11 of the most unexpected and successful fashion collaborations from 2021

Who ever thought a jewellery house would partner with a skateboard brand?

Tiffany & Co's Return to Tiffany collection was engraved with 'Please Return to Supreme New York' for their collaboration with Supreme. Photo: Tiffany & Co
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With fashion becoming evermore dynamic, inclusive and experimental, the bar is rising high when it comes to hitting “hype level”, in that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to truly excite a knowledgeable fashion enthusiast. Intriguing brand collaborations, however, continue to keep us on our toes, especially when the two parties seem to have little in common on the surface, but then come together to create aesthetic magic.

Fashion collaborations are also uniquely covetable – they can be worn, collected, displayed, sold or passed down to future generations, capturing a piece of wearable nostalgia from a moment in fashion history. From celebrity partnerships to designer pairings, numerous creatives put their heads together this year to come up with innovative garments and accessories. Here are some of our favourites.

Supreme x Tiffany & Co

Who would have thought that one of the world’s most classic and iconic jewellery houses would team up with fashion’s favourite skateboarding and streetwear brand? This luxury collaboration in November saw the trademark sterling silver charms from the jewellery house’s Return to Tiffany collection being upgraded and engraved with, “Please return to Supreme New York". The original collection launched in the 1960s, and has reigned throughout the years with its popular heart and oval tag earrings, and ball chain pendants. The oval tag necklace from Supreme x Tiffany & Co is strung on freshwater cultured pearls, juxtaposing the brands’ punk and princess elements quite … supremely.

Dior x Sacai

Halfway through 2021, Dior announced it would be joining forces with Japanese luxury brand Sacai, founded by Chitose Abe, who is a close friend of Dior’s creative director Kim Jones. The 57-piece collection, technically classified as menswear, was released in November, and stays true to Sacai’s flair for bridging the gap between formal and casualwear while giving garments a decidedly Dior stamp.

Classic tailoring, denim textiles and subtle rose motifs feature in a palette of black, blue and off-white. In line with the utilitarian undertones apparent throughout the pieces, designs are topped with patches that feature “Sacai” spelt vertically along the “I” in Dior. The brand’s popular Saddle Bag, meanwhile, is reworked in a soft, techno fabric.

Versace x Fendi

Amber Valletta and Kate Moss present creations from the Versace by Fendi collection during Milan Fashion Week in September. Reuters

It comes as no surprise that Versace x Fendi – now fondly known as Fendace – was this year’s most talked-about luxury collaboration, featuring a stunning coming-together of two of Italy’s biggest fashion houses. The creative directors of each switched roles, reimagining the other with their own distinctive flair. Versace by Fendi featured unmistakable Greek influences, while Fendi by Versace gave the storied label a grungy-yet-glamorous makeover. The partnership culminated in a revolutionary runway show in September, throwing the doors wide open for continued creativity and collaboration within the upper echelons of the fashion world.

Coach x Champion

Logo mania reigns supreme in the Champion x Coach collaboration.

Coach’s collaboration with Champion in January was one we didn’t see coming. After all, what could the heritage American leather handbags label possibly have in common with one of the most popular streetwear brands on the market, besides both brand names starting with the letter C?

An effortless embodiment of laid-back luxury unites the two brands in their “How to coach a Champion” collaboration, which features leathers, chunky knits and minimalist-chic handbags. In a brilliant visual identity manipulation, Champion’s distinctive logo covers leather bags, emulating Coach’s iconic brown logo-ed pattern with a tongue-in-cheek twist.

Pakistani-Canadian modest fashion influencer Maha Gondal was the face of the collection, reflecting the diverse and youthful demographics both brands are now targeting.

LoveShackFancy x Beach Riot

Athleisure became a wardrobe staple for many this year, a fact many brands factored into their collections and collaborations. Bohemia, fantasy and girlie-girl whimsy make up the beautiful aesthetic of New York fashion label LoveShackFancy, which teamed up with a brand on the other side of the country for a collaboration in January, and put its dreamy prints on activewear. Leggings, cropped tops, joggers and hoodies in Orange County-based Beach Riot’s athleisure silhouettes are given a feminine upgrade with vintage floral wallpaper patterns, along with peppy hibiscus and carnation prints. Ultra-high waistlines and straps of sports bras featured ruffles in fitness sets that looked almost too cute to actually work out in.

