i know it's hype, but i like it
I rarely see a designer-mass market collaboration that hits the mark. The clothes are usually expensive - not luxury brand expensive, but still expensive for what you get in terms of quality. And when you get down to it, not all designers have a look distinctive enough to withstand the watering down (Stella McCartney + H&M, Karl Lagerfeld +H&M, what’s the point?). Only the Missoni collaboration with Target translated well into the mass market, I felt. And then there’s all the queuing.
But my heart fluttered when I heard about the H&M collaboration with Marni, because a) I like Marni a lot and b) they have a distinctive look in colour mix, patterns and shapes that I think could retain its identity reasonably well at lower prices (lower quality is presumed to come with the lower prices).
The lookbook has finally appeared, and I like what I see – especially a swimsuit, a seriously cute pair of printed shorts and matching pajama top (above), a pair of circle-print trousers. I am loathe to further promote a collaboration that doesn't need more promotion, and even more loathe to promote a brand (H&M) that of recent years, sells really shoddily made clothes. But my frozen heart has defrosted a bit and I confess, I will definitely visit the shop when the collection is out.
The sceptic in me still thinks I’ll end up passing on buying anything, because I just don’t believe the clothes will be well-made enough for me to budge. But looks-wise, I think the collection is a hit – it’s perfectly captured everything I love about Marni, and I’m glad that design-wise at least it’s not a disappointment.
I’m not against mass market collaborations – yes it is a pretty gross marketing exercise in getting people spend lots of money by selling the idea of getting designer items on the “cheap”. But when the idea first took off, I actually liked the idea of making interesting design available to the average person. It’s just disappointing that most times the interesting design part hasn’t happened and some of the collaborations should be burned (Mulberry for Target).
I used to be very interested in the Gap Design Editions collaborations with emerging designers, because it was a terrific idea – instead of just designers showing you a watered-down version of their usual stuff, you get them to interpret a Gap staple their way. The first series in 2007 with Thakoon, Rodarte and Doo.ri was quite good, especially the Thakoon and Doo.ri pieces – I bought one of the Doo.ri shirts that had an attached scarf. It remains a favourite (wore just two weeks ago!) and I’ve not seen a shirt like it since. Phillip Lim did a good one as well, and the Vena Cava and Alexander Wang take on khakis were cool too.
I wonder why Gap didn’t continue with the idea. Is it because it didn’t sell well, because people prefer copies of famous brands, rather than a genuine effort to design something new? It’s a pity, because on one hand it supported young designers, and on the other it offered real design, not just aspirational marketing, to people.
How do you guys feel about designer collaborations? Which ones worked for you, and which ones didn't?
Picture by H&M via fashionologie