I get by with a little help from my friends

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Possibly the best piece of advice ever given is, “You don’t need to know everything. You just need to know where to find it out”. Collaborative working is the new bread-and-butter for designers; in a climate where diversification has become necessary, designers are finding comfort and inspiration from their talented counterparts. Out-sourcing is no longer seen as a weakness, but as a means to providing the best service possible.

In any one project, London-based designers you&me bring together a handful of others – from milliners and fashion designers to architects, actors and jewellery designers, “For us it is all about collaboration,” says Alicja Borkowska of you&me. “The process, the way we work with everyone, different people with different backgrounds and ideas.”

In the spirit of collaboration, it seems appropriate to tell the story of some of you&me’s imaginative works through the eyes of their workmates. Their HAT-ITECTURE project asked designers from all over the world to respond to the synergy between hats and architecture. The company you&me asked designers to create hats inspired by their visions of the London skyline and brought them all together in a street-side exhibition.

American-based architects Austin+Mergold took part in the exhibition alongside a milliner, a textile designer, two artists, three designers and six other architectural practices; “Our Hat-itecture submission was a sustainable twist on the 19th century bowler, originated by the renowned London hat makers Thomas and William Bowler,” Jason Austin commented. “The Austin+Mergold Bowler is constructed from a series of laser-cut corrugated cardboard layers, securely assembled with water-proof glue. The corrugated cardboard layers keep the sun’s rays at bay while allowing through-ventilation. At the same time, the hat is both adaptable to the whims of fashion – it can be easily painted any colour – and recyclable. Naturally ventilated. Naturally shaded. Naturally cool.” This project took place in June until July, 2010.

“Fundamental to the work of both you&me architecture and our Philadelphia design practice, is the simple enjoyment of making things – at multiple scales, with varied design methods and processes, with collaborative energies from other disciplines, and having fun in the process,” added Aleksandr Mergold. “Sharing these similar office principles with a studio on the other side of the pond provided for seamless and productive design collaboration. And from the playful yet serious submissions of the other participating artists, it was clear to us that the whimsical rigour embedded within you&me’s design challenge had yielded provocative contributions to the design of 21st century English headwear.”

Alongside milliner Gabriela Ligenza and painter Wojciech Nowikowski, the you&me team created a six-week temporary shop in 2011 outside the Saatchi gallery selling exclusive wedding hats to celebrate the Royal Wedding called UN-VEIL.

Gabriela explains, “you&me approached me with a fantastic idea to create a pop-up shop and events space for celebrating the countdown to last year’s most talked about social event, the Royal Wedding. They found an empty shop unit in the heart of King’s Road, just outside London’s Saatchi Gallery, and convinced me to take it over. We brainstormed ideas, tried hats on, talked for hours and finally decided on the concept of the wedding veil to transform the empty dull space. We wanted to create a fairy tale space, temporary but magical within a tight budget and timescale.”

Through their many projects, you&me have demonstrated that collaboration is at its best when the participants share a common goal, methodology and passion. And when all of these factors are in synergy, the resulting product can be a thing of beauty, even if the main players are seated on opposite sides of the globe. It is not easy. It requires a deep determination and understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses. But it is an exciting opportunity to share knowledge, to learn and, moreover, to create something new.

by Gem Barton


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