How Do Designer Collabs Work? Tabitha Simmons Explains

It may seem like everyone is doing collaborations these days (because they are), but all fashion collabs are different. Sometimes, one party is more involved in the design process than the other, or the designer doesn't have much creative freedom. Sometimes collaborators are chosen just to drum up publicity, and sometimes it's more than that.
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It may seem like everyone is doing collaborations these days (because they are), but all fashion collabs are different. Sometimes, one party is more involved in the design process than the other, or the designer doesn't have much creative freedom. Sometimes collaborators are chosen just to drum up publicity, and sometimes it's more than that.

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It may seem like everyone is doing collaborations these days (because they are), but all fashion collabs are different. Sometimes, one party is more involved in the design process than the other, or the designer doesn't have much creative freedom. Sometimes collaborators are chosen just to drum up publicity, and sometimes it's more than that.

"It" Brit shoe designer and stylist Tabitha Simmons recently embarked on an interesting collaboration with Toms, the buy-a-pair give-a-pair shoe brand, on a line of slip-ons and wedges for women and children.

We got a chance to chat with both Simmons and Toms founder Blake Mycoskie at last night's launch celebration for the collab, where they explained that this wasn't your everyday collaboration.

For one, the collaboration wasn't sought out by either party, but happened by chance. The pair said they were introduced by Footwear News editor Michael Atmore at last year's CFDA Awards, where Simmons was honored.

"Michael was like, you guys should do something together," Mycoskie told us. "I thought that would be awesome -- she makes crazy, expensive, beautiful shoes and I make really simple shoes to help kids get shoes and I thought that would be a fun way to mesh what each of us does."

Tabitha made her way to the Toms HQ in Los Angeles and the rest was history. "I fell in love with the company and we were like, 'We've got to do something,'" she said.

The design process was collaborative but also rather limiting: Simmons had to work with Toms' existing shoe silhouettes, leaving her with little to modify beyond colors and patterns. "It was our design team and her getting together and saying, 'Here are all the silhouettes that we do,' and the two that she picked were our classic and our desert wedge," Mycoskie explained.

Simmons took inspiration from her "signature stripes" (see below), which we've been pretty obsessed with for a while, she explained. She also took inspiration from her kids, as this was the first time she's ever designed children's shoes. "I would leave my kids little notes and then we made a print out of it," she said.

Though Simmons is known for her sophisticated and artful sky-high heels, she also dabbles in flats and other comfortable footwear, like espadrilles, so she said going in a casual direction for Toms was "quite easy."

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What made the collaboration special for Simmons was the giving trip she went on to Honduras, she said. "Not only did we do a collaboration, but we went and gave shoes away to thousands of kids, so that was pretty special for me." Mycoskie added, "I feel like with anything we do the designer is giving us so much -- their caché, their design and their aesthetic and what I'm giving them is a once in a lifetime experience to go in the field."

Mycoskie said he's selective about collaborators -- Toms has only done one of this kind before, with The Row's Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen -- and that "it's important that the designer is connected with our giving mentality." Should those things line up again, he'd love to do another collaboration, he said.

Prices for the new collection range $42 to $46 for children, and $124 to $168 for women. All styles are available now at Toms.com.

For more pics of the party, check out the slideshow below.