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High/Low Mixing
by
December 23rd, 2011

Photo courtesy of The Guardian.com.

It seems like New Yorkers will stand in line, even camp out in subzero temperatures for just about anything if it’s highly anticipated and trendy. Case in point- the line at French macaroon hot spot, Ladurée now spans around the block. Before that, it was Magnolia Bakery everyone was clamoring for. Lately, I’ve been seeing these concert-worthy lines at mass retailers such as Target and now most recently at H&M.

The new item of the moment isn’t a savory treat, but rather the opportunity to wear a designer brand at truly affordable prices- a commodity that is most relevant and appealing given the economic climate. Mass retailers are collaborating with luxury brands to bring in designer duds never before available in their stores. Consumers can now wear names originally exclusive to Madison Avenue and Rodeo Drive at much more modest prices.

This past fall, Target launched their Missoni collection, aptly named Missoni for Target. The assembly of clothing, accessories and home items was met by not only impressive sales (the collection officially sold out in stores), but also managed to crash their ecommerce site for several hours. Target even compared their sales to what they typically experience during Black Friday. The success of the collection lives on to date, as eBay is carrying several thousand Missoni for Target items on their site available for purchase. (Forbes.com)

Given the success of Target’s line, I had a feeling H&M was going to experience a similar surge of fashionistas coming their way. It turns out my anticipation was right on as I stumbled upon an H&M store on the Upper East Side, the night before the launch of Versace’s Fall/Winter collection. A good 40-50 people were lined up beyond the store’s front, wrapped in blankets, sleeping bags and camped out in folding chairs, anticipating several bright pieces typical of Versace’s fun design aesthetic.

Despite the success of mixing high-end designers with mass retailers, the collaborations beg the question of whether or not companies worry their brand’s prestige will be compromised by creating high-status pieces at varying qualities and price points. (Racked NY.com)

Is there a point where it becomes too mass? At H&M’s New York flagship store the collection went on sale at 8 a.m. and opened up to a line that formed earlier that morning at 4:30. One woman had reported to be waiting in line for a full 22 hours! For prestigious brands such as Versace, the shopping experience is usually one that is promised to be just as luxurious and customized as the goods offered within the store. At a certain point, one has to wonder whether or not the brand is being diluted as it appeals to mass audiences?

It seems Donatella Versace doesn’t echo this sentiment at all. In fact, she describes the partnership as an opportunity to develop the brand’s credibility with street fashion and sees the collaboration allowing her to reach a whole new market of aspirational, young consumers that have the passion for wearing her wardrobe, but not necessarily the funds required of such clothes. “I know that with the H&M collaboration, I’m going to reach a much wider audience than usual,” Versace said. “When I’m going to see young people walking down the street in iconic pieces it’s going to be fun.” (The Daily Beast TV)

Versace saw such successful sales with their Fall/Winter collection at H&M that they recently announced they’ll be introducing a second line of resort wear, which will be debuting in January and is only available to countries with e-commerce sites (United Kingdom). It seems that they recognize the brand equity associated with H&M- trendy with a European edge- and it turns out the partnership is very much on par with the same brand values the Italian fashion house communicates to consumers. (Huffington Post)

As we embark on 2012, it will be interesting to see how the mixing of high and low continues and whether it ultimately hinders or helps these high-end brands in the long run. Only time will tell, but for now it is evident that luxury brands such as Versace and Missoni are gaining a whole new market of enthusiasts and consumers. Consumers that don’t seem too far from would-be brand loyalists. After all, they are waiting in less than satisfactory weather conditions for several hours when it isn’t even Thanksgiving weekend.

 

Tags: consumer target, designer lines, H&M, luxury brands, Target
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