Japanese Artisan x Brand Collaborations
The Luxury Brands Inspired by Traditional Arts and Modern Artists
Photo credit: Arita Porcelain Lab
Collaborations between brands are becoming more commonplace, and some of the most exciting brands are looking to traditional artisans to invigorate their latest collections. Japan’s creative scene is thriving, with both modern artists and traditional artisans who have dedicated their lives to mastering the ancient crafts that have been passed down through generations.
Here are some of our favourite collaborations between international brands and Japanese artisans from the past few years.
Photo credit: Louis Vuitton
Yayoi Kusama's 2023 collaboration with Louis Vuitton includes clothes and accessories, featuring the 93-year-old's signature colourful polka dots. The collection is a follow-up to the iconic duo's first sell-out collection together in 2012. The latest collaboration has seen LV stores across the world turn into full-scale Yayoi Kusama art installations. Polka-dots appeared on the outside of London's Harrods, a giant sculpture of the artist was added to the outside of the Champs Elysées store and various installations popped up across Tokyo, including a 3D billboard ad in Shibuya promoting the collab.
Photo credit: Studio Yayoi Kusama
Louis Vuitton isn't the only brand Yayoi Kusama has collaborated with. Her limited edition design for Veuve Clicquot’s La Grande Dame 2012 went on sale for EUR 30,000. She also partnered with Lancôme in 2011 on limited edition Juicy Tubes designs.
Photo credit: Hublot
Takashi Murakami's distinctive smiling rainbow flowers now feature on 13 Hublot timepieces and 324 NFTs. The highlights of the collection, launched at the 2022 Watches and Wonders trade show in Geneva, is the All Black, set with diamonds and the Sapphire Rainbow with 487 colored stones.
Photo credit: Buaisou
Buaisou is a small company in Kamiita, Tokushima that has made a big impact on the fashion world. It cultivates and ferments indigo, a plant native to the prefecture, before dyeing, designing and producing clothing and artwork. Buaisou has put this small town on the map with its high-profile collaborations. Kanye West visited in 2019, and Rihanna and her team at Fenty visited in early 2020 to get inspiration for the brand’s denim line. Buaisou has also collaborated with brands including Tory Birch, Artek, Blue Bottle, Uniqlo and Aesop. In 2020, it collaborated with Nike to create indigo NIKE ISPA Drifters, a style inspired by Japanese tabi shoes. In 2022 it collaborated with Jimmy Choo on a collection of indigo bags and shoes.
Photo credit: Arita Porcelain Lab
Arita Porcelain Lab
Arita Porcelain Lab in Saga prefecture has more than 200 years of history crafting beautiful and intricate ceramics. It regularly collaborates with Japanese artists and brands, including Miwa Komatsu, Nintendo Splatoon and Oyama Kiyoeagi. But its most prestigious collaboration was with Guerlain, the French cosmetics company. In 2016, to celebrate 400 years of Aritaware, it created two stunning limited edition porcelain bottle designs for Guerlain’s Mitsouko fragrance.
Photo credit: Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney is a long-time fan of Japanese artist, Yoshimoto Nara. The pair have collaborated on a Spring/ Summer 2023 collection featuring Nara's iconic images and slogans including "Stop the bombs" and "Don't waste another day".
Photo credit: Adidas
It’s rare that a brand allows for changes to its logo, especially a brand with a logo as iconic as Adidas. But for Japanese calligrapher, Eikaku Matsumura, it made an exception. In 2019, this cool and cutting-edge calligrapher gave the logo an inky makeover for a t-shirt celebrating Tokyo for an Open Source project.
Photo credit: Hermès
French luxury fashion brand Hermès is committed to preserving traditional methods and supporting artisans, which results in some of the most time-consuming and well-made (not to mention expensive) handbags in the world. When it discovered spectacular silk marbling in its archives, it set about finding an artisan who still carried out this technique by hand, rather than relying on inkjet printing. The search took years and eventually led them to the Nose family in Kyoto, whose company, Kyoto Marble, is likely to be the last in the world painstakingly producing marbled silk in the traditional way. A collaboration between Hermès and Kyoto Marble resulted in the Limited Edition Constance Kyoto Marble and some colourful twillies and scarves.