Industry giants often make for strange bedfellows and there is nothing more fascinating than a case of unlikely collaborations. We’ve seen and heard some of the most bizarre, captivating musical collaborations rock stages and top charts, but what happens when industries collide? Digging into the chronicles of some of the most revered historic brands, as well as the latest innovative entertainment headliners, we’ve uncovered some enigmatic and astonishing partnerships. From fashion designers to automotive companies, Nazis to Bob Dylan, a clash of industries can yield intriguing results…
Coco Chanel and the Nazis
Image: Valo’s Dice
Chanel was a consummate opportunist. The Nazis were in power, and Chanel gravitated to power. It was the story of her life.
Coco Chanel is a revered icon not just within fashion, but within culture at large. From the ‘little black dress’ to Chanel No. 5, the French magnate is one of the world’s most influential power legacies. Remembered for her sophistication, poise and immaculate panache, most women dream of replicating Chanel’s high-society glamour, but behind every icon is an untold story. In his exposé Sleeping With the Enemy, Hal Vaughan details Chanel’s hidden machinations as a Nazi collaborator. Like many European countries, France suffered a turbulent history under the occupation of Hitler’s murderous policies. Chanel, however, was notoriously scathing in her discrimination against Jews and often befriended people of similar sentiments. During a time when many were fleeing France in favour of safer borders, Chanel chose to remain in her home country and instead began a tryst with a charming 44-year-old German intelligence officer named Baron Hans Guenther von Dincklage — one of the great loves of the fashion pioneer’s life. Although she was not a spy, Chanel had the connections that attracted attention from Germany’s most lethal forces – from US ministers to British royalty, Chanel had no shortage of influential acquaintances.
The most documented of Chanel’s Nazi-commissioned tidings came in August 1941 when the empiress travelled to Madrid at the request of the Germans. She was Agent F-7124, her codename was Westminster – taken from her previous rendezvous with the Duke of Westminster – and her task was to relay messages from the Nazis to the upper crust of Madrid society. In return for her surreptitious efforts Chanel was allowed to reside at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, rescue her nephew from the clutches of the Nazi prisoner-of-war camps, and hold onto an empire that would revolutionise fashion.
Bob Dylan and Victoria’s Secret
Image: Art Wallpaper
Bob Dylan reinvigorated and helped spur the 1960s American counter-culture movement into a rolling stone that would be at the bedrock of modern American cultural history. With lyrics and broken melodies that spoke to the intellectual decay of American society as a result of the infectious spread of consumerism and commercialism, Dylan became a crooning ambassador for the struggle of black people powering the Civil Rights Movement, and the millions of protestors that rallied against the injustices of the Vietnam War. His dynasty as a social and political activist cemented his legacy into the red, white and blue threads of the American nation. But what happens when the antithesis of pop becomes the face of one of the most commercial entities in entertainment?
It would seem like an extraordinary impossibility to see Bob Dylan selling bras but that’s exactly what happened in 2004 when Victoria’s Secret, lingerie’s most prized brand, invited the country counter-culturalist to cameo in their ‘Angels in Venice’ ad campaign. The most baffling aspect of this bizarre request is Dylan’s ready acceptance to appear in the commercial. The 30 second clip is an exchange of smoky stares as Dylan walks around a lavish room while half-naked women attempt to silently seduce him. A sultry modernised take on Dylan’s ‘Love Sick’ can be heard in the background, providing the mood music to a surprising clash of cultures. While Dylan’s presence in the commercial could be explained by a desire for money or exposure — it’s hard work for old-timers to get noticed — it remains a mystery as to why Victoria’s Secret asked Dylan for an appearance in the first place. Marketing is a complex niche of the entertainment industry, but the idea of Bob Dylan endorsed lingerie doesn’t quite seem to ring the bell of profiting bliss.
