What makes a creative collaboration work? From 1960s jazz (Ellington x Coltrane) to pop (Beyonce x Sheeran) to fashion (Skepta x Nike Air Max), partnerships not only keep artists fresh, but allow us to appreciate both in a new context.
Although its now the turn of homeware collaborations (witness D&G x Smeg; Fendi x Campana; House of Holland x Habitat), let us not forget that Debenhams realised it was onto something as far back as 1993, when it launched Designers at Debenhams, the stores best idea in the past 25 years. For its homewares, Abigail Aherne at Debenhams currently has on-trend quirky animal lamps and cushions and John Rocha has stunning, affordable silverware. Ranges are small, so we cant get too excited, but whod have thought of browsing Debenhams for style updates?
One homewares partnership you need to know about is the Scandi cool, contemporary collaboration Cos x Hay. Cos, owned by Swedish supergroup H&M, has carved a niche in our affections by doing something identifiably different in the style stakes (and beloved by architects and designers as “affordable Prada”). Hay is its Scandi stablemate, a Danish homewares company that shares its values and design aesthetic.
For Milan 2018, it commissioned the Californian desert artist Philip K Smith III (Cos x PKS III) to create a site-specific installation called Open Sky
Launching in 2007 with its Regent Street flagship store, Cos proves that if you can meet recession head on when youre a sapling, then, yes, you may become a mighty oak. In just over a decade Cos not only sells across the world online, but has opened 250 stores in 39 countries, of which 23 are in the UK, nine in London (and a concession in Selfridges).
Open Sky installation
I met Cos creative director, Swede Karin Gustafsson, at the Milan Design Fair this spring as Cos and Hay were both (independently) bringing something to the party. “We have always used Hay products to create lifestyle spaces within our stores,” Gustafsson explained.
“We admired their aesthetic, their values of quality, design and craftsmanship, and their synergy with Cos.” In 2015, the two companies decided to collaborate, “by offering Cos customers an edited collection of Hay objects – Hay presented through the eyes of Cos,” she says. The Hay edit at cosstores.com comprises simple, geometric products (vases, trays, pots, candleholders, cushions, throws etc) with timeless appeal and wallet-friendly prices.
Rather than sitting in the fashion camp and marketing via the catwalk, Cos prefers these design-led partnerships. For Milan 2018, it commissioned the Californian desert artist Philip K Smith III (Cos x PKS III) to create a site-specific installation called Open Sky. Why?
Gustaffson told me that it was only once the installation had been unveiled on site that the project revealed to her its unique “geometry and colour”, these two elements being the cornerstones of every collection. This is a big investment in finding inspiration (and, of course, kudos), but its also a way to support the arts. No doubt the dazzling blue of an Italian sky will be the focus of a future collection.
Cos x Hay is online at cosstores.com and in-store at 124-126 Kensington High Street, W8