In The Mid-Market Muse, I talked fondly of jeweler Catbird and JCrew’s “many lives”—the eras that defined their examples of brands who engaged in worldbuilding for the mass market. So you might imagine how thrilled I was when news broke they were teaming up for a capsule collaboration.

Brooklyn jeweler Catbird is no stranger to collaboration, with recent trysts including a collection with comedienne Jenny Slate, musician Boygenius, and antique dealer Vito Giallo. But a team-up with 2010s icon JCrew strikes a particularly harmonious chord.

Upon Mount Parnassus, Catbird is Artemis, and J.Crew Poseidon. The union of two ethereal beings conjures visions of grandeur.

Pictured: an early teaser image of the J.Crew x Catbird collection

Both brands love to mine their archives for reissues and repurposes: JCrew’s Olympia Gayot loves drawing inspiration from the brand’s catalogue from the 1990s for elevated basics. “Remixed classics” and “return to the catalog” are oft-cited points of inspiration from Gayot’s 2023 interview with Harper’s Bazaar. As a maturing brand, Catbird enters its second decade with steady reissues of the once-discontinued pieces that put it on the map in the late 2000s.

Still, their pieces are not mere rehash.

The conjoined capsule collection combines the ethereal designs of Catbird with the nautical aesthetic of one of JCrew’s eras, which ended up becoming its defining one: enter anchor-shaped charms and and ribbon-shaped earrings where the gold has a rope-like texture and appearance.

The most exciting of collaborations are bred between brands on the same—or similar—playing field. They’re unlike Target’s designer partnerships and H&M’s proto-viral collaborations—be it Marni, Margiela, Lanvin, Jimmy Choo—where fashion houses clearly resuscitate archival designs with budget-friendly materials.

If brands are builders of worlds, then a comingling of their orbits would have a sympathetic effect on the trajectory of both heavenly bodies. They’re not merely coming together—they affect each other on a gravitational scale.

"If brands are builders of worlds, then a comingling of their orbits would have a sympathetic effect on the trajectory of both heavenly bodies. They’re not merely coming together—they affect each other on a gravitational scale."

Take Staud x Wrangler. It’s interesting for similar reasons; aside from the trite ‘hi-lo’ trend. Wrangler has been offering sturdy denim since 1947, has an affordable price range, and some of their designs are coveted by the fashion set. It embodies Americana. By contrast, Staud is an LA-based lifestyle apparel brand founded in 2015 by a Reformation alumnus. They’re known for handbags and apparel, and its hyperfeminine clothes are usually fashioned from thick poplin cotton; clothes that would not be out of place in Greta Gerwig’s soundstage-like Barbie set.

A joint venture between Wrangler and Staud yields a collection of low-rise jeans, tank tops, and jean jackets in a light color palette with a markedly late 2000s aesthetic, as if the two brands had met halfway and conjured a vision of LA of the semi-recent past. 

The eCommerce aesthetics also share equity on equal ground. Catbird offered the collection via a web exclusive, teased through Instagram; while J.Crew opted to push through its app, goosing mobile app adoption. This hints at the broader strategies of brands at varying sizes, scales, and maturities. For Catbird, success is selling through. For J.Crew success is a zero-party relationship and space on your home screen.

On the CPG front, “hot girl food” trailblazer Fishwife partnered with Talea to create a smoky beer. The product is something that retains traits of both, not a mere can of beer with Fishwife’s signature rubber-hose art style. Similarly, Emma Chamberlain and Kendall Jenner just announced that they joined forces when the former’s Chamberlain Coffee and the latter’s 818 Tequila unveiled an espresso martini kit. 

Overall, in a universe that is more and more focused on direct-to-consumer experiences, I love seeing collaborations wherein brands create something entirely new. Nothing here is exactly reinventing the wheel, but it’s a welcome expression of creative, commercial, and cultural synergy. It provides the same thrill as seeing your favorite video game character being integrated into franchises like Super Smash Bros. or Kingdom Hearts; or having a particular hero join the squad of an ensemble movie, such as the MCU.

We’re living through a time of celestial collisions—worldbuilding brands merging aesthetics and adherents alike. When the Muses play upon Parnassus, gods and goddesses dance in ensemble choreography.