Don't be sold on big brand collaboration
H&M's partnership with Kenzo will tempt those chasing bargains, but don't expect designer quality
Published 16/10/2016 | 02:30
Over the past 12 years this store has stocked clothing bearing the names of Stella McCartney, Jimmy Choo, Karl Lagerfeld, Lanvin and Versace. In two and a half weeks' time, it will add Kenzo to that line-up. No, it's not Harrods or Selfridges or even Brown Thomas. It's H&M, one of the world's most successful fast-fashion empires.
In the name of collaboration, fashion stores are increasingly partnering with luxury labels to bring their design kudos to the masses at a fraction of the usual price.
Since H&M's first collaboration in 2004 the demand for diffusion lines has only grown, culminating in the highly anticipated Balmain x H&M collection in 2015 that saw people queuing overnight outside stores across the world.
Balmain's decadent aesthetic translated into heavily beaded dresses and sumptuously embroidered blazers with price tags far higher than standard H&M - €399 for a blazer and €199 for a dress - but far less than actual Balmain.
However, when shrewd shoppers posted their garments on eBay that was no longer the case. Not only were prices hugely inflated but they were more expensive than some items in Balmain's main collection.
I consider myself a Kenzo fangirl. I adore its quirky prints, unexpected silhouettes and outre art direction. For its H&M collaboration it has pulled together a deliciously varied line-up of models, DJs, rappers and artists, including 61-year-old supermodel Iman to front its campaign. It's refreshing to see such diversity and creativity on the high street. And the clothes? They definitely deliver Kenzo's brilliantly bonkers aesthetic.
When I flicked through the Kenzo x H&M look book released last week there were at least five pieces of clothing I saw and thought 'I want'.
They induced that same reaction as when I bought those pony hair shoes in Zara or taffeta minidress from Topshop. That rush of retail endorphins that engulfs us on the high street is no less when there is a designer name attached. Indeed, it seems it make us far giddier. We are getting our fashion hit plus designer swag at high street prices - does it get any better than that?
As the endorphins recede I consider what it is we are actually buying. What really makes us cough up enormous amounts of cash for clothing on the high street is the idea which we are being sold.
The idea that we can buy a designer brand obviously appeals for a myriad of reasons but there is one element synonymous with luxury that we aren't taking home. Although these diffusion lines carry the weight of a brand's name, it is unlikely they carry the same stamp of quality.
And yet Balmainia still afflicted hordes of eBay buyers who were willing to pay more for a hyped-up diffusion piece rather than something from Balmain's main collection.
This is testament to the skewed consumer perception that creeps in when a designer brand appears to be attainable. If that zany tiger print hat did not have Kenzo on the label would we be quite so enamoured? I'd wager probably not.
Of course, this is no different to slobbering over a pair of suede boots by Chanel when Zara do a pretty snappy version itself.
What does set the two apart, however, is the craftsmanship. Once you have felt walked-in boots with leather soles that get you through three winters without a repair you realise what it is you are paying for.
So, as much as I am tempted by this latest collaboration, it's not something I will be buying into - I'd rather save my pretty pennies for Kenzo et al and keep the high street for a fast fashion fix.