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Quirky collaborations mix fun with fashion : Unexpected brand mash-ups prove to be popular designs

Aug 09,2017
A model, clad in a T-shirt that looks like apparel worn by employees of DHL, a German delivery service provider, designed by Vetements. The shirts cost 10 times more than the original uniforms. [VETEMENTS INSTAGRAM]
Fila released a special lineup of shoes and slippers in the pastel green color of Melona, a popular melon flavor ice cream made by Binggrae. [FILA]
8seconds released on July 17 its collaboration with Saewookkang, Korea’s famous shrimp crackers. [8SECONDS]
Raf Simons, a Belgian fashion designer, posted a picture of its upcoming collaboration with Adidas. The sneakers are decorated with yellow handkerchiefs that read Sangju gotgam, or Sangju dried persimmons, in Korean. [RAF SIMONS INSTAGRAM]
E-Land Group’s SPAO created a replica of the pajamas worn by Shin-chan from the popular Japanese animated TV series. [E-LAND GROUP]
Collaboration between brands isn’t a new thing in the fashion industry. The latest design partnerships popping up on fashion blogs and in magazine editorials, however, are not the usual mix and match between two fashion brands, but rather a quirky mash-up of a fashion company with a distinctly non-fashion brand. From a set of pajamas that look identical to those worn by a famous cartoon character to patterns made out of famous snacks and shoes decorated with handkerchiefs, designers are exploring a new side of fashion that is sweeter than ever.

Special delivery

You may think that you would be able to spot a delivery man from afar, with their bright yellow uniforms and hats, carrying precious parcels in their hands. But the next person you run into wearing the signature DHL uniform may not a be the courier you have been waiting for.

When Vetements, a French street brand launched in the fall of 2014, first released their DHL-themed apparel at a fashion show in 2015, the yellow T-shirts became the hit of the following spring. The shirts weren’t that much different from the brand’s usual collection of over-sized shirts and hipster ball caps, and people were confused at first whether this design was just a joke or serious work.

The shirts looked almost identical to what the employees at the package delivery service wear, with their signature red DHL mark printed across the chest. Yet, when the shirt first went on sale for around $241 in January 2016 at major retailers, they all sold out within a week.

Some even resorted to buying the actual shirts from DHL, which only cost $6.50, instead of Vetements’ replicas.

On July 11, Vetements posted photos alluding to an official partnership with DHL, with a newly designed DHL collection coming in time for their 2018 spring/summer collection. Regardless of the confusion created by the collaboration, the fashion industry is intrigued by the French brand’s creative approach, and they are awaiting their next move.

Food and fashion

Food is a staple of Korean culture, and recently, it’s making its way onto clothing. While it’s not uncommon for clothes to feature cute characters such as the characters from Kakao Friends, Line Friends or famous characters from cartoons like The Simpsons, the latest images adorning Korean apparel have been popular Korean snacks.

On July 17, apparel brand 8secconds began selling items decorated with images of Saewookkang, food maker Nongshim’s famous shrimp crackers that have been available since 1971. Shirts, bags, socks and other accessories decorated with cute red shrimp make up the brand’s “Summer Friends” collection line that appeals to younger customers less acquainted with the 46-year-old snack.

Another food maker licensing its products to be used on clothing is Binggrae, a dairy company founded in 1967. Among its popular snacks, Binggrae has especially been active in promoting Melona, a melon-flavored ice cream. On June 24, E-Land Group’s fashion brand SPAO released a collection of 16 fashion items decorated with cute Melona graphics. In May, athletic wear company Fila launched a special shoe and slipper collection using Melona’s signature pastel green, with small Melona graphics printed on the soles of the shoes.

Nostalgic inspiration

Other brands have turned to other nostalgic elements for their collaborations.

On July 25, SPAO released a set of pajamas that look identical to those worn by Shin-chan, a young boy from the famous Japanese cartoon “Crayon Shin-chan,” and it was quickly a hit on social media. Rather than using characters from the animated series like other collaborations, SPAO’s clever adaption of the character’s clothing into real-life clothing won the hearts of adults who enjoyed the programs as children.

On the day the pajamas were released, they were sold out in less than 30 minutes, and a second round of sales on July 26 paralyzed the retailer’s website for two hours after a surge in internet traffic. Originally priced at 29,900 won ($26.53) for a set of pajamas that includes a pair of pants and a button-up shirt, it is now being sold at over 100,000 won on second-hand retail sites. SPAO is planning to hold another sale later this month.

Another item that grabbed the attention of the internet was the picture of a pair of sneakers named the Spirit, which was created in a collaboration between Adidas and fashion designer Raf Simons. The two joined forces in the past, but what was so interesting about these particular shoes was that according to the picture posted on Raf Simons’ Instagram, the sneakers were decorated with a handkerchief that included a Korean brand name on it.

The yellow tongue of the sneakers reads Sangju gotgam, meaning dried persimmons from Sangju, North Gyeongsang. Although the original image was deleted, Korean users were shocked by the modern menswear designer’s choice to use the handkerchief, when in their eyes it was just an average commercial food brand. The shoes are set to go on sale during the 2018 spring/summer season.

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]