Roberto Cavalli for H&M: Rock-star pandemonium

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Karl Lagerfeld for H&M. Roland Mouret for Gap. Giles Deacon for New Look. Proenza Schouler for Target. And the list goes on. You’d think by now that consumers would have started to tire of it all. At a Retail and Luxury Conference earlier this year, Peter Som said that he felt the whole thing was played out and that it was no longer a distinctive way of creating brand buzz, which I thought was a good point.

Cavalli_stam_3Well, one look at a video from Style.com (see below), which shows the pandemonium that erupted in New York when Roberto Cavalli and Canadian model Jessica Stam unveiled his own H&M collection on Thursday, and it seems there may be some mileage in this strategy yet.  I was surprised by the exhuberant reaction around the world and the amount of money that people were willing to spend. In the video, one girl has 12 bags of clothing which retailed for about $6,000.

That said, I have sensed waning interest in the avalanche of similar collaborations between designers and other mass brands over the past year. Target seems to be rolling one out every three months making each subsequent launch less buzzworthy, while New Look’s collaborations have failed to inspire from a product standpoint. Anya Hindmarch’s "I am Not a Plastic Bag" for Sainbury’s almost turned into a full-on PR fiasco for both parties when it emerged that the bags were manufactured in China and shipped half way around the world. So, apart from TopShop, H&M seems to be the only player consistently using this approach with great success.

So, what is the H&M secret? Part of it comes from the fact that they only do a couple of collaborations per year. Not only does this keep the collaborations feeling fresh, it also allows them to stick with marquee brands that have truly global appeal and which attract new customers to the store. H&M also knows how to promote these collections as you can see in this very cool fullscreen video of the collection on the H&M site and this video from the launch party in Rome.

In addition, while the Proenza Schouler for Target collection had some great pieces, it was poorly presented in the Target store I went to in Dallas, just sitting on couple of rails that did not stand out from the regular collections. H&M on the other hand makes an effort to dedicate an entire section of its stores to these collections — they become the star attraction.

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The last crucial piece of the puzzle is the product. The H&M collections are true to the brands’ DNA while still being offered at a high-street level of price and quality. Viktor & Rolf’s tailoring and Cavalli’s party dresses were perfectly in tune with their brand signatures. The collections are also large enough to make a full representation of the brand — Cavalli’s, for example, includes men’s and women’s RTW, as well shoes and jewellery.

On a side note, isn’t Cavalli hilarious in this video? It is almost endearing to see him being feted by young women who weren’t even around when he first started. He says it for himself: he feels like he is a rock-star. And I must say, he plays the part pretty well. The H&M collaboration really seems to have broadened his appeal to a younger client, who might also buy his perfume or trademark sunglasses one day.

The Business of Fashion

Photos courtesy of H&M. Video courtesy of Style.com.

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5 comments

  1. Rolan Mouret? Proenza Schouler? For Gap and Target? How come I’ve never heard of these collaborations before? It’s amazing how such established companies can’t build a hype around a collection designed by world-reknown designers. I think everyone is anticipating who H&M will pick next for next year’s collection. Who would you like to see do a collaboration? I think Badgley Mischka would be nice, but is that too far fetched to hope? Cavalli’s a fun character, I love watching videos of him talking cause he’s so cool about it. However, I’m not much of a fan of his designs, a little too wild for me ;)

  2. @Dahlia: I believe you are in Montreal, and Proenza Schouler’s line was sold at Target stores in the US (with a limited number of items also on sale at Colette in Paris), while Roland Mouret’s collection, I believe, was limited to stores in Europe. This explains why you didn’t hear about the collections. As for H&M’s next collaboration, that is a great question. If the formula is marquee designer, clear brand DNA and unique from previous collaborations, then wouldn’t it be amazing if Miuccia Prada did a collection for H&M? Now that MiuMiu has moved to become a brand in its own right and is no longer playing second fiddle (prices have moved up too), there is room for a one-off accessible collection from Prada, which would get her designs on the back of people who simply can’t afford them today. Unfortunately, most of the brands that have done an H&M collaboration needed a brand buzz boost of sorts. Stella McCartney needed to build more profile (and get a cash injection from H&M) to get her business on the road to break-even (which happened this year). Lagerfeld’s own collections have not been nearly as successful as his work for Chanel and Fendi, so the H&M collection helped to keep the currency of his own name present amongst the masses. Cavalli has a second line called Just Cavalli, but his designs seemed to be appealing only to “cougar” women and he was lacking a connection with a younger demographic, so the H&M collaboration allowed him to do this. And finally, Viktor & Rolf were virtually unknown outside the fashion world, so their collaboration helped put them on the mainstream map. Not sure Prada needs any more brand buzz, but I guess one can always hope.

  3. not a fan of H&M actually,but it did created enoug buzz on current collection (CAVALLI) and the future ones. People will curious about who will design the next H&M. Most importantly, as you mention, it brings mass audience and currency. So why not:) When i entered into H&M on Oxford Circus last week,just as Cavalli collection launched, i kept saying to myself:”thank god we have MARC by MJ, MiuMIu (from/under Prada)”.personally i dont want to see Miuccia knock H&M’s door for any branding/mass market-related reason. i dont buy that. One Devil Wears Prada has done that year ago. :)

    DaDa from London, London, United Kingdom
  4. Even the “accessible” luxury brands like Miu Miu and Marc by Marc Jacobs are too far fetched for the general public. Regular folks who have average incomes are bombarded with the fantasy of luxury and they want to be part of that elite world even if it means going for knock offs or having a “look for less” type of settlement. H&M is able to cater to those longings with such a collaboration at a fraction of a price. I have no doubt that if Prada made a collaboration with H&M, the collection would sell like hotcakes. But I agree that it may not need any attention boost like the other designers. If H&M is out to put struggling designers on the world map, then perhaps Prada may not be the first choice. Maybe a French label? I don’t know how well YSL, Jean Paul Gaultier, or Christian Lacroix fare financially, but it would throw for an interesting collection.

  5. @DaDa: Yes, the MiuMiu/Prada H&M collaboration is probably just a dream, but there is nothing wrong with that! @Dahlia: I hear you on the prices! MiuMiu is actually no longer considered a second line to Prada that is more “accessible”. The company’s strategy has been to completely separate it from Prada in everyway possible and build it into a brand in its own right, with the prices to match.