Collaborations: Saviour of the high street?

  • Post published:3rd November 2016
This piece was originally published in The Gryphon in print and online, and can be found here.

Presenter, writer and all round fashion ‘it girl’ Alex Chung this week launched her latest collection for M&S, and with the Kenzo H&M collab landing this month, we thought we’d discuss designers and celebrities partnering with the high street.

H&M have been championing the designer collaboration for 12 years now, since a collection by Karl Lagerfeld in 2004. Since then they have had many popular campaigns with the likes of fashion giants Stella McCartney and Donatella Versace, whose brands have grown with publicity each time. Most popular so far was the collaboration with French fashion house Balmain last winter which, according to The Telegraph, was H&M’s most successful collaboration to date. It saw the high street brand sales rise by 10% from the previous year. The collection had months of media attention leading up to its release with backing from friends of Olivier Rousteing including the Kardashians and Gigi Hadid.

These collaborations with designers give the non-Kardashians of the world – think poor, budgeted students – a taste of designer fashion. The Kenzo collection, landing this week, does have expensive pieces at or over £150 but this is little compared to the £650 Parka available from Kenzo.com. The collection also has much more affordable pieces such as sweatshirts for £34.99 and t-shirts at £24.99. However, it’s more than paying to have a designer label, as the style of the brand is evident on each piece. The Kenzo collaboration this year includes bright rainbow coloured animal prints and is inspired by archive looks from the brand in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Collaborations also give ‘regular people’ the chance to dress like their celebrity style idols, which is definitely the case for Archive by Alexa. Having already done two popular collaborations with AG jeans as well as writing/presenting for Vogue and launching her own fashion app, it’s evident that what Alexa does in fashion, people follow. This is perhaps why M&S, who according to The Guardian, have been struggling in fashion sales over the last five years approached Chung for a collection. That and the fact that when she appeared in an M&S suede skirt in 2015, it sold out within days of her being photographed in it. In April M&S reported that 34,000 shoppers pre-registered their interest for the collaboration before it even went on sale. The affordability of the collection also made it more accessible to a millennial audience at £35 for a sweater. Perhaps Alexa will give M&S a sturdier position in the market again.

It would seem that these brands need the backing of celebrities and designers as much as the people want them and if that means that we can dress like Alexa and feel like we’re buying luxury then let the collaborations continue.

By Lynsey Rose Kay

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