Shoppers are seeing more bargain-luxury combos these days as elite fashion designers increasingly go mass market.
From London to Italy to New York and LA the brands signing on nowadays are coming from an elite class of couture houses. Most of them until recently had kept tight control over their labels, releasing a small number of items only to their own boutiques and the most exclusive of department stores. Today, however, the bottom line has become the bottom line. Top designers need the masses. At a time when signals of economic distress abound, consumers are responding to the partnerships, turning the hype into huge sales. Target’s launch of its exclusive Missoni line, for instance, led to Black Friday-type crowds and crashed the company’s website. Nearly all the merchandise, priced from $3 to $600, sold out in days, to the frustration of many shoppers.
The latest collaborator to re-interpret its brand’s DNA at high-street friendly prices is Italian label Marni – famed for left of center shapes, quirky accessories and strong use of clashing color and print. The enthusiasts at the head of the queue were soon eagerly loading up with armfuls of clothes, moving quickly to make the most of their allocated 10 minutes in the roped-off shopping pen.
After eight years of designer ranges, H&M now operates like a well-oiled machine. Gone are the days of a crowd of frenzied shoppers being unleashed upon the entire store and ransacking the shelves. Instead H&M has turned fashion collaboration as a retail concept into a series of high-profile shopping events.
There have been celebrity blockbusters, such as David Beckham’s underwear range, which went on sale last month, and fashion blockbusters – such as Versace, which caused a furor last year when Donatella Versace met fans on a pink carpet at Regent Street.
Marni, meanwhile, ticks the box marked: niche-fashion-label-with-insider-clout. This is a formula that guarantees hype and interest across the fashion board.
Kaz Yau, 30, started queuing at 6.30am and has been going to the H&M collaboration openings since the Stella McCartney hook-up in 2005. She said they have become events in themselves now, and the queuing starts earlier.
Not everyone had a totally happy H&M Marni experience though. A laden-down customer, one of the first batch of 20 shoppers who had had their 10 minutes, was stopped at the exit and told she could only buy one of each item. Looking tearful, she duly put some purchases back.
A spokesman for H&M, however, was quick to point out that this is a 70 piece collection, so there is plenty to choose from, and it would not be fair to other customers if no limit was imposed. This is also clearly a strategy to reduce the number of shoppers buying items to sell online at inflated prices.
Consuelo Castiglioni, Marni’s creative director and founder, based the H&M collection on the brand’s archive. “I wanted to create a true Marni wardrobe by revisiting all our favorite pieces in signature fabrics and prints,” she said.
Items initially selling well were the large circular printed skirts and jackets, the signature plastic jewellery, wooden-heeled sandals and a printed pajama set.
This collection is selling online and at 250 stores worldwide. H&M has also previously collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld, Comme des Garçons, Jimmy Choo, Lanvin and Matthew Williamson.