Hennes & Mauritz announced it will launch Isabel Marant for H&M November 14 in more than 250 of its locations. This capsule collection marks the 10th anniversary of H&M's series of designer collaborations. A decade later, how relevant is the trend of designer collaborations under current market conditions?
“When Karl Lagerfeld signed on to do a collection for H&M, it was hot news,” said David Wolfe, creative director of trend forecasting agency The Doneger Group. “Furthermore, the merchandise looked like Karl had designed it. It had his “signature style” that previously had only been accessible to the wealthy. Nowadays, some designer that the public is virtually unaware of is touted and hyped.”
H&M began collaborating with high-profile designers and celebrities for its collections as a strategy to maintain their growth momentum. Offering its entry-pricepoint customer access to designs that were typically unattainable resulted in sales surges each time a new collaboration was released into stores. Versace for H&M sold out in both Dubai and Beijing in under 30 minutes, and the retailer's website crashed because of the high volume of traffic.
In an attempt to satisfy their customer's apparent demand for these collaborations, H&M increased the depth of the Maison Martin Margiela for H&M collection which, unfortunately, did not translate to an increase in sales volume. Perhaps it was the forward fashion looks and higher price points that deterred customers. Or perhaps customers have grown tired of these recurring collaborations?
“In my opinion, [designer collaborations are] in danger of reaching a saturation point,” Wolfe added. “There are simply too many to generate the thrill that initially propelled customers into the store for these limited collection. The best collaborations were the first.”
To compete with fast-fashion powerhouse Zara, H&M has been testing marketing techniques which are traditionally used by luxury brands and diversifying its offering to elevate its brand identity. The selection of Marimekko and now Marant as guest designers indicate an attempt at moving towards contemporary designs that are relevant to H&M's customer beyond the designer-collaborator namesake.
“Larger brands like H&M and Target need the “street cred” that comes with working with respected and up & coming designers, stylists, celebrities and more recently, bloggers. It’s becoming less about the money being made and more about the attention these collaborations draw and because of that the market’s getting a little crowded. “ – Becca Alexander, editor of the website fashionindie.com
H&M's success is unquestionable. Within our courses and workshops, the retailer is used in multiple case studies. The strategies and elements which contribute to their sales growth and customer relationships, and the aspects which challenge both their profit, sales and customers are examined and celebrated.