Q&A with the wizards of COS

Karin Gustafsson and Martin Andersson, who head up men’s and women’s design at COS, tell Artworks why art, especially London’s Serpentine Gallery, is such a great influence on them.

3 min read

How can the arts enrich COS in more way than publicity and design?

Martin: We see art as a platform to enrich and inspire the whole Cos “world” from designers to customers. The design team always look to the arts for inspiration across all elements of the brand. The formulation and creation of collections are often inspired each season by several artists working across different media. For example, the autumn-winter 2013 collection took inspiration from works by contemporary artist Lucy Orta and instillations by Daniel Turner. Also, in-store design and furniture is inspired by Scandinavian design aesthetics, and our windows are often used to showcase relevant artists’, designers’ or students’ works.  

What is it you love about the arts and London’s Serpentine Gallery in particular?

Karin: Art and design have always inspired our collections from season to season with regards to shapes, silhouettes, cuts and fabrics. We also consider art and design to be the essence of our brand identity. Previous and current exhibitions, showcased at the Serpentine Gallery, have continuously influenced our creativity.

The Michelangelo Pistoletto exhibition was an example of this. Pistoletto created a new and specific installation in the form of a labyrinth where the interactive element was paired with the simplicity in material. The main material was cardboard paper that was bent into interesting shapes and formed the actual labyrinth, which was hugely inspiring. One of Martin’s all-time favourites was the Bridget Riley retrospective many years ago which was so important. 

The Serpentine Gallery particularly appealed to us as an artistic collaboration as not only is it an establishment at the forefront of creativity, but it is also a charitable trust with a strong background in arts education accessible to all members of the public. To mark this exciting project with the Serpentine Gallery, COS released a limited-edition shirt for men and women which was available exclusively at the Regent Street store in London, the Serpentine Gallery and online at cosstores.com.

Martin: By collaborating with the Serpentine Gallery we hope to continue to define ourselves as a brand that supports the development of art and design. We believe that through this partnership both the Serpentine Gallery and COS have each been exposed to a new and wider audience who are appreciative of and inspired by the arts.

Should artists be careful of businesses trying to take advantage of their work purely for publicity and commercial benefit?

Martin: We believe it is imperative that all collaborations are considered to be partnerships that support creativity. For COS it is important that partnerships are the correct fit for all parties involved. Often these partnerships originate in unexpected ways, and are instrumental for us to be able to continue to support the arts and creative projects outside the fashion sphere.

What other arts initiatives have you been involved with?

Karin: Our partnership with Frieze Art Fair and collaboration with German artist Carsten Nicolai are examples of previous partnerships associated with art and design. We have also been involved in collaborations with students where our store windows were used as a medium for them to exhibit their work. Going forward, there are many interesting partnerships on the horizon, including a collaborative project in Warsaw, celebrating a selection of Polish design talent. 

At COS it is incredibly important to us that we continue to seek new opportunities of collaborations and partnerships which support and engage with emerging artists, galleries, design schools and exhibitions.

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