What makes collaborations fascinating is the bringing together of like-minded sensibilities and philosophies to produce something new and unexpected. Two partners bounce off ideas, brainstorm, hash over and ultimately create. As consumers, we reap the rewards of their labor, and as simple observers, we appreciate the magic of alchemy, whereby the truth of the old maxim -- that two heads are better than one -- is borne out time and again. 2014 was a banner year for joint ventures, covering fashion, sneakers and beyond. Let's review.
Two icons come together in the form of an elaborate dollhouse-slash-funhouse. The Simpsons, created by Matt Groening in the late '80s, are immortalized in plastic via LEGO, further cementing the animated family's place in pop culture lore. The clan's Springfield home is made up of 2,523 pieces and comes complete with six mini-figurines: Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, as well as neighbor Ned Flanders. Hail, hail, the gang's all here, and your toy chest will never be the same.
If the rumors are indeed true, and Kanye West eventually quits the music business to concentrate on fashion full-time, Yeezy obsessives will identify his Fall/Winter 2014 collection with A.P.C. as a decisive turning point. The multi-talented rapper and producer spent 2013 declaiming his worth as a sartorial creative, and the following year he made good on the promise, joining forces with A.P.C. founder Jean Touitou to release a 14-piece collection that shed light on Mr. West's vision for menswear. Detractors were left mute while fans scrambled for their wallets.
Leave it to the crew at PIGALLE -- the small yet highly respected Parisian retailer -- to take the Nike Air Force 1 back to its basketball roots. Founder Stéphane Ashpool, who describes PIGALLE as a "movement," rather than a shop or apparel brand, was once a professional basketball player, one who was intimately familiar with the game's ability to bring together people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs. That concept was the driving force behind the PIGALLE x Nike "PPP" collection (short for Pain O ChoKolat, PIGALLE Paris and Pompon), which featured apparel and accessories, as well as wax-coated AF1s that would wear in over time, much like a game-worn basketball. Naturally, a double-branded basketball completed the set.
Riccardo Tisci, the perpetually in-demand designer, is probably best known for reinventing the legendary French fashion house Givenchy when he stepped in as creative director in 2005. But this past year Tisci revealed himself to be a sneakerhead of the highest order with his Nike collaboration, one that spanned three different color themes centering around reworked and reimagined versions of the iconic Air Force 1. The project underscored the sneaker's ability to transcend "any one particular sport, any one particular scene, any one particular style."
It was a familiar trope: high-end designer creates an exclusive, limited collection for an affordable retail chain, but Alexander Wang x H&M came with an unexpected level of hype -- starting with the announcement at Coachella, of all places -- and ending with the goods predictably selling out almost instantly. The collection also bolstered the increasingly heavy hand of sportswear in contemporary fashion, in which cotton and denim takes a backseat to neoprene and mesh.
Paying homage to the American artist Mark Rothko, a pioneer in the Color Field painting movement, the BWGH x PUMA 6698 "Bluefield" carried a beautiful design that lived up to its lofty inspiration. The rich tonal blues on the retro runner were executed with unique material applications -- including chenille, something of a signature touch -- identifying the Parisian label BWGH (Brooklyn We Go Hard) as a force to be reckoned with. Look for founder David Obadia keep the momentum going in 2015.
How is that J.Crew has emerged head and shoulders above its mall-based brethren? Look to collaborations with the likes of New Balance on the always popular 998 silhouette. An on-trend all-red colorway -- dubbed "Inferno" -- doesn't hurt either, and a limited release that sees the model sell out almost immediately means that J.Crew is suddenly a source for buzz-worthy kicks. Even better, you can grab a pair of affordable 484-cut chinos to go along with your new shoes.
Nike years later, the 2014 sequel to the original Diamond Supply Co. x Nike SB joint venture was a relatively staid affair. No campouts, no daily phone calls to your local skate shop. If anything, the release was an occasion to take stock of the contemporary sneaker landscape, while also casting a nostalgic look back at a time when the release of a new Dunk SB was something you scheduled your month around.
Predictably, the anticipatory buzz began to build months before its release, eventually crescendoing to a deafening roar that would see the New York launch actually canceled. We're speaking, of course, about the Supreme x Nike Air Foamposite 1 collection, a study in hype run amok. At the eye of the storm was the Penny Hardaway signature, done up in baroque designs that inspired riots, as well as awe and ridicule in equal measure.
2014 was a big year for adidas, and the Three-Stripe brand showed off its reach with a diverse range of collaborations, none more surprising than a joint venture with the legendary outdoors label Barbour. Featuring a trio of themes -- Country, Spectator and Military -- the goods comprised both jackets and sneakers, all showcasing the storied heritage attached to both names.
Public School's Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne may have been festooned with accolades and awards throughout 2014, but their coronation as Fashion's Next Big Thing was sealed with this Air Jordan 1 collaboration. After all, what better way to mark one's official arrival than a chance to your personal spin on the shoe that started it all? Purists were happy to see the Public School guys keep it simple, featuring tonal black upper, speckled midsole and icy outsole. The rest of us were disappointed to see only 50 pairs made.
Two subcultures -- one sneakerhead, the other foodie -- collide in this tasty concoction from END. and Saucony. Inspired by the increasing prevalence of gourmet burgers, the Shadow 5000 "Burger" carries a bun-colored perforated nubuck and suede upper, packaged in a custom box reminiscent of a burger carton, and extra laces that come in sauce packets. Who doesn't love a good burger?