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Two vintage T-shirts — one from the Fifties, the other from the Sixties — sparked the conversation that led to one of our best-known collaborations.

During our first creative ideation session, the Re/Done team’s genuine love of all things vintage Hanes was undeniable. They started by showcasing some of their favorite pieces, carefully curated from flea market finds to online auction victories.

Then, we opened our vault and, together, pored over the archives, looking through the different labels, icons and iterations of Hanes’ apparel through the years. For a brand that roots its inspiration in a deep appreciation of the past, the appeal of working with a heritage brand such as Hanes had tremendous appeal, and it was clear there was going to be a great synergy in this partnership.

Ned Munroe  Courtesy image.

Truly understanding a brand is key when considering a design collaboration. Whether it is with an artist, musician, designer or another apparel brand, we invest significant time to immerse ourselves into the brand experience of all potential partners to answer two questions: First, can we work together to find a complementary aesthetic language and design vision? And, second, how do we help one another expand into categories and channels in which we are not necessarily experts?

Our first major collaboration started in 2010 when we partnered Champion with Supreme. At the time, our brand was building credibility on the street with the Super Hood Collection, and Supreme represented one of the most well-respected street lifestyle brands around. A true win-win. Supreme pushed us to introduce bolder graphics and an updated design aesthetic that continues to elevate our brand in the growing street lifestyle market. Today we are offering meticulously designed and developed limited-edition apparel that represents the best of both brands.

The partnership was, and continues to be, absolutely “brand right” for both of us. Our most recent line hit the market last spring and continues to be successful for both Champion and Supreme.

Although collaborations are widespread, they are steadily becoming more diverse, interconnecting category experts and linking them to new communities with shared interests and beliefs. Our partnerships run the gamut from a street lifestyle brand like Supreme to one that blends Savile Row craftsmanship with a downtown New York aesthetic.

When we first met Todd Snyder many years ago, for example, he told us about his passion for the Champion brand. There was immediate creative chemistry, and we talked at length about the intersection of sportswear and activewear and how the heritage of Champion could complement his own line. We felt Champion could take his vision to new places where neither of the brands could participate alone. Together we have reimagined some of Champion’s iconic athletic styles — like pairing our hoodie design with one of Todd’s luxury cashmere blends to create a new product offering that works for both brands.

Learning as you go is also important. These past projects helped us develop a collaborative design approach that now serves as the model for all of our partnerships. Our designers know there is no room for ego — because our heritage and authenticity are core to our existence, we expect that in our partners as well. Experience has taught us to brainstorm potential partnerships without limitations. If we find a partner with good synergy that aligns with our values and brings credibility to our brand — we will move forward with ideating what a collab project could look like.

Since our first collaboration, we’ve taken great care to ensure we push the boundaries of our design aesthetic without compromising our authenticity. When the Hanes classic white T-shirt and Champion hoodie were featured in the Museum of Modern Art exhibit “Items: Is Fashion Modern?,” it signaled two well-known brands had transcended the retail world to become intrinsically woven into our cultural fabric. The rich history of the labels in the Hanesbrands portfolio, including the Champion and Hanes brands, have made them a highly sought-after partner for collaborations.

Champion has launched a wide variety of successful collab projects, such as the partnership with Harley Viera-Newton and Urban Outfitters that flew off the shelves. We’ve worked with renowned street artists like Phade to create exclusive products with Foot Locker Inc., and also launched international collaborations with Wood Wood, BEAMS and other partners, which are introducing us to exciting new markets across the world. And Hanes x Re/Done recently took the iconic white T-shirt to new heights with a new fabric and modern fit that showcases our rich heritage at a much higher price point. These are just a few examples of how we expand and redefine our portfolio.

Archetypal brands innovate, and design collaborations can be the spark that lights the flame. We are constantly challenging ourselves to embrace and stay true to our heritage, but also stay relevant for today’s consumers. Collaborating with other brands that share our passion for out-of-the-box creation and uncompromising authenticity is helping us do just that.

Ned Munroe is chief global design officer at Hanesbrands.

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