Designed by Kilo, Remixed by the Labels: A Concise History of AIAIAI’s Headphone Collaborations – from Carhartt to Modeselektor
From Fool’s Gold Records, Carhartt Work In Progress and Young Guru to Stones Throw, Ghostly International and MODESELEKTOR, our partners at AIAIAI have teamed up with a diverse range of leading-edge record and clothing labels over the the course of their decade-long existence. Here’s a retrospective look at the hybridized headphones.
In our previous blog post, we touched on our partner’s strategic investment and in-depth involvement in the global, electronic music scene. Prior to the launch of the TMA-1 DJ headphone, AIAIAI enlisted the lead-user feedback of 25 of the world’s most respected DJs and music producers (A-Trak, Hudson Mohawke, Madlib, Matthew Dear, among others) in our collaborative design and development process. Feedback that we incorporated into the emerging DJ tool that became the TMA-1 DJ headphone.
After the launch and immediate success of the TMA-1, the next logical step was to venture further and deeper into the rich, fertile undergrowth of the global music scene, leading to more comprehensive commitments and full-scale product collaborations with a select group of record and clothing labels.
The Rules of Brand-based Engagement
We’d argue that merging two strands of brand DNA should, ideally, be a fusion of two separate entities that creates a fresh, cross-pollinating take on the cooperating brands. Thankfully, our longstanding partners at AIAIAI are blessed with a strong sense of value, taste and direction. A set of hard-won skills acquired through determined cultural curiosity, which they’ve utilized in the efforts to create the following diverse yet consistent range of collaborations:
The first product in the LABEL/ED series, the TMA-1 Fool’s Gold edition brought in A-Trak and his New York-based label, Fool’s Gold, who added bright yellow colours and an embossed logo on the earcups, as well as innovative, new functionality like the plug-locking system. The latter made sure that DJs didn’t pull out the headphone plug while mixing. At the time, A-Trak was known as the winner of the DMC World DJing Championships and Kanye West’s Tour DJ. This was, in other words, a very fitting start to a DJ headphone collaboration series.
The collaboration with the workwear-turned-streetwear empire turned out to be a match made in collaboration heaven; both companies focus on utilitarian simplicity and lasting design, making this a case of two brands with similar DNA and design philosophies teaming up for a fresh, new take on a AIAIAI’s flagship product.
In line with Carhartt WIP‘s unique brand of modern streetwear, the new headphones were given a striking navy/orange colourway that stayed true to the AIAIAI universe while taking the design in a bold, new direction.
With the TMA-1 Studio Engineered by Young Guru, AIAIAI aimed to make an outstanding pair of headphones for the on-the-go producer and sound engineer. Young Guru, the Grammy-award winning sound engineer with credits on albums by Jay-Z, Kanye West and Drake among others, took a hands-on approach to the collaboration , resulting in a product that fused culture, sound and design, and saw the celebrated sound engineer make his unique mark on AIAIAI’s studio headphones. The TMA-1 Studio Engineered by Young Guru thus featured a super comfortable nylon headband and microfiber earpads for long studio sessions as well as Young Guru’s renowned, signature sound.
The TMA-1 Stones Throw edition was the second chapter in the LABEL/ED series. Realized in collaboration with Peanut Butter Wolf’s legendary, pioneering Los Angeles-based record label and home to an incredible array of artists from the late J-Dilla and Madlib to Dâm-funk and MF Doom, the Stones Throw collaboration took AIAIAI deep into the wonderfully warped world of beat-driven, independent music. The TMA-1 was given a suitably flamboyant overhaul consisting of a large, embossed Stones logo on both earcups and a seriously fresh hue of purple on the chord and the headband.
Merging Danish audio design with expertly curated sound culture, the collaboration between AIAIAI and the New York-based record label/cultural hub, was a meeting of minds across the Atlantic. Longstanding friends and partners, the collaboration had been in the works for quite some time (Ghostly artists like Matthew Dear are avid AIAIAI-users), and the result was a carefully considered remix of the TMA-1 with the iconic Ghostly logo on both earcups, custom drivers tweaked by the American label and fine-grade Moroccan leather on both ear cushions. A refined, ever so slightly high-end take on the TMA-1.
The TMA-2 Modeselektor Edition was the first collaboration in the TMA-2 Modular headphone system. Designed in collaboration with Berlin-based, electronic duo, Modeselektor, the special TMA-2 edition is another example of AIAIAI’s investment in the progressive end of the electronic music spectrum. Modeselektor’s iconic, ape-tastic logo was placed on the side of both earcups and the sound design became suitable bass heavy in line with the critically acclaimed duo’s bass-heavy sound.
Ultimately, AIAIAI’s love of music and willingness to go one step further than most companies by immersing and investing themselves in the culture of music has brought about a diverse, nuanced and culturally rich range of brand collaborations. Collaborations that add momentum to AIAIAI’s leading position within the world of headphones while offering different takes on the values and capabilities of AIAIAI as a brand.
One of the perks of partnerships with brands such as AIAIAI is that we get early glimpses of future collaborations. We dare say that the future is looking very interesting. Watch this space.
And keep up with the latest from AIAIAI over at: www.aiaiai.dk