A few words on how small business can do collaborations
"It's very important to work together with someone" – we heard this often during the BEB detour last autumn. Successful business owners recognize the importance of uniting creative skills with other authentic professionals. And it's obvious indeed: why wouldn't it be interesting, the result of two different people working on one common project. And it might be even twice as interesting to spread that story if you are an observer. But the question really is: "what is a good way to collaborate?".
Sure, you don't want to get into some strange thing that nobody will understand and a thing that might weaken you brand. And you are in a risk of creative clash when you work together with someone, who you don't know very much. So we have collected what we've seen and what we've heard on this.
First you want to decide what are going to collaborate ON:
Create a new product
You can get together to make up a completely new product together. It's good when you want to bring your skills or aesthetics to other niches. For example, when an artisan perfumer created a smell together with a creative director of a fashion house. For an artisan it makes sense to experiment on other inspiration and to take his intuition to new places. For a fashion house it is an opportunity to create a product, which it couldn't do otherwise because there's no expertise. Important to note here is that you want both brands to bring their own aesthetics to the table. The work will only be interesting is both collaborators have distinct recognizable style/quality/characteristics. Here's where you can look at:
Make a modification of an existing product
This is the most widespread type of collaboration, and maybe one of the least difficult. One side gives a product (its quality, reputation, distribution), another side gives aesthetics or a topic (some large event for example). The result is a special version of a well-know product, that is differently colored or made from other material or has some new characteristics.
Almost every fashion house did special limited editions of their clothes together with other designers or brands. When Louis Vuitton produced a collection tagged and colored by Supreme, or when Danis saddler Dahlman created a dark modification of their classic belt for famous architect Arne Jacobsen and called it "the architect belt", or when Adidas makes limited edition sneakers with a designer brand A Kind of Guise, those are all modifications, which can be either limited (have a finite number of pieces or limited in time) or be there on a permanent basis.
Create an cultural project together: art, music, performance
When your identity takes influence from some cultural idea or cult person you can work together with an artist or musician to create some kind of experience, that would bring that idea to life once again. For example, if you are a furniture designer that is inspired by Memphis movement, work together with an artist to create an installation or show to bring Memphis feeling to life today. That will bring attention of people who also love that movement and they will associate it with your brand. Think of what is deeply present in your products. Is it era in culture, is it a philosophical idea, is it specific aesthetics, is it a part of subculture? When you figure that out you want to find some artists or just private people who would bring their energy/network/skills/coverage to the project. If your idea is good then people will want to join, media will want to cover, you will get new followers and more strong foundation in market.
Collaborate on creative material, not on the product
Think of your of products' pictures. Who makes them? Can you find an artist or special photographer to work together on a concept and realization? Maybe you know a video director who would hypothetically create a mini-film together with you. Maybe you know who would be a model for that. Maybe there is a publisher who would make a special book or magazine together with you. Look at fashion advertising campaigns - they usually work with the most distinguished artists in film, photo, styling, music and models. But be careful – if you will imply too much control over the work it will not be considered a collaboration any more. All parties have to bring something valuable to the table.