High End Collections Hit The High Street

Following the success of the first Versace for H&M collection, which had fashionistas everywhere claiming with pride, “It’s Versace, darling”, it is clear to see that the fashion forward love a good High-Street and designer collaboration.

In order to avoid the in-store frenzy that followed the release of the first Versace for H&M collection, the collaboration’s second and final collection, the Cruise Collection, was made available online only.

However, many keen fashion lovers that visited H&M’s website on the morning of January 19 were left disappointed when the site became ‘temporarily unavailable’, proving that fashion frenzies do not only happen in-store.

These two Versace lines are the eighth designer collaboration by H&M since its partnership with Chanel’s creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, back in November 2004. H&M is not the only High-Street retailer to introduce designer collaborations to their rails.

The collaborations

In  2009 Topshop paired up with Central Saint Martin’s graduate, Christopher Kane, whilst the creator of Madonna’s infamous cone bra, Jean Paul Gaultier, has joined forces with La Perla to create underwear for those of us who do not happen to be the Queen of Pop.

There is no doubt that the benefits for both retailer and designer are obvious and endless. The financial benefits go without saying. However, money aside, designers are gaining exposure through these collaborations and are tapping into a market they would not normally access.

Donatella Versace commented on the H&M partnership stating: “I am thrilled to be collaborating with H&M and to have the opportunity of reaching their wide audience. The collection will be quintessential Versace, perfect for H&M and Versace fans everywhere. I wanted to give Versace a whole new younger customer, through H&M.”

Both of these high-profile collections have given Versace an opportunity to establish a loyal following with this ‘new customer’ – a demographic they will hopefully transform into buyers of Versace’s future creations. As for the shoppers themselves they are getting a designer label without having to take out a loan and as a result, no longer have to admire designer fashion from afar.

Affordable quality

Male model sporting latest H&M Versace collection[Courtesy of: H&M]Although it could be said that these collaborations are making designer fashion more accessible, critics have argued that quality is being compromised in order to turn designer prices into those more suitable for a high-street budget.

Of course when transferring a high-fashion line to the high street, in order to make it accessible to a mass audience, sacrifices must be made.

The appeal of these collaborations is clear – high-quality and exclusive fashion at affordable prices.

They are appealing to both our inner fashionista and to our inner worrier, who is now starting to become slightly concerned by the fact that our student loans are running out fast.

If you were to compare the H&M collection to Versace’s spring/summer 2012 runway show at Milan Fashion Week, the differences between the two are clear to see, although this is obviously reflected in the price difference, leaving little room for complaint.

However, these collaborations have a potential to reflect adversely on the industry. For now, customers seem to be content with their sheer excitement, however if and when the original hype and exhilaration of these collections begin to fade, the designers involved could be left with unflattering reputations and labeled as being a ‘sell-out’.

The exclusivity of the designer label is also lost in these partnerships, which for many is one of the main factors in the appeal of high-end fashion. After all who does not relish in the looks of envy at that bag most people would have to sell their kidney for, in order to afford it?

University of the Arts London alumni and designer, Antonio Berardi sums it up perfectly: “I’ve been asked many times to do things that were ‘mass’. But if you could buy Berardi on the High Street then you wouldn’t want to buy Berardi.”

Be they good or bad for the industry, these collaborations are not going away – Topshop will be joining forces with fashion designer, Mary Katrantzou in February and H&M’s Marni collection will be released on March 8.

Despite these accessible collaborations, some may prefer not to settle for second best. However I suspect that we shall see many more of these collaborations in the near future.