Coed Design Duos Are Proliferating in Fashion
By Miles Socha
Are two heads better than one? And mixed company even better? That seems to be the case as coed design duos proliferate across women’s fashion, with Miuccia Prada recently inviting Raf Simons to become her co-creative director; Kim Jones headed to Fendi to work beside Silvia Venturini Fendi, and Joseph and Faith Connexion leveraging the power of two in their recent creative hires.
Academics say they encourage all kinds of collaboration, and noted that coed duos have a unique dynamic.
“If you are a woman designing women’s wear, you have a much clearer understanding of other women’s lived experiences and therefore the ability to use that information to inform your design decisions, likewise with men designing men’s wear,” said Prof Andrew Groves, professor of fashion design at the University of Westminster in London.
Groves noted that doesn’t necessitate a “dialogue between practicality and fantasy, but it allows for that tension within design to be explored.”
“The best work happens when people are challenged, and they have to justify their opinion. This is incredibly helpful within a design partnership when this critical reflection can occur in a supportive atmosphere. This testing of a design proposition before its emergence into the marketplace and being out in front of buyers, merchandisers and consumers enable for a more pragmatic and ultimately successful outcome,” he continued. “With solo designers, there is a risk of being unaware of their own inherent biases and therefore less likely to see the possibility of other ideas that are outside of their own experience.”
Groves confessed to being “obsessed” with Prada and Simons working together, and spied more of an artistic clash than a gender-based one.
“Raf has an exceptional understanding of how men’s wear and uniforms have historically used insignia, symbols, and semantics to enforce their hegemonic power,” he explained via e-mail. “While we don’t know precisely how the design process worked, I think it is significant that Prada’s iconic women’s wear ugly prints from 1996 served as a foundation on which additional graphic interventions were imposed. In this respect, it reminds me of the collaborative works between [Andy] Warhol and [Jean-Michel] Basquiat, and the tensions that their working process ultimately exposed.”