Designer Collaborations: High-End Meets Mass Market

H&M announced on Thursday that its latest designer collaboration will be with Erdem, debuting in November. While not quite yet a household name, Erdem was created in 2005 by Turkish-Canadian designer Erdem Moraliogu and is a favorite brand of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. Celebrities such as Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Michelle Williams are also known to favor the vibrant prints and delicate fabrics that the brand is known for.


Because we’re still months away from seeing this collection live, it’s difficult to tell if consumers will embrace the feminine designs that Erdem creates. A November release date could be a weakness for this collaboration, as I feel the aesthetic of this brand may best attract a mainstream audience in spring or summer. That being said, with so many famous fans of Erdem, and a marketing campaign directed by Baz Luhrmann, H&M will certainly be promoting it heavily in all markets.

H&M’s announcement of this collaboration made me pause and remember all of the other designer collection the company, and others, have done in the past. While some caused mass chaos and others flew under the radar, here is a little trip down memory lane with a few of the most influential collaborations in fashion.


JC Penney x Halston (1983)

What many people don’t know is that designer collaborations aren’t a new thing by any means. The practice first started in the 1980s, when Roy Halston Frowick brought his luxury fashion house Halston (one of the biggest brands of its day) to launch an exclusive line with retailer JC Penney. At the time, the deal was worth a reported $1 billion. It was also the first time that a “high end” designer had ever created a mass market line of affordable items to consumers. Unfortunately, this move didn’t play out very well for the Halston brand. Luxury department stores dropped the label as they felt it was now “cheapened” by being available with such ease for the average American. The JC Penney line was eventually discontinued and the Halston brand under Frowick ended up folding soon after.


H&M x Karl Lagerfeld (2004)

Though there were certainly other collaborations over the next two decades, none were of the magnitude that has Karl Lagerfeld joining forces with H&M. Lagerfeld, the longtime Creative Director of Chanel, was the Swedish retailer’s first designer collection and remains to this day one of its most successful. Within 24 hours of its launch, the majority of the items were sold-out worldwide. To anyone hoping that Lagerfeld may one day release another collection shouldn’t hold their breath: he has famously said many times over the last decade that he regrets the experience and felt H&M did not adequately prepare for the release by manufacturing only a limited number of products.


Target x Lilly Pulitzer (2015)

It’s likely you remember the hysteria that this partnership caused. When Lilly Pulitzer announced it would be teaming up with Target to release a collection of apparel, home goods and accessories in limited edition prints, devoted followers of the brand took notice. Target clearly underestimated how far “Lilly Lovers” will go to get their hands on items. The retailer’s website crashed numerous times within hours of the collection’s release. Store employees were shocked to arrive on the day of its debut to lines wrapped throughout the parking lots hours before opening. Worse of all: because each store that received products had been given a limited number, the majority of the most desired items immediately sold out – purchased either by consumers or individuals who later sold the products online at extremely inflated prices.


Vans x Kenzo (2013)

Footwear brand Vans’ 2013 collaboration with French brand Kenzo (originally founded by Japanese designer Kenzo Takada) was notable as for many, this was the first time they were seeing the bold prints in a mainstream setting. It was a perfect partnership for Vans’ consumers – the audience responded well to the designs. This collaboration is partly credited with bringing Kenzo into the mainstream fashion culture (primarily within the streetwear circles).


J. Crew x Prabal Gurung (2011)

Prior to the release of his collection with J. Crew, Prabal Gurung was best known as being the Nepalese-American fashion designer that created Michelle Obama’s 2009 Inauguration gown. While that dress brought him global attention, a collaboration with J. Crew helped bring his designs to the masses. The collection was well-received, especially his signature “Exploding Bow” dresses and tops. It also helped other retailers see that it was worth taking a chance on a somewhat unknown designer.


H&M x Balmain (2016)

This collaboration is one of the most recent ones – and still feels like it just happened yesterday due to H&M’s heavy marketing campaign using models such as Gigi Hadid & Kendall Jenner. It capitalized on the “Balmain craze” that dominated the entertainment culture and social media – popularized in part by the brand’s Creative Director, Oliver Rousteining’s massive online following (it may help that he is close with the Kardashian family). As it was predicted, the collection sold out within minutes. Pieces are still available to find online at eBay… though the prices are more comparable to the actual Balmain line rather than H&M due to the scarcity.


Target x Missoni (2011)

Missoni was Target’s first “big” collaboration. After watching other retailers dominate with their limited edition collections for years, when Target announced it would be releasing exclusive products from the famed Italian fashion house it was front page news. Because Target stores are located in just about every major metropolitan area (unlike H&M at the time), it offered shoppers a chance to purchase designer items at discounted prices. The collection was a success – though it did not reach Lilly Pulitzer levels of hysteria, it did sell out of popular items relatively quickly. It still remains one of Target’s most popular and well-known collaborations to this day.


Banana Republic x Issa (2013)

This collaboration would have flown under the radar if not for one item: “The Dress.” Otherwise unknown in the United States (though extremely popular in England), Issa achieved global fame overnight when the Duchess of Cambridge famously wore a blue wrap dress from their label to announce her engagement to Prince William. Banana Republic’s lookbook capitalized on “The Dress” and featured it in several different colors, patterns and even as a blouse option. While the rest of the collaboration was generally well-received, shoppers flooded Banana Republic stores and the company’s website to get their hands on a garment that would allow them to also feel like royalty.

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Freelance writer. Equestrian. Fueled by coffee. Lover of luxury fashion, college football and used bookstores.

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