Although a Norwegian chess prodigy and an Amsterdam-based fashion brand may seem like rather curious bedfellows, the recent launch of G-Star Raw’s new initiative with 21-year-old Magnus Carlsen is a positive love-in. Launched at last month’s Bread & Butter fair in Berlin, the project sees Carlsen acting as the face of G-Star’s latest Anton Corbijn-shot menswear campaign and, next month, participating in the brand’s innovative ‘RAW World Chess Challenge’.
On September 10th at the Cooper Square Hotel in New York, Carlsen will be challenged to prove his status as the planet’s greatest player - right now, he’s the youngest-ever number one ranked chess player but not the ruling world champion - by taking on the rest of the planet (sort of) in a unique match streamed live on the internet. With the iconic Garry Kasparov - a former World Chess Champion - overseeing the action and three chess Grandmasters suggesting potential moves, registered individuals will be able vote online to decide the fate of the game, with the eventual hope of beating Carlsen.
It’s an innovative project from G-Star and one that International Brand Director Shubhankar Ray hopes will engage their target audience in an original way – indeed while style and sport often collide, the world of chess remains uncharted territory for the fashion industry. ’We always like to do things that are fresh and provocative,’ says Ray. ’But there’s definitely an element of risk in it – both in terms of the technology and in terms of how the whole thing will be perceived. I don’t think anyone has ever attempted anything like this.’
Meanwhile Carlsen himself seems to be taking the challenge in his stride. ’All the moves that the Grandmaster suggests will be very strong,’ he says. ’But usually with anything to do with chess, I feel very confident in my abilities.’ The prospect of becoming the game’s first style icon though is a whole different matter. ’Chess doesn’t usually get many groupies,’ he says, laughing. ’But perhaps this might change things a little.’