H&M has had the Internet in a chokehold ever since releasing its teaser campaign video and product imagery for its latest collaboration with Mugler. In a strange yet highly successful “opposites attract” manner, these high-low collaborations have been creating buzz for almost 2 decades now. But with designer brands pricing their items at an affordable high street level, we wonder if H&M’s collaborations expose the true price of luxury?
The first ever H&M collaboration was with Karl Lagerfeld in 2004. “Karl! Karl! Is it true?” a boujee crowd can be heard gaspingly asking the designer in the promotional video advert, to which Lagerfeld answers “Of course it’s true”. Being the first of its kind, this collaboration scared the upper-class customer base of Karl Lagerfeld, to which the designer quickly retorted that there is a difference between cheap and taste.
Clearly, the collaboration was a success, with most of the range selling out globally in just a day and between 1,500 to 2,000 items selling per hour in H&M’s Fifth Avenue store in New York. But it wasn’t just the pieces that were a success, rather the concept of the high-low collaboration itself, which H&M continues to this day, with notable examples including its collaboration with Balmain in 2015 and the cult-favourite Maison Martin Margiela in 2012. Other high street stores caught onto the idea, such as Uniqlo collaborating with Jil Sander first in 2009.
While the collaborations are undoubtedly a commercial success, considering the difference in prestige between high fashion and fast fashion brands, why even collaborate in the first place? Well, there are a few reasons. The first, and probably the most important, is publicity. While designer brands are only able to reach a certain type of clientele, H&M is for everyone. Collaborating with arguably the biggest high street brand out there creates a ton of buzz for those who may not be interested in fashion to learn more about the brand.
This way, an H&M collaboration can serve as an entry point to a designer brand. Those shopping the collaboration may not yet have the financial means to purchase directly from that brand, but this partnership could secure a new customer for the designer later in the future. Some may never even be able to shop at that designer’s brand, but H&M’s rather affordable pricing democratises high fashion, opening up a new range of customers to the otherwise inaccessible clothing.
Just like in the Karl Lagerfeld x H&M advert, it is a fair assumption to believe that a brand may be tarnishing its reputation by collaborating with a fast fashion giant. However, due to the rollout of the collection, including the fact that the range is limited in its number of products and the collaboration is usually a one-time thing, both brands are able to create a certain type of exclusivity, something normally achieved through the designer brands’ high prices.
When the Mugler collaboration was first announced, many were reluctant to the idea, considering Mugler’s designs are extremely intricate and would be hard to emulate to H&M’s style. However, once the campaign imagery dropped, most of us were shocked. The designs were not watered down, with the brand’s DNA still shining through the corseted, strong shoulder suit jacket and the panelled bodysuits Casey Cadwallader is known for.
With pricing ranging between £49.99 and £499 for a leather trench coat, we wonder what the quality of these items will actually be. Fast fashion prices have become so affordable due to cutting costs in its production methods, from cheap labour to cheap materials. The high prices of luxury fashion is often attributed to its ‘Made In Europe’ status, although most companies still outsource at least some of its production to third world countries and also cut corners by opting for cheaper materials – though this is kept extremely secret with factories having to sign heaps of NDAs.
While the Mugler x H&M collaboration’s production methods are unknown, and the quality of fabrics used still to be tested out once the products actually drop, this collection makes us wonder why are luxury items so expensive, when they can be replicated on a high street level?
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