Since its launch in 2010, the Eastpak Artist Studio has given the world’s most innovative, iconoclastic designers the chance to re-design a classic Eastpak Padded Pak’r® Backpack. Previous guests of the studio have included Jean Paul Gaultier, Walter Van Beirendonck and Manolo Blahnik. This year, Nicopanda founder Nicola Formichetti brought his brand’s famous cartoon panda aesthetic to the product, complete with bejewelled eyes, fluffy ears and a Prince shade of purple.

The redecorated, re-invented and reconstructed backpack is more than an exercise in creativity, though. As part of a series of 12, Nicola’s backpack will be made available for purchase on December 1st, World AIDS Day, with proceeds raising funds for the charity organisation, Designers Against Aids. We caught up with Nicola to discuss his approach to interpreting a classic design and how designers have a duty to support the causes that matter to them.

We caught up with Nicola to discuss his approach to interpreting a classic design and how designers have a duty to support the causes that matter to them. 

How rare is it for a designer to work with a blank canvas like this? How did that influence your approach?

It is often difficult to start from nothing (personally speaking) as I like to bounce ideas around, but as I had a great, iconic product to play with it was a good starting point for which we just added our magic into it.

What were your initial reference points when designing your version of the Padded Pak’r? What did you turn to for inspiration?

I dug into the world of NICOPANDA. It’s a colorful fantasy world. I picked a colorful rainbow for the LGBTQ community.

How easy was it to apply the NICOPANDA aesthetic to the piece?

It was very easy to apply the NICOPANDA feeling to such an iconic brand. We’re completely different, but it felt organic somehow.

Was there any significance in the types of fabrics you used?

The fabrics and material feature in our current Fall Winter collection. It’s a mixture of vibrant jewel colors and eccentric materials, we like to mix things and put them together.

The Eastpak Artist Studio is raising money for the Designers Against AIDS campaign. How effective can brands and fashion be as a means to raise awareness for charitable causes?

It’s very important for brands and designers to raise awareness on global issues and causes, given their global outreach and influence they have it becomes a duty to take responsibility to help make a difference.

By its original design the backpack is such a functional piece, how important is the functionality of fashion to you as a designer? How can what people choose to wear go beyond functionality and what can that achieve?

Good product allows fantasy and function to work together, Nicopanda has always been about making wearable pieces with a unique twist. I have always liked to push fantasy and make it more playful. As this particular piece was made as a one off, we made it a little more special than what we do normally.



This article originally appeared on Hunger TV