG partnered with Instituto Europeo de Design in Milan (IED-Milano) for a collection of limited-edition Miffy plush, each sporting a unique fashion ensemble, to mark the property’s 65th anniversary. The project brought in students from design schools in five countries (the U.K., Hong Kong, Italy, Mexico, and the Netherlands). Their 86 plush creations were exhibited at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, Netherlands, as part of a broader Miffy exhibit. Twenty of the designs were from 15 students at IED-Milano, which coordinated the project. The 10 best designs, as selected by a jury of designers, are being made available as a limited-edition collectible collection in late 2021.
- Also in July, Birkenstock teamed with four recent graduates of the M.A. program at Central Saint Martins in London to develop avant-garde footwear designs inspired by the company’s archives. The designers were Alex Wolfe, Saskia Lenaerts, Ding Yung Zhang, and Alecsander Rothschild. Central Saint Martins and its students and recent graduates have been involved in a number of brand collaborations over the years, from an apparel collection with Twentieth Century Fox and Swarovski centered around The Greatest Showman, to a limited-edition capsule collection of athleisurewear for Lululemon, featuring prints created by students.
Other schools around the world have participated in similar projects. IFA Paris has been part of collaborations with Bonobo and Louis Antoinette, while Savannah College of Art & Design has worked with Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James and Hilary Swank’s Mission Statement celebrity apparel labels, to name two.
In addition to giving rise to innovative new looks that lend cachet to the brand, partnerships with schools of fashion also offer a hook for advertising, promotions, and other marketing initiatives. They serve as a testing ground for potential future collaborations with the students once they become professionals. And they create a certain halo effect for a brand that is giving students a chance to learn and perhaps make a name for themselves.