Daily Archives: November 21, 2010

Why I used to think that stellar designers teaming with H&M was a great idea (and why I no longer do)

I used to think that the way H&M teamed up with great fashion designers like Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney (and this year, the House of Lanvin) was a great idea. I agreed with Sofia Coppola who recently said (H&M – Fashion press release):

“”it makes it (Lanvin) so accessible to all kinds of young people to be able to afford it and wear it”.

I liked that idea alot: the accessibility of great design and great style — although not great materials — for young people. Why shouldn’t great style be accessible to everyone, I thought? If you are a big fan of the work of Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, or dream of being able to wear something by Lagerfeld, then this is your chance to buy it and wear it, regardless of the fact you are far from rich. Great clothes for everyone, I thought.

Well, as it turns out, the great style of H&M and Lanvin is available to only a few, despite the relatively low price. Doing some searches on Twitter (hash tag #Lanvin), and then looking up articles like this (How to Survive the H&M Lanvin Launch Like a Pro! – Style & Beauty – UsMagazine.com), I can see that what really happens is that there is a very limited number of pieces put out for sale, people line up for hours before the store opens to get them, and then they rush in and buy as much stuff as they can. There are limits (according to UsMagazine, rules such as each customer has a limit of two items of each product. So, no more than two sizes (shoes or garments) or pieces (jewelry or accessories) per customer. But based on what I can see people tweeting, the first ones in are doing a shopping grab and buying as much as they can, somewhat indiscriminately. They shop that way for two reasons: 1) they plan to return it if they don’t like it 2) they plan to sell it for a good profit on eBay (see this page and compare the list retail prices vs the eBay prices (Lanvin for H&M – Women’s Collection | nitrolicious.com)

Now, if you are lucky and smart, you will pop into H&M in the next few day or so and leisurely get something from Lanvin that you love and that was returned by someone who gorged themselves on the stuff today and then decided they no longer wanted it. More likely you won’t get anything at all (save the rather unexceptional and overpriced scarves that still languished on shelves even when everything else had been snatched up).

Who benefits from this? Well, first off, Lanvin and H&M. As this article announcing the teaming shows (Lanvin to Make Clothes for H & M – NYTimes.com):

For Lanvin, the move toward a wider audience signals less a departure from its luxury roots than a further attempt to expand its market with new products and retail outlets. The company recently opened a store on Madison Avenue.

It’s a great coup for Lanvin. They have great buzz, and they are well positioned for moving down market. (H&M received equally a large amount of attention from this arrangement). Plus, because the quantities are limited, they can likely avoid the embarrassment of having their clothes lingering on the 70% off rack. (Indeed, I really believe that the scarcity of the clothes is meant to drive manic purchases and to limit the amount of it going on deep discount sales later.)

It’s also a fantastic deal for H&M. This is the weekend of Black Friday in the U.S., and unofficially the early start of Christmas shopping. It’s a great way to gain attention and get people into the store and spending money, for even if people don’t score any of the Lanvin, they likely will come away with something else (I can tell you this from personal experience. :))

Finally, it’s also a good thing for the rare shopper who managed to get something, especially in women’s wear. The dresses have great flair, both in style and colour. I can’t attest to the quality of them, but for anyone young looking for something to wear that will gain the attention of the room at holiday events, one of the H&M Lanvin dresses will meet the criteria for sure. (As for the men’s wear, I was underwhelmed.)

But for most people, it is neither here nor there. Whatever it is about, it is not about making great clothes accessible to people. (If anything, the work that Isaac Mizrahi did for Target or the lines that Martha Stewart did for K-Mart or Home Depot are about that.) It is more about getting great publicity for H&M and the annual designer chosen to do a line for them.