Google and the National Security Agency
Image: Info Wars
If a partnership could ever result in world domination then Google and the USA’s National Security Agency would be unbeatable candidates. In 2010 the unthinkable happened: Google — one of the most advanced, innovative sites to hit the web — was attacked by hackers who breached Google’s security threshold, leaving the company vulnerable to more threats. In an effort to regain confidence and investigate how the hackers launched their affront Google turned to the NSA for help in a move that left many surprised and decidedly unnerved. The business of secrecy is unsettling, especially when secrecy holders like the NSA prize themselves on their ability to snoop where they don’t belong.
Added to this complexity is Google’s stance as a keeper of private information. From email accounts to searches and communication, Google knows what all its users have been up to and nobody wants the NSA looking into their online interactions. The collaboration was also unlikely due to the fact that the NSA is a branch of US government designed to protect national interests. Should businesses like Google be allowed to turn to state protectors in times of trouble? Civil rights lobbyists and privacy activists said no and rallied to prevent further talks between Google and the NSA. In response to the hubbub Google’s spokesman Jay Nancarrow wrote:
At the time [of the hack announcement], we said we are working with the relevant US authorities, but we don’t have any comment beyond that
In 2012 the partnership was reportedly still being maintained with the American federal appeals court upholding the National Security Agency’s decision to withhold from denying or confirming its ties with Google in public documents concerning encryption and cybersecurity.
The Flintstones and Winston Cigarettes
Image: Art Skool Damage
Yeah Barney, Winton tastes good like a cigarette should!
Cigarettes have been at the centre of some of advertising’s most ruthless conflicts. Ironically the little cylinders are perhaps one of the most fascinating enigmas within the marketing world — cigarette advertising is banned, yet the nicotine parcels are still one of the most heavily demanded products on shelves. While we live in a world where it is impossible to see a cigarette ad on tv or in the papers, cigarettes were a staple in television commercial breaks in 1960s America, and Winston cigarettes was America’s best-selling brand. Cartoons were also prime time viewing during this period and sometimes certain cartoons did very surprising things.
As children many of us got a glimpse of the Stone Age through the animated, hilarious window of The Flintstones. While Fred and Barney were known for their charmingly ridiculous shenanigans, they were also famous as brand ambassadors for Winston cigarettes. Between viewings of their favourite shows, Americans would settle in to their couches with the sounds of Barney and Fred enjoying a smoke break while their wives did all the chores. Although the notion that a children’s cartoons could endorse cigarettes is uproariously controversial in our world, Winton cigarettes was one of The Flintstones most valuable financial backers and needed some witty ads in exchange for their generous funds. Winton remained partnered with The Flintstone clan until the mid 1960s when the cartoon changed tack and sought out a younger target market.
Marilyn Manson and Saint Laurent
Image: The Fader
Saint Laurent‘s Hedi Slimane has been a busy man. The French designer took over the post of creative director at the glossy fashion house in 2012 and his work has since yielded a wave of criticism and respect. Slimane’s first order of business was to tackle the branding behind (Yves) Saint Laurent – a prospect which eventually left YSL without the ‘Yves’. The decision was made shortly after Yves Saint Laurent’s death, and the move ignited a stormy reaction. Slimane’s primary objective is to ruffle Saint Laurent’s feathers by roughening up the style legacy’s trademark clean sleekness with an edgy sophistication. His endeavours have been turbulently controversial, yet smoothly successful, and his ability to surprise has been at the helm of the Saint Laurent’s current triumph.
With his bizarre over-the-top style and his dismissal of all things commercial, Marilyn Manson is the last person you’d expect to front Saint Laurent’s 2013 ad campaign, but the edgy rock star is now the face of YSL’s menswear collection. The absurd juxtaposition is uncannily shocking, but even more surprising is just how well Manson fits into YSL’s new aesthetic. The musician has been shunned for his vividly violent lyricism and his anti-’Hollywood’ stance — a reflection that can be noted in his Holy Wood album — but his disposition ties in neatly with Saint Laurent’s re-envisioning as a dark, 90s-inspired haute couture connoisseur. The black and white campaign sharpens Manson’s Goth outlook, emphasising that Saint Laurent’s bold revival is a cemented departure from what fashion observers expect. Manson appeared in the ad spread alongside notorious American actress and singer Courtney Love.