Kai x Gucci

The sold-out Gucci x Kai teddy bear collection . Photo: Gucci

No stranger to successful style collaborations, Gucci partnered with Korean singing sensation Kai this April. The South Korean singer from the popular boy band Exo became a Gucci ambassador in 2019, and this year became the first Korean artist to launch a Gucci collection. The limited-edition capsule, which landed exclusively in South-East Asia, was inspired by Kai’s favourite childhood toy – a teddy bear – and the motif features on denim, knits, T-shirts, tracksuits, trainers, hats and leather goods. If this spring 2021 collaboration slipped by you, forgive us for bringing it to light, for you’ll be hard-pressed to get your hands on any of the adorable teddy-emblazoned pieces today.

Puma x Liberty London

London department store Liberty adds a floral spin to Puma's athlesiure range. Photo: Puma x Liberty London

Sportswear brand Puma has some cool collaborations under its belt, from partnerships with Central Saint Martins fashion school to Haribo and Hello Kitty. In August, it teamed up with iconic London department store Liberty, on a collection of athleisure pieces flaunting glorious wildflowers. Keeping the floral patterns elevated and sophisticated in a palette of earthy greens punctuated with bright citrus shades, the designs are feminine yet fierce – a hallmark aesthetic of the label’s womenswear. The Puma Cruise Rider and Basket trainer designs get a floral makeover, too, while a neutral-toned leotard, patterned leggings, panelled joggers and a quilted kimono will take you straight from barre studio to brunch.

Sabyasachi x H&M

A sari from the Sabyasachi x H&M collection. Photo: H&M

South Asian fashion enthusiasts across the globe were left disappointed when this highly anticipated collaboration sold out just moments after it launched online in August. Sabyasachi Mukherjee is one of Bollywood’s most sought-after designers, and he made sure that one of the India’s most iconic silhouettes – the sari – was part of his collection for the high-street giant. Garments also included floral-patterned and lace-panelled separates evocative of past eras, but with cool, contemporary touches. H&M’s designer collaborations are known to make luxury brand names more accessible, but the speed at which this one flew off the shelves, accessibility wasn’t a big selling point.

Fendi x Skims

Kim Kardashian's Skims and Fendi capsule collection earned a million dollars within the first minute of sale. Photo: Fendi

Our inclusion of Fendi twice on this list is indicative of the label’s high-octane appetite for collaboration. Kim Kardashian’s popular shapewear brand proved to be a compelling palette for Fendi’s womenswear director Jones, who had his “aha” moment when witnessing his female team members glued to their phones anticipating a Skims launch. Putting a Fendi stamp on the shapewear doubled the hype value of the undergarments and loungewear, which launched on November 9, and reportedly earned a million dollars in sales in its first minute.

Batsheva x Laura Ashley

The collaboration channels prairie-chic vibes. Photo: Net-a-porter

Remember Laura Ashley? The uber-feminine, flower-power brand reminiscent of countryside cottages? The British heritage label has served as inspiration for New York designer Batsheva, who partnered with the brand in October in perhaps the most felicitous fashion collaboration of 2021. Playing with prints from Laura Ashley’s archive, Batsheva put forth a fanciful collection of flouncy dresses that tick several boxes – modesty, glamour, femininity and comfort, with a resplendent retro edge. This partnership targets fans of romantic, prairie-chic and cottage-core fashion, who will feel nostalgic and re-inspired upon seeing the tiered dresses and ruffled blouses from this collection, still available on Shopbop and Net-a-Porter.

Miu Miu x New Balance

The Miu Miu x New Balance shoe was revealed at Paris Fashion Week in October. Reuters

Looking ahead to spring 2022, there’s one low-key-meets-luxury footwear collaboration that’s high on our radar, though more for its surprise factor than actual aesthetic appeal. We sure did a double take when New Balance trainers were paraded down the Miu Miu runway at Paris Fashion Week in October. Sure, several high-fashion houses have adopted the humble trainer, but this will be Miu Miu’s first time fraternising with a trainer brand. Miu Miu lettering adorns the tongues of the neutral-toned designs, which feature New Balance’s distinctive “N” on each side. In an un-Miu Miu fashion, the shoes are given a somewhat deconstructed touch with raw, frayed stitching, and we’re expecting this fashion-girl-meets-football-field footwear to be high in demand among luxury connoisseurs and shoe collectors alike.

Updated: December 22, 2021, 11:39 AM
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