By Kelly Wetherille

Design collaborations are by no means a new trend—the realms of fashion, interiors, packaging and even automobiles have been capitalizing on this idea for years. And why not? It has been demonstrated time and again that consumers flock to limited-edition products only available in certain stores or in small quantities. The seemingly endless lines of shoppers waiting outside H&M every time a new designer collection is unveiled is proof that there is at least some truth to this theory. Particularly in Japan, where consumers value uniqueness as much as the status afforded by owning a product designed by a big-name artist, design collaborations are extremely successful. Take a stroll around Harajuku or Omotesando and you will more than likely see any number of these partnerships advertised in shop windows of everything from athletic apparel stores to high-end designer boutiques. But often the most interesting collaboration designs are found not at the major high street retailers, but in less expected shops.

¥2,500 at graniph stores and

Design t-shirt store graniph is known for its printed tees, often designed by prominent and influential artists from around the world. Its latest collaboration series showcases designs by famed Swiss typographer and graphic designer Emil Ruder. To celebrate the project, graniph is displaying a selection of the late artist’s work at its newly opened Harajuku flagship store.

A subsidiary of Japanese athletic footwear brand Asics, Onitsuka Tiger is known the world over for its stylish and street-ready sneakers. Its recent collaboration with tokidoki, the Japanese-inspired lifestyle brand created by Italian artist Simone Legno, is already proving to be popular both at home and abroad. The unisex version, released in Japan in January, is almost completely sold out worldwide, and so far it’s looking like the women’s style won’t disappoint either. ¥15,750 at Onitsuka Tiger stores.


Never one to fall behind the pack, Japanese discount retailer Uniqlo has responded to the design collaboration trend with a range of styles designed by or for various artists, companies, brands, and even cartoon characters. The latest crop of t-shirt designs includes retro-looking corporate logos and slogans of companies from Hershey to Volkswagen; a character series that includes Looney Tunes and Batman; and a line of prints by Japanese animation Tatsunoko Pro. ¥1,500 at UT stores and


The latest addition to Tower Records’ ‘NO MUSIC, NO LIFE’ series is a t-shirt designed in collaboration with Oscar-winning composer and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto. The back of the tee features Sakamoto’s signature along with the phrase ‘Love & Trees,’ a fitting slogan for the founder of two environmental NGOs. ¥3,990 at Tower Records stores and

Fair trade and ecological fashion brand People Tree is no stranger to collaborations with big-name designers. Past collections have included designs by Thakoon and Sam Ubhi, and this season sees styles by Richard Nicoll, Bora Aksu, Tsumori Chisato, and Mihara Yasuhiro, as well as a series of three t-shirts by local artist Nao Oyama. Bora Aksu tank top, ¥5,900 at People Tree shops and