Why Do High-End Designers Collaborate with Bargain and Fast-Fashion Brands?

Balmain x H&M

Bonjour mes amies! As more and more designers collaborate avec lower priced point stores, the internet’s lovers of coveted luxury continue to be repulsed.

If you’ve ever purchased a high/low designer collaboration and you have a public social media profile, you may have been met avec unpleasant comments.

“This is why I no longer wear that designer; everyone can have it now.”

“That really makes the designer look cheap.”

Let’s delve into what exactly is a high/low brand collaboration because these collaborations differ from, say, Fendi and Versace’s “FENDACE” collaboration.

The two most recognizable “low” collaborators are Target and H&M. I think it’s safe to say that we all remember where we were when the Christopher John Rogers x Target collaboration dropped (2021), Fe Noel x Target Collaboration (2023) and I am still nauseated at the thought of not securing pieces from the Balmain x H&M collaboration in 2015 (my personal favorite) and most recently Mugler x H&M.

Mugler x H&M

So why would a designer whose dresses retail for over $1000 (Christopher John Rogers, 2500E for Balmain dresses) collaborate with a retailer whose median dress retails for $50.00? There are certainly more reasons that I’ve listed below, but voila!

1. Wider Audience: Collaboration with bargain stores allows high-end designers to reach a broader customer base. These stores typically have a diverse customer demographic that may not typically shop at luxury boutiques. Truly, Christopher John Rogers was not a household name for many until the Target collaboration.

Christopher John Rogers x Target

2. Mass Production: Bargain stores have the infrastructure for mass production and distribution. This enables designers to produce their creations in larger quantities at a lower cost, making them accessible to more consumers. Higher-end/luxury design houses and designers (claim) to have their products manufactured most often in the European Union (i.e., livable wages, safe work conditions, etc.)

3. Affordability: Designer collaborations with bargain stores create affordable alternatives to their high-end products. This can introduce their brand and design aesthetics to a new segment of customers who might not otherwise consider their products due to the high price point.

Oui, I was also a part of the social media frenzy.

4. Marketing and Exposure: Collaborations generate significant buzz and media attention. Designers can use these partnerships as a form of marketing, increasing brand exposure and awareness. Think about all of the (free) media Christopher John Rogers (I continue to use him as an example because I first had experience as a content creator during this collaboration) gained from social media influencers creating vlogs, hauls, and reviews of his collection.

Luxury brands have identities.

5. Creative Freedom: Some designers welcome the creative freedom of these collaborations. They can experiment with new designs, materials, or styles that they might not have the opportunity to do within their own luxury brand. Luxury brands have identities. When we look at an aesthetic, we may subconsciously think, “That looks very Gucci-Esq.” That’s because design houses spend years creating a “look.” And while designers design for the house, there is often minimal expansive creative control (to ensure that the brand’s identity stays intact.)

6. Revenue Stream: Collaborations can be lucrative. Designers earn royalties or fees from these partnerships, which can provide a valuable source of income beyond their primary luxury collections. While many were introduced to Christopher John Rogers via Target, those who could afford his legacy line were converted to retail buyers.

7. Innovation: Bargain stores may offer access to new technologies, sustainable materials, or manufacturing processes that can enhance a designer’s ability to experiment and innovate.

High/low collaborations are often strategic moves that benefit high-end designers and bargain stores. They expand the designer’s reach, increase sales potential, and allow for creative experimentation while offering budget-conscious consumers a taste of luxury fashion at more affordable prices.

Have you purchased anything from a high-low designer collaboration?

Ciao for now 💋

Cover Photo Missoni x Target


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