We Are Your Friends

As with most forms of artistic expression, attitudes towards fashionable design have little to do with art itself, and tend to be formed by extraneous social, economic, political and historical factors. The world we live in shapes the way we perceive notions of beauty; when significant parts of our lifestyles begin to change, so do the ways in which we choose to spend our leisure time and enjoy ourselves.

It could be argued that all entertainment is, to some degree, escapist – while we as an audience enjoy participating in entertainment forms that reflect our experiences and remain fairly true to life, another enticing aspect of any media text is the ability to show us a world that we are not part of, allowing us to immerse ourselves in collective fantasy.

During the economic boom experienced in previous years there was a distinct bias towards gritty realism within the media, providing a relatively affluent audience a glimpse at a way of life that seemed incredibly dramatic and exciting. Now that those years are over, many more people are experiencing the reality of such circumstances, as opposed to the romanticised, idealistic way it is often presented.

As a result, an aesthetic polarisation is beginning to occur, using illustrations, cartoons and physical activities to regress to a more child-like, innocent vision of the world.

Friends With You, an innovative graphic design studio based in Miami, is at the forefront of this transformation. Friends With You creates print, interior and web design products with an innovative stylistic approach, as well as their own range of cartoon characters called Malfis, which are available in books or even as toys.

By making a fantasy world that encapsulates their design skills within a fun and accessible narrative, Friends With You have been able to work with media and fashion luminaries such as VH1, Nike and Zune, as well as the artwork for Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Lovers perfume range.

Of course, Friends With You are not the first company to accessorise their products with toys. Kidrobot, a company founded in 2002, began by selling designer and limited-edition toys but has since branched out into apparel as well.

Their toys are often collaborations with cutting-edge artists and designers from all over the world, resulting in collectible pieces that can sell for up to $20,000. Levi’s have also recently launched a trio of cartoon characters named Fingers, Bernie and Hopper, to compliment their Engineered Jeans range and mark its 10th anniversary.

The growth of this conceptual shift has also made itself known within interior design – in 2006 Jump Studios engineered a dramatic re-design of the Red Bull offices in London’s Soho.

Jump felt that the space needed to reflect Red Bull’s profile as being energetic, adrenaline-fuelled and dynamic, and so installed slides, floating staircases and even ping-pong tables in meeting rooms to facilitate social interaction between employees.

The concept proved incredibly successful, and although it subscribes to an adult, minimalist and monochromatic design, the ideals behind it are the same as those found at Friends With You.

It is difficult to say how long or how far this trend will continue, but buyers and merchandisers take note – your brand can use these aesthetic ideas to inject a little pleasure into your product.



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