On Saturday, Nov. 19, at 8 a.m., the H&M retail store on Walnut Street opened its doors for the release of the Versace for H&M collaboration. Fashion house Versace created a line of men’s and women’s clothing to be sold in select H&M stores around the world.
Designer collaborations are nothing new. In the past, the Swedish clothing company has collaborated with designers like Karl Lagerfeld in 2004, Cavalli in 2007, Jimmy Choo in 2009 and Lanvin in 2010. Earlier this year, Missoni crafted a line for Target which was so popular it caused the Target website to crash, and Karl Lagerfeld, head designer for Chanel, collaborated with Macy’s.
Increasingly, high fashion designers have been working with department stores and retail outlets that wouldn’t normally carry their clothes to make ready-to-wear high fashion more accessible to the average consumer.
The appeal in high fashion comes from the avant-garde apparel clothing designers create. Designers spend weeks finding their inspiration for the next season’s clothing line, and design entire lines based on one main vision.
In addition to changing their clothing lines for every season, fashion houses create a staple pattern, logo, color scheme or a combination of the three to make each piece represent the brand as a whole. For example, Burberry has several variations of their signature checkers that scream Burberry, Versace has the medusa head and my personal favorite Christian Louboutin has his trademarked red sole incorporated into every shoe.
While many people love the look and feel of designer apparel, most pieces are out of the reach for the average consumer. So designers have collaborated with more affordable stores to give savvy fashionistas a chance to enjoy high fashion without breaking the bank.
The Versace for H&M collection definitely retained the flamboyant designs typically associated with Versace.
“[I love] the designer and the creativity. Looking at the dress, it screams Versace with the colors and the patterns,” shopper Priscilla Galligani-Johnson said while waiting in line. “I know I don’t need it, but I want it. I want to own a Versace [piece] and I can actually afford it.” Much like my love of the Burberry Nova check, Johnson enjoys the bright colors and intricate designs Donatella works in to her clothing, and with H&M prices, she’s able to indulge herself.
More than 200 people arrived before the store opened to get a taste of Versace, some camped out starting the day before. Upon the store’s opening, the men’s line sold out in nearly 30 minutes, and many Versace-seeking patrons went home empty handed because the people in the front of the line bought anything possible in order to sell it on eBay for double the retail price.
Versace produced a very limited number of each piece of clothing and only released the line to flagship stores in major cities. The finite run serves as a way to retain the exclusivity of the brand for people who buy full priced merchandise, while still extending the opportunity to wear a designer label to others.
Some Versace fans disagreed with the theory behind designer-retail ventures.
“In my opinion, it kind of brings down the exclusivity of the line,” Versace enthusiast Robert Waczynski said. “If I were the designer and I had the stature of that line, I don’t think I would have collaborated [with H&M] just because of the fact that it kind of brings down the line to another notch.”
Personally, I think designer collaborations are awesome, assuming people don’t clear the shelves to make a quick buck. Like Johnson, I flip through the pages of “Vogue and “GQ,” and am amazed by the clothing designers create based on a single vision. But still, I’m not walking down Liacouras Walk draped in the latest high fashion straight out of my favorite fashion magazines, since some pieces cost more than my tuition.
The name doesn’t make the clothing, the design does.
The Versace for H&M line featured very fitted clothes off the rack with patterns available only from Versace. I wouldn’t go around telling everyone, “Oh this? It’s Versace,” but I would enjoy the sharp, clean lines of Donatella’s tuxedo pants and hot pink blazer.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to experience Versace for H&M because the people in the front of the line cleared the shelves before I had a chance to buy anything.
In some regards, I agree with Waczynski that the collaboration brought down the stature of Versace because I am the target market for designer collaborations. I’m a fashion-forward, yet money conscious consumer, but I was unable to experience the line because I didn’t camp out.
Instead of the people that would enjoy the line, the people benefitting from were just looking for a quick way to make money. To add insult to injury, the people who do ultimately get to own pieces from the Versace for H&M line are the people who could afford to buy Versace off the rack at Neiman Marcus.
Mark Longacre can be reached at email@example.com.