The more I talk with designers, the more I want you to know what they’re thinking. Here’s some insight.
I recently asked nine various shades of green designers what they thought about the question:
“Does collaborating with big names like Target, Kohl’s or Wal-Mart sound enticing to you?”
Heyne Bogut: I think in order to make that work you need to have a very packaged and defined product that can be understood and categorized quickly and easily. I’m always up for a challenge and I like the idea of contributing to pop culture in any way, shape or form, but it’s tricky to water down what you do enough to make it work in those places.
Plus, there’s the quality end to consider, and the concern for what conditions it’s made under. So, basically, the idea is intriguing, but a lot depends on what these partners are like to work with. I know people who design product for Wal-Mart and the process is living hell. I’ve been approached in the past by mass producers and have found the attempted collaborations uneven and unsatisfying.
Mociun: I think collaborating with someone like Eastpac or Keds would be great. Or some company that makes things I don’t. I would love to have a printed backpack or something like that. So I guess I would be more interested in doing a collaboration with a company where I could design print one of their products. And doing something with a company like Target could be cool, just to get exposure and see what production on a really large scale would be like.
Harper Della-Piana: There would be positives connected to working with companies like that, of course. The prospect of making a large-scale impact on my company’s finances; provided the pieces I design for a company like that are made in the U.S. or by ethical workrooms would be part of the guarantee. I would not work on a project with a company like that if it didn’t have a positive impact on the workers or the environment in some way.
Alison Kelly/Dahl: Collaborating with larger corporations is at once appealing and unappealing. First, you will have to mass produce your collection in a ghastly inexpensive manner. Department stores like these aspire for quantity, not quality, which leads you to the question of whether or not you’ll want to forfeit the integrity of your designs by having to use cheaper textiles, eliminate important design elements and manufacture in China. I have a friend who just turned down an Anthropologie deal because they would not succumb to her eco-friendly standards. It becomes a question of morality.
Cmarchuska: I have mixed views about collaborating with big names like Wal-mart or Target. Ultimately, I feel there could be some great opportunities for exposure and marketing when combining efforts with a major retailer. However, it is tough as a small start-up/new designer to find favorable agreements for both parties. I think I would work with a major retailer if the terms were right.
Souchi: I understand why designers are enticed by these types of collaborations but I have no interest in this avenue of exposure. The type of collaborating that would excite me would be to work with artists I admire in all mediums. I think Marc Jacobs is fantastic with this. His collaborations with Stephen Sprouse and Murakami were great because they were new and unexpected for a house that traditionally was about the brown and camel logo. Or when Hermes hired Martin Margiela to be its house designer. For me, it would be a combo of materials – mixing yarn ideas with metal smiths or painters.
AK Vintage: Enticing? Yes. Very much so, in fact. I’m interested in building my business and doing it as green as possible. I think if big box stores like these were ever to approach me they would obviously be interested in the sustainability of my product/brand just as much as my ability as a designer, because that is part of the identity I’m creating for my lines as well as for myself. And, under these circumstances, I would absolutely be open to having that conversation.
Mothlove: I grew up in a small town, where my quaint little downtown full of mom & pop shops not only supported its community, but was supported by its community. Wal-Mart arrived in our town, and that sad story we’ve already heard started playing. A small, yet thriving community ceased to exist. Those small shops now represent the individually-owned boutiques I pursue as a designer.
I believe in the independent, the well-crafted and the local. I also believe that the designer-to-boutique, boutique-to-customer [relationship] creates community; communities with consumer awareness, communities that self sustain and support. Of course, financially the idea of big box collaboration is tempting, but I’d lose my story. And the consumer would lose its culture.
Aster And Sage: Collaborating with Target or Wal-Mart is definitely an enticing idea. I daydream about my imaginary Target collection all the time. Mmmm, yes.
Read more candid thoughts from eco designers.