With confirmation of a launch date and an address for Australia’s first H&M store, fashionistas can now get their hands on some of the greatest designer collaborations available in fashion.
While Australia has had plenty of style mergers, including Stella McCartney, Josh Goot and Zac Posen for Target, and now has access to Zara and Topshop on the high streets, the arrival of the Swedish fashion behemoth in 2014 to the Bourke Street GPO building in Melbourne’s CBD, will bring sartorial masters like Lanvin and Versace to the girl next door.
For the past decade, global chains H&M, Target and Topshop have been poaching tastemakers from the fashion world to create stylish collections at savvy prices. The clothes look the same as those on the runway, feature a label emblazoned with a designer name, yet retail for a small fraction of the cost. And why is H&M any different to its competitors? It basically took the concept of collaborating with the hottest fashion designers in the world and blew it into another stratosphere.
The idea seems simple enough, yet inviting fashion royalty into the realm of the everyday consumer has proven to be hit and miss. In 2004, Chanel’s haughty creative designer Karl Lagerfeld was one of the first to make the move from high end to high street, creating a line for Swedish mega retailer H&M. Although the line sold exceptionally well, Lagerfeld faced widespread backlash when he publically criticised H&M for producing his clothes in a size 16.
“What I designed was fashion for slender and slim people,” Lagerfeld declared, becoming an enemy of plus-size women the world over and demonstrating the perils of a couture mindset meeting the mainstream market.
Indeed, choosing the right figurehead for a fashion crossover is a balancing act. They must be well known enough to elicit mega-hype, but understanding of the needs of the everyday consumer and willing to make their brand suitably accessible.
The 2012 partnership between H&M and avant-garde house Maison Martin Margiela demonstrated that a failure to fulfil these criteria could be disastrous. Due to its higher price point and the relative anonymity of Margiela in the mass market, the collection quickly ended up drastically discounted on the sale racks. It certainly didn’t help that the designs ranged from a duvet coat to a necklace made from a lock of platinum blonde hair.
When they do get it right, designer collaborations can prove extremely lucrative. US Target’s recent team-up with designer Phillip Lim resulted in store shelves being stripped bare and items appearing on eBay for hugely inflated prices. Similarly, Versace’s 2011 line for H&M crashed the website and caused mass hysteria in store. And when Viktor & Rolf designed a wedding dress as part of their 2006 collection for H&M it was a runaway success, despite many European customers admitting to having no wedding plans for the immediate future.
In Australia, Stella McCartney’s 2007 range for Target saw women literally clawing each other to get a piece of her clothing. Was it worth it? For Target it proved to be a financial success and they collaborated with the designer again in 2010. And while the second was quite chic, the first collection was was less than impressive and an ebay assault of her wares followed the initial grab for stash.
Regardless of the associated risks, history demonstrates that nothing is off limits in the world of designer collaborations. And what the arrival of H&M does mean is that Australia is finally a serious player on the international style radar and there is the opportunity to access designer fashion at high street stores. And we don’t see anything wrong with that.
A timeline of some of Australia’s best designer collaborations
Who: Kate Moss x Topshop
What: After an incredibly lucrative three-year partnership with the English powerhouse back in 2007, the supermodel returns with a Spring/Summer collection launching globally in April next year.
What to expect: Hopefully a carbon copy of Moss’ highly coveted wardrobe. Fingers crossed for leather jackets, fur and whimsical maxi dresses.
Who: Kate Bosworth x Topshop
What: The US actor worked with the iconic British chain to develop a winter collction featuring leather sweaters, sexy pumps, sheepskin jacket and boots.
Verdict: A winner. Although this landed in Sydney’s CBD store in October, the pieces are worth holding onto for next Winter.
Who: Roberto Cavalli x Target
What: Resort wear with a healthy dose of animal print.
Verdict: Too much leopard, not enough spots.
Who: Zac Posen x Target Australia
What: beautifully tailored work and evening pieces, plus a red carpet gown for $300
Verdict: The collection was simple, comprehensive and flattering. A hit with business women and teenagers alike.
Who: Josh Goot x Target
What: sleek metallic racer back dresses and sporty basics
Verdict: Following the fanfare for the Stella McCartney line, Goot’s collaboration failed to generate much buzz.
Who: Stella McCartney x Target
What: A girly mish-mash of dresses and jackets in lace, satin and wool
Verdict: The public response to this was a little crazy and the clothes didn’t live up to the hype.
With Antonia Acott