Parisian streetwear, classic poets, & innovation skills

My roommate just returned from Paris, and got me a gift from one of my favorite boutiques in the world, Colette.  Admittedly most of the clothing at Colette is out of my price range, but they have a great range of street wear, especially t-shirts, that both my roommate and I are crazy for (who cares if they’re made for men?).

She brought me back a t-shirt designed by Quatre Cent Quinze, a Parisian street wear company that, in the words of their own website, is “… inspired by arts such as music, paintings, cinema, and its graphics breathe the vibes of Hip-Hop too.”  The shirt is part of a line they designed featuring famous poets of the past, paired with hip-hop lyrics of today.  Below is the one she got for me, featuring the poet Arthur Rimbaud, along with the tag that came attached to it.

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How does this relate back to the topic of innovation? When I saw this design, I immediately thought to our Innovation class and the five discovery skills of an innovator we have been reading about in Jeff Dyer’s book The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators.  The skill I thought of in particular was “associational thinking”.  Associating is the way that innovative minds synthesize connections across seemingly unrelated fields, ideas, problems, and/or questions.  Associating involves seeing the intersection between these different areas or ideas, and being able to use knowledge of one to better understand, or even improve, another.

This t-shirt design is a cool example of associating in the context of art and design.  The designer took two very unrelated fields (19th-century French poetry, and post-millennial hop-hop) and found a connection between the two.  Knowledge of the poet and the rapper were applied to one another to highlight the similarities in their work and lifestyles.  This, in fact, became the basis of how I explained “associating” to my roommate when she asked what we were studying (though I made it clear that although it would be really great to study Colette t-shirts, it’s not really part of the curriculum).

While this isn’t necessarily an example of “innovation” in a typical sense, I thought it would be a fun way to show the association thought process in action… it helps get those innovative juices flowing.

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