Thought process

Thought process
COS x Nendo installation designed by Oki Sato, chief designer from Japanese design studio, Nendo.

Earlier this week, Kate Moss' latest line for Topshop was heralded with the usual headline-grabbing fanfare - model besties Naomi Campbell and Cara Delevingne lent high wattage glam to the London launch, while savvy shoppers sold pieces on Ebay for five times their prices, hours after they went on sale.

Celebrity collabs and high-low fashion tie-ups (how long would you stand in line for the upcoming H&M x Alexander Wang collection?) still rank high on retailers' sales and publicity strategies. But there has been a subtle shift towards tie-ups that keep a fairly low profile, with a highbrow twist.

Rather than a celeb with legions of Instagram followers and coveted luxury designers, the most sought-after collaborator of the moment is Nendo - a 12-year-old Japanese design studio that has in the past designed a lamp for Louis Vuitton's first-ever furniture collection, a window installation for Hermes, and stores for Issey Miyake, Theory and Camper.

Last month, chief designer Oki Sato unveiled Envelope Boat Shoes for Italian shoemaker Tod's that were, in the founder's own words, "Not too casual, not too formal; light, soft, relaxing, functional and with a pinch of humour and elegance."

In the same month, and during the same event - Milan's Salone del Mobile, the studio also created an installation inspired by the iconic white shirt of Swedish retailer COS.

Touted by Vogue.com as "the best-kept secret that everyone in fashion seems to know", COS has long been admired for its minimalist aesthetics and sleek wardrobe staples - traits that perhaps resonate better with a cerebral yet fun creative like Mr Sato, rather than the flamboyant style of, say, actor Sarah Jessica Parker, who designed shoes for US retailer Nordstrom earlier this year.

"The two (similarities between Nendo and COS) that stand out the most for me would be the element of 'understatedness' as well as the idea of simplicity," says Karin Gustafsson, COS' head of womenswear design.

"Nendo's work ultimately epitomises contemporary Japanese design while reconfirming modernism and tactility, these are also elements that are important concepts for the COS brand too."

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