The Red Bull Music Festival is synonymous with a experimental sensibility. Broadly inclusive and animated by a DIY spirit, their branding actively seeks to celebrate and promote the diversity and resiliency inherent in underground music.
Red Bull Music Festival’s approach to foregrounding the bleeding edge of cultural production isn’t limited to just music, either. Enter their collaboration with one of fashion’s most ambitious designers—Spencer Badu.
A devoted student of Bauhaus (the architectural school, not the band), Badu’s design philosophy emphasizes a less-is-more elegance and subtly expressed nuance, employing a progressive and distinctly modern approach to fashion. Badu’s collections are unisex; he operates on a gender-fluid continuum, organically harmonizing masculine and feminine elements into one genderless line.
As such, the collaboration between Badu and Red Bull Music Festival was, in many senses, natural. Both defined themselves and their brands as inclusive, rejecting social status, and hierarchy within their branding frameworks. The two ultimately opted to collaborate on a capsule collection to be sold through a pop-up, with Spencer given total creative freedom in his designs.
Spencer decided that the best way to express this ethos of inclusivity would be to offer customer garments through on-the-spot screen-printing, but he wasn’t exactly sure as to how to approach it. In need of a graphical solution that harmonized his conceptual and practical goals, he engaged Practice Practice for design work.
We were challenged to create a design solution that would move the cultural conversation forward and express each stakeholders’ vision, but we were faced with both time and resource restraints.
First, we spoke to Spencer, delving into where he was coming from and what he wanted to portray, conceptually. It was critical that the product of this collaboration be something that seamlessly integrated itself within Spencer’s branding, but was differentiated enough to be recognizable as a creative partnership.
Additionally, we wanted to deeply understand what Red Bull Music Festival sought to accomplish with this collaboration, and what their parameters were. What we discovered was that Red Bull Music Festival was committed to experimentation. They were decidedly open-minded in every consideration, both creative and practical. For the Red Bull Music Festival, their only imperative was creating an event—and by extension, products— that would position them as a brand that supported broad, progressive, and inclusive cultural and artistic movements.
Our design rested upon phrases that we uncovered in our dialogue with Spencer, sayings that neatly summarized the core values of his approach to fashion.
We created various typographic iterations of these phrases for Spencer so as to provide him with multiple versions to present to customers at the pop up event.
Using a varsity style typographic execution, we contrasted a typeface typically associated with masculinity with the phrase “post-gender.”
1.4 Back graphic
The grid that featured on the back of each garment was an explicit reference to the unfinished, work-in-progress nature of each product, and one which provided customers with a space with to tell their individual stories.
After garments sold through at the festival, Spencer Badu elected for an expanded run to be sold through his website, which also sold out. Spencer later integrated the designs into several of his seasonal collections, so as to solidifying their position as a critical component of in his branding.
The collaboration was a commercial and artistic success, and the graphic-centric garments offered an accessible pathway for a new audience to discover and interact with Spencer Badu’s brand, while simultaneously symbiotically raising Red Bull Music Festival’s profile and reputation.