MILAN — Collaboration is rooted in the history of Colmar, the skiwear and sportswear specialist that was founded in Monza, a few miles north of Milan, in 1923.
Many of its key efforts to develop performance outerwear geared to the slopes have been shared with Italian ski champions over the last century, from Leo Gasperl to Zeno Colò. In recent years, and since debuting the Originals lifestyle division, Colmar has linked with a roster of fashion designers, including Shayne Oliver for its A.G.E. project, and most recently with White Mountaineering’s Yosuke Aizawa, named creative director of its newly introduced, fashion-savvy Revolution line.
To mark its centennial, the brand took a different path, though, collaborating with visual and graphic artist Joshua Vides to design a 10-piece capsule collection unveiled in Milan on Thursday.
“I’m a little bit scared of this anniversary, but it means that our family company has continued to innovate over the last 100 years. Without R&D we wouldn’t be here. I think we’ve always fueled our DNA, combining style — Italian style — and performance,” said Colmar’s chief executive officer Giulio Colombo, a third-generation member of the founding family.
Collaborations are an integral part of that innovative mindset. “They are a source of innovation and inspiration, allowing us to step up on our culture,” he said.
Vides, a Palo Alto, Calif., native who’s now based out of Los Angeles, rose to global fame after posting on social networks a pair of customized Nike Air Force 1 with his distinct black-and-white marker sketches. Known for his graphic monochromatic style of thick, black, Roy Lichtenstein-ish lines, which he has applied to products and projects, as well as to visual art through his “Reality to Idea” concept, he has worked with brands including Fendi, Nike, Converse and Google and shown his art at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
“There’s only so many brands that are still around after 100 years and trying to stay relevant… [but] there’s so many 100-year-old brands around sticking to what they know and not really allowing others to enter their space and so to have the opportunity to work with the brand that has the archives that Colmar has to me was inspiring,” the artist said.
“The moment I was able to step foot in the Colmar archive and family I discovered we share the same strengths as creatives and entrepreneurs,” he added. “Anybody that allows you into their house [you should] take your shoes off, wash your hands and do everything possible to respect the space,” he said.
“We had to do this on the spot… We were able to come together and make a sample in four hours. It was a really quick 24 hours in the [Colmar] headquarters, it was a rollercoaster of emotions for everybody… and I think when you have two like-minded creatives you can make magic,” he said, adding he didn’t have personal connections with or affection for Colmar before the tie-in.
Included in the celebratory capsule collection are double-faced puffer jackets and vests, bearing a black-on-white comic strip-like design on one side and decked in total black with a dedicated sketched logo on the back. The latter is Vides’ reinterpretation of Colmar’s 1923 logo, which features a dove gliding on water, here rendered in black and red rather than blue and red, as in Colmar’s signature pictograms.
Drawing inspiration from the archives, Vides reinterpreted a ’70s jacket, nicknamed Ceffa by ski champion Erwin Stricker, as a jacquard cashmere and wool crewneck with a sports bib pattern, or a T-shirt printed with medals in nods to Croatian skier Ivica Kostelic’s wins. Tromp l’oeil-patterned beanies, a logo scarf, as well as a sweatshirt and cotton pants complete the collection.
“It’s highlighting the brand and their heritage… what they stand for. Looking at their archives and photos, with people crossing the finish line at the Olympics, all of that needed to be celebrated… to capture those monumental moments that they had,” Vides said.
Through its skiwear division Colmar has been the outfitter of winter sports athletes internationally, most recently supplying gear to the France, Slovenia and Belgium teams.
“It’s a summary of our sport experience over 100 years,” Colombo said about the capsule.
The capsule debuts Thursday at the Antonia multibrand luxury store in Milan, as well as on its e-commerce site, in addition to Colmar’s retail touchpoints. It is priced between 79 euros for the T-shirt and beanies and 799 euros for the puffer jacket.
The anniversary capsule is flanked by making-of and campaign videos, the latter filled with tongue-in-cheek references to vintage skiing. Fronted by models of different ages and provenance, it depicts four characters dubbed “The Legend,” “The Rookie,” “The Poser,” and “The Wildcard.”