High street collaborations with renowned designers do in theory seem like a great idea. However, in reality these collections end up over-budget and under-stocked, resulting in an undignified battle for the last sequin clad Balmain dress. After a ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ style scrap on the shop floor, you might think to try online to obtain THAT coveted dress, but unless you’ve got a few hundred pounds lying around, which is unlikely if you’re the usual over-drawn student, then this isn’t an option either.
Over recent years these “collabs” have become a big deal in the world of fashion; we’ve seen partnerships between Mary Katrantzou and Adidas, Valentino and Gap, Topshop and Marques’Almeida and of course Balmain and H&M. But are they worth dipping into your savings for?
For me, these collaborations offer at lot more to the designers and their high street companions than they do to the consumer. Designers reach a new clientele of teenagers and young adults, who often cannot afford the price tag (between £200-£400 for the Balmain dresses) that comes with owning a small item of designer luxury. Rather, it is the financial opportunity for both the brand and the store which works as a huge incentive to produce high-end luxury collections; Proenza Schouler was believed to have charged a sum approaching seven figures for a collaboration with American chain Target back in 2007. Plus, unless you’re willing to camp out for hours before hand, the chances are it’ll be sold out by the time you make it to a store.
There are, however, some partnerships that a beneficial to stores and their shoppers. For example, River Island’s Design forum initiative, is a great deal more ethical in its approach to working with designers; the high street store partners up with new and upcoming designers to give their work and their name unparalleled publicity. Katie Eary’s, a Royal College of Art Graduate, 2013 collection is a great example of the kind of collaboration which works for both the creator and the consumer. It offered shoppers pieces within budget (from £15-£120) and boosted her credentials as a designer. This kind of partnership is a great way of promoting designers’ work and producing one off items which the high street consumer can truly afford.
Whilst some designers and critics are questioning the exclusivity and novelty value left of high end designers and brands as they become more accessible, it is a great chance and incentive for young designers to mark their territory in an often brutally competitive and elitist industry.