Designer collaborations are picking up steam

By Mikayla Baiocchi

It’s the 61-piece collection that crashed H&M’s website in 30 minutes – it’s the Alexander Wang x H&M collection that helped prove the success of ventures where designers collaborate with more accessible brands.

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Image from

Within the past few years, popular chain stores like H&M and Target have collaborated with high-end designers like Proenza Schouler and Rodarte to bring collections into their stores that are affordably priced – a major hit with the public.

It’s becoming so popular that even well-credited designers such as Alexander Wang are willing to produce a line of clothes that costf a fraction of what his clothes typically cost. Wang is the creative director of the French fashion label Balenciaga and also for his own eponymous label.

On Nov. 6, Wang’s collection for H&M was released in stores and online. In stores, it was greeted by shoppers who had been camped outside the store since 7 p.m. the night before and online, it was greeted by so many customers that the website crashed. In fact, demand for Wang’s collection was so high that both online and in-store customers were limited to two items at purchase.

“People have such active lifestyles that they want to be comfortable,” Wang said about how he designed the clothes for the collection. “They want to be able to move and take the subway and run around.”

Wang, whose clothing is known for its sporty-luxe aesthetic, created his H&M collection for men and women. It features parkas, sweatshirts, mesh-paneled leggings and scuba dresses for women and offers t-shirts, hoodies and sports jerseys for the men.

Singer Mary J. Blige praised Wang’s collection for its fashionable functionality, while singer Rihanna endorsed the collection by wearing two of its pieces out on the streets.

“The fact that he mixed comfortable with fashionable makes the collection a dream,” said Kayla Wiley, a sophomore dietetics major.

While Wiley is a fan of this H&M designer collaboration collection, she is a bigger fan of the collaboration collections that Target has sold in the past.

In 2003, Target launched its first high-low collection with high-end designer Isaac Mizrahi. At the time, Mizrahi was selling a collection in the high-end department store Bergdorf Goodman.

From there, Target did collaborations with designers Luella Bartley, Paul & Joe, snowboarder Shaun White, and Rodarte.

The high-low collaboration concept became so popular that in 2009, Target started an exclusive program for it called “Design Collaborations.”

More recently, in 2011, Target struck it big after collaborating with fashion label Missoni.

According to a Target representative, the online traffic that the collaboration with Missoni drew surpassed that of any Black Friday or Cyber Monday in Target’s history.

The collection included 400 items from the Italian fashion house that ranged from books to wallets to tableware to dresses. In anticipation for the release, customers lined up outside various Target locations the night prior to the launch, leading Target officials to call the effects of the collaboration a “fashion frenzy.”

“These collaborations are great because you can get essentially the same item that the designer may typically sell for $500 for $50 instead,” said Wiley.

The next popular store to give high-low collaborations a shot? British-gone-American store Topshop.

It was recently announced that Beyoncé Knowles will be launching an activewear label with the store, which will include clothing and accessories for multiple sporting categories, said a representative for Parkwood Topshop Athletic Ltd., the company who partnered with Knowles for this venture.

However, Knowles is taking the high-low collaboration to the next level.

“This is not a collaboration,” a representative for Parkwood Topshop Athetlic Ltd. said in reports. “This is about building a brand and building a business.”

What started off as a designer selling a couple items at Target has grown into designers building separate brands within the same stores. Where will high-low collaborations go next?


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