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Behind The Design Of Mattel Creations’ Hot Wheels x Daniel Arsham Collaboration Highsnobiety

While heading out to Mattel Creations headquarters in Los Angeles, Daniel Arsham had already begun plotting a vision for their partnership. A known entity amongst automobile aficionados, the calculated artist needed little time to zero in on which arm of the renowned toy and collectibles brand he wanted to experiment with.  

After combing through the brand’s expansive inventory––a gesture of formality––Arsham settled on a choice, noting with a calm confidence: "Hot Wheels." This utterance was innate, almost as natural as taking a breath.

“As a kid, I was interested in cars, so if I had to think of one core thing from my childhood, it’s that," the artist continues. "(Hot Wheels) is a gateway for so many people.” 

arsham
BFA, Sponsored

arsham
BFA, Sponsored

arsham
BFA, Sponsored

Choosing to collaborate on an imaginative expansion to the world of an icon, Mattel Creations and Arsham Studios joined forces on a collection of bespoke Hot Wheels models that exist at the intersection of fine art and play, repurposing recognizable imagery through the lens of contemporary artistry. 

“In my universe, I’ve always tried to blend audiences together and engage in ways that are not necessarily art-specific.” continues Arsham, expanding on the idea of merging the worlds. “Some maybe didn’t grow up in an environment where art was encouraged or important, so if I can bring it to them in a context where they feel comfortable and open, that’s what art should be at the end of the day.”

arsham
Mattel Creations, Sponsored

arsham
Mattel Creations, Sponsored

arsham
Mattel Creations, Sponsored

With a defined mission, conversations engaged between the respective design teams of Mattel Creations and Arsham Studios to formulate how the compelling capsule should come to fruition. Marked by his signature eroded crystalline motif, several of Arsham’s most notable works center around exploring the concept of time and its relationship to people, art, and culture. Playing around with the ethereal notion, timelessness became the theme of the collaboration, challenging both brands to redefine the term in a context that felt comprehensive and authentic. 

Ethan Wood, Mattel’s Senior Director of Product Design, joined in on the Arsham project at its genesis, stating that the earliest stages involved intensive examination of each brand’s distinct history, all in an effort to discover commonalities between the artist’s refined ethos and the Hot Wheels legacy.

arsham
Mattel Creations, Sponsored

arsham
Mattel Creations, Sponsored

“Our first step was to explore beyond just the aesthetics and understand common threads that could be knit together to form the backbone of the partnership,” shares Wood. “Both teams created and exchanged a rich variety of concepts, pushing and pulling the idea of the collaboration in different directions.”

Following the rigorous ideation period, eight model cars made the cut as part of the new collection dubbed the “Legends Archive.” Slated to include classic items from the Hot Wheels catalog, like the legendary Rodger Dodger and Rally Case designs, remixed with Arsham’s ostensible imprint in addition to featured renderings based on the artist’s famed automobile sculptors, the formidable duo turned its focus toward logistics and design preparation, leaning entirely into the project’s experimental nature.

arsham
Mattel Creations, Sponsored

arsham
Mattel Creations, Sponsored

arsham
BFA, Sponsored

Traditionally, legacy Hot Wheels designs are manufactured from die casting, a procedure where molten metal is poured into reusable molds, giving the collector-grade cars their hallmark feel. While some models from the new collection came to life by way of this process, Mattel Creations deduced that other replicas would lose the acuate detail needed to adequately express Arsham’s relic-like concept. 

“Early on, we discovered that using diecast would make it difficult to capture the sharpness of the design and not give the vehicles a sufficient premium feel,” admits Wood. “To address this, we experimented with molding the cars in different composite materials, eventually landing on Silkstone for the car bodies.”

Described by Wood as a “modern composite material,” Silkstone offers the gentle feel of silk and the sturdy, noble solidness of marble, providing the collection with the highly sought-after artisanal essence dreamed up by Arsham from the outset. Never before employed in this fashion, the ingenious collection signals the first time the opulent material has been used to create model cars scaled at a 1:64 ratio (the Hot Wheels standard) serving as a true testament to the lengths with which Mattel Creations and Arsham went to maintain the high level of quality and integrity set for the project.

arsham
Mattel Creations, Sponsored

arsham
Mattel Creations, Sponsored

arsham
Mattel Creations, Sponsored

“[Working with Silkstone] was the hardest part,” recounts Arsham. “It was the first time we tried to implement concepts I’ve used in my other work for such a large-scale production. We went through many rounds of testing and rejections, but to [Mattel’s] credit, they wanted it done correctly.”

A genuine hand-in-hand effort, Hot Wheels x Daniel Arsham saw both sides meticulously comb through each detail to ensure every component aligned with their shared objectives. From Mattel Creations scrupulously designing the proper color palette, mimicking Arsham’s oft-utilized royal seafoam green, to the artist’s team splitting the duty of generating digital sculpture templates, the two-year collaborative process reflects a remarkable joint effort from a team comprised of industry luminaries.

Circling back on the intended goal of the specialized capsule, Arsham says, “Honestly, people should have fun with art. I’ve produced art in a number of spaces, and sometimes it’s a little bit too intellectual. While sometimes it needs to be that, most of the time, I feel it should be accessible to anyone.” 

With the arrival of Lap 2 just around the corner–a drop that is sure to further communicate the veritable core of the collab–it’s clear we’ve gathered an achieved understanding of exactly how we ended up with a dedicated ideology that is just as valuable as the eternal keepsake itself.

Learn more about the Mattel Creations’ Hot Wheels x Daniel Arsham collab at creations.mattel.com.

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