Why Big-Name Designers Team Up With Mass-Market Brands
The celebrated Belgian designer Vincent Van Duysen is launching a modestly priced collection of furniture, lighting, and accessories with Zara Home. He’s the latest to join the spate of A-list names collaborating with fast-design retailers.
We’ve come a long way since the early ‘80s, when Halston’s ill-fated partnership with downmarket JCPenney torpedoed the late fashion designer’s career. In recent years, though, some of the industry’s most revered talents have unveiled capsule collections and collaborations with big-box, mass-consumer retailers that were once unimaginable. IKEA alone has elevated its reputation by launching special-edition product releases with the likes of designers Daniel Arsham and Sabine Marcelis, Byredo founder Ben Gorham, Solange Knowles, Swedish House Mafia, and even NASA.
The latest to get in on the action is Vincent Van Duysen, the Flemish designer known for masterfully creating meditative spaces where purity and simplicity are paramount—take his array of clean-lined furnishings for Italian mainstay Molteni & C, elegant residences from Paris to the Hamptons, and thoughtful refreshes of Antwerp hotels. Since establishing his namesake interiors studio in 1990, Van Duysen has ascended to stardom and remains one of the most respected designers of his generation. This week, he unveils a modestly priced collection of furniture, lighting, and accessories with Zara Home.
What prompted Van Duysen to join forces with a fast fashion giant under the Inditex umbrella that’s known for churning out roughly 840 million low-cost, on-trend garments every year for its 6,000 stores? While intuition might say money, Van Duysen insists that his goal is to democratize refined design for the masses. The collection also happens to share the same influencer-chic earth tones and curvy silhouettes that tend to garner likes on Instagram, but Van Duysen was pioneering this specific brand of elegance decades before the double tap. “I’ve spent 35 years building up my name, my career, my aesthetics, and my DNA, and I’m here to inspire, so that anybody in the world can buy beautifully crafted furniture at a decent price from me,” Van Duysen tells AD Pro. “I want my pieces to be in everyone’s home, no matter who they are and no matter at what scale.”
The inaugural collection of Zara Home + by Vincent Van Duysen, which launches on June 30, translates key elements of his DNA—refined materials, rational shapes, tactile finishes—into a series of living room staples. Encompassing armchairs, love seats, sofas, side tables, consoles, dining chairs, table lamps, and accessories, the collection reflects the serene universe that Van Duysen has created within his interiors. It’s also at a far more accessible price point than his work for Flos, Kettal, and Molteni & C, which can inflate into the five-figure mark for a single piece. The collection is still on the pricey side for Zara Home—the curvy boucle sofas still run a cool $6,999, but prices of $649 for stools and $359 for lamps feel far more palatable for the everyday consumer. New collections will arrive twice per year, with a dining series rumored to follow in the fall.
The opportunity to expand their audience—achieved by low price points and big-budget marketing campaigns—can entice independent artists and designers to partner with major brands. Ahead of the 2021 IKEA Art Event, which invited creatives like Arsham, Marcelis, and Stefan Marx to make artworks that double as household objects, Arsham reflected on how the brand’s vast pool of resources let him bring his Moving Clock to market at a more reasonable price. “I could never achieve making an object like this at such a low price point, but IKEA has the infrastructure to be able to do that, and to make this work accessible to a huge audience,” he tells Design Pataki. “For a lot of younger audiences, to be able to engage with the work in this way really wouldn’t otherwise be possible without this kind of collaboration.”
Mainstream crossovers aren’t exclusive to the furniture industry, either. Fashion has been blazing this trail for years, with recent high-profile placements such as Target’s Designer Dress Collection bringing rising fashion designers into the mass-market fold. The program launched with the female-founded brands LoveShackFancy, Cushnie, and Lisa Marie Fernandez, but garnered headlines with the addition of up-and-coming star Christopher John Rogers this past year. The CFDA Award winner and LVMH Prize semi-finalist debuted a series of limited-edition puffed-sleeve dresses in his signature exuberant colors and at accessible price points, which finally gave his close friends and family the opportunity to “participate in the brand in a bigger way,” he told Vogue. “For me, that means everything.”