KAWSification: 10 Of KAWS’ Most Popular Collabs

Micaela Preble
July 28, 2022

Since the late 1990s, Brooklyn-based artist KAWS has been no stranger to collaborating and bridging the gap between fine art and household brands.

KAWS has worked with musicians such as Kanye West and Pharell as well as high-end fashion brands like Dior and Comme Des Garçons. It seems there is no stopping KAWS as a master collaborator — so let’s take a look at some of the artist’s most notable collaborations.

Bounty Hunter

The first major brand collaboration from KAWS was with the Japanese streetwear brand Bounty Hunter. During a trip to Japan in 1999 the artist was approached by the brand to partner on a toy. From then on, Companion was born. The toy went on to be a major success and is now a major figure in the artist’s oeuvre. 

BAPE

Following the success of Companion and the collaboration with Bounty Hunter, KAWS was approached by the hypebeast brand Bathing Ape (BAPE). The collection consisted of apparel items and accessories that incorporated both the artist and brand’s designs and aesthetics. The partnership is still considered a success with deadstock accessories and apparel selling for above the market price on marketplaces like Grailed and StockX.

MTV

In 2013, the popular production company MTV approached KAWS to redesign their iconic moon man trophy for the upcoming MTV Video Music Awards. The original statue was modeled after the celebrated American astronaut Buzz Aldrin and had remained untouched in its 30-year history.

The new one-year-only redesign took the moon man and added celebrated KAWS characteristics, replacing the helmet with the artist’s signature companion figure.

Uniqlo

KAWS collaborated with apparel brand Uniqlo in 2016. The project had the artist design clothing and accessories for his own namesake and for several other collabs that were sold inside their stores and online.

Part of this collaboration included characters from Sesame Street and Peanuts cartoons. Each collaboration had its own apparel and accessories that incorporated the ‘Kawsification’ of the respected characters like Elmo and Snoopy. 

Kanye West

In 2008, KAWS collaborated with Kanye West on the album art of Kanye’s 4th studio album 808s & Heartbreak.

The album art features a deflated and broken balloon heart with each side being held up by what looks like mickey mouse hands. The hands feature Xs on both which one of KAWS’ most well-known motifs. The other side has West in front of a mural of bright colors — obviously graffiti-inspired and tied to the artist’s roots. 

Air Jordan

In 2017, KAWS had another apparel collaboration with Nike Air Jordan. The product of the collab was the Jordan 4 retro. The shoe came in two colorways — cool gray and black, both featuring the insignia double X eyes on the back. Sporting an all-black premium suede upper with KAWS stitching throughout, with details including KAWS branding and graphics as well as a translucent glow-in-the-dark outsole. 

Reese’s

Released in November of 2021, KAWS was the perfect artist to embark on a collaboration with the cereal brand Reese’s Puffs. The limited edition cereal was titled “Not Fit For Human Consumption.” The cereal box design incorporates Companion floating in what looks like a bowl of the peanut butter cereal. Above the logo is the signature double X, KAWS’ mark of choice. The artist is the third to take on a partnership with the cereal following Travis Scott and Lil Yachty.

Recently the artist announced another partnership with General Mills — this time four flavors featuring playful characters inspired by monsters.

Dior

For the Dior spring/summer collection in 2019, creative director Kim Jones saw something new for the brand in a collaboration with KAWS. The pair worked on a small group of apparel items and signature doll toys, but then returned two more times with a capsule collection. This incorporated tailored designs in a pink, black, and white color palette. In this collection, KAWS’ BFF doll and bee were the repeated figures.

MoMA

In 2017, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City released a limited supply of KAWS BFF Companion toy dolls. This limited release had 18-inch dolls that came in three colors: pink, black, and blue. This launch resulted in the MoMA design store website crashing due to an unprecedented rush of traffic. These toys today, in deadstock condition, can retail for over $1000 on StockX and other resale sites.

J-Hope

In July of 2022, KAWS collaborated with J-Hope, a member of the popular Korean pop supergroup, BTS. This was his first solo album cover since the ‘Butter’ band decided to take a hiatus as a group. The cover teaser is done in a quintessential KAWS style with abstracted and constrained views of lovable KAWS creatures.


Micaela Preble
Micaela is an NYC-based art content writer covering art investing, art news, and art historical content. Micaela graduated from Georgia Southern University in 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History with a minor in communication arts. During her time at GSU she was a member of The Design Group (DG) and Student Art League (SAL) while also actively participating in curating and volunteering at the Center for Art and Theatre.