Disney and the US Army
Disney is known as the studio of childhood nostalgia with titles like Bambi, Snow White, Cinderella, Toy Story and The Lion King sitting on the shelves of animation history. The innocence and fantasy of the happily-ever-after Disney is a delightful escape from the wreckage and horror that sometimes films reality. But oftentimes the unlikeliest channels can power the most immovable structures.
World War II was a chaotic insurgence that globalised a new wake of fear, violence and death. The tremors were felt beyond the borders of Europe, and as the American public grew restless under this unshakeable demon, a campaign of propaganda was mobilised to rally hope, strength and nation-building. As people turned to their tv screens to drown out the wails of war, the US military approached Disney to spearhead a project that would steer the American people to pro-Americanism and anti-Germanism, and help develop a new generation of soldiers. While Disney cartoons generally contain humorous narratives of cute animals outsmarting their not-so-clever naughty nemeses, wartime cartoons transformed Daffy Duck into an American soldier, and Minnie Mouse into a spokesperson for the American wartime effort. One short features Daffy Duck having nightmare envisions of being a Nazi soldier in uniform only to wake up safe, sound, and happy to be American. During the war effort Disney was also commissioned by the US government and military to design training videos to instruct a younger generation of soldiers on how to survive in a killing environment. Needless to say, Disney breeding propaganda and soldiers is an unsettling discovery.
Kanye West and the Californian Senate
Image: First to Flyy
In 2009 a new law was passed that required Californians to be cleared by medical physicians 30 days prior to a cosmetic surgery procedure. The law was named the ‘Donda West Law’ in honour of Kanye West‘s late mother, Donda. The rapper’s mother suffered from a preexisting coronary artery disease, but underwent an elective plastic surgery without receiving proper medical clearance from her doctor. Despite this, her plastic surgeon went forward with operating and as a result Donda West died from post-surgery complications in 2007. Her tragic death left a mark on Knaye and his family to the extent where the eclectic hip-hop entertainer withdrew from public life after taking to the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards and interrupting Taylor Swift‘s acceptance speech.
Although Yeezy didn’t directly collaborate with the Californian Senate to encourage the new bill, his family united in an effort to ensure that Donda West’s fate would not be shared by women across California. The bill passed in the Senate in 2008 before being vetoed — along with 130 other bills that day — by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who cited the state’s ongoing budget crisis as his reason for passing on the regulation. ‘I am only signing bills that are the highest priority to California, he said at the time. ‘This bill does not meet that standard and I cannot sign it at this time’. Fortunately, in 2009 the Donda West Law was finally passed.
Hyndai and Hermès
What better way to swank up your style than getting Hermès to design your threads. While Hyndai has never been famed for its interior décor, the motor team has sought the help of Parisian luxury fashion brand Hermès to dress up their vehicles. The two industrial giants pulled together to create a limited edition of Hyndai’s Equus model. Hyndai tapped into their expertise to ensure the car’s engineering was up to scratch, while Hermès used their fashion knowledge to re-create the walls and furniture inside the Equus. Using their knowledge of fashion materials and styles, Hermès borrowed fabrics reserved for hand bags and jackets to dress some sophistication into the Hyndai vehicle. Premium leather and crocodile skin add a chocolatey rich texture to the car, and Hermès shows no shortage of craftsmanship in their design of the vehicle. Meshing the opulent design aesthetic of Hermès with Hyndai’s casual, laidback approach seems like a strange partnership considering how different the two brands are. The unusual collaboration is not the first time automotive companies have teamed up with fashion icons to invigorate their cars. In 2012 Gucci styled the Fiat 500 — another clash of worlds. Yet, Gucci’s partnership with the vehicle company can be explained by the fact that both brands carry Italian lineage. Hyndai and Hermès are, however, one of the most surprising entities to become a duo.
Images: Fatlace, First to Flyy, Vogue, Art Wallpapers,Art Skool Damage, Humor Chic, Opeusa, Valo’s Dice, The Fader, Info Wars