Why should luxury brands collaborate with fast fashion retailers?

Last week, H&M launched its 11th designer collaboration with Balmain, a French haute couture house. This is not the first successful collection created with a luxury designer, as the chain had previously worked with Karl Lagerfeld in 2004. Since then H&M has worked with Versace, Roberto Cavalli, Stella McCartney, Alexander Wang, Marni and Isabel Marant .
The Swedish fashion house started a new trend called “masstige” (merger of two words: “mass market” and “prestige”), that allows all customers, who are usually young, to pay a reasonable price for designer clothes.
Unsurprisingly, the H&M and Balmain partnership was a knockout, perhaps even the most successful designer collaboration; on Instagram, indeed, there are around 80,000 posts tagged with the line’s official hashtag.

However H&M is not the only fashion brand that builds partnerships with luxury fashion houses. For instance, Target, the second-largest discount retailer in the United States that operates primarily across North America and offers a multitude of goods, started an interesting collaboration with Lilly Pulitzer this year. The collection was an affordable line of brightly printed women’s wear, children’s wear, home goods and matching makeup. The results were amazing. The collection was almost entirely sold out, in stores and online, within hours (even minutes in some locations). According to Target, it was one of the fastest-selling collaborations it has undertaken.
This kind of collaboration can be analyzed from two different points of view. For fast fashion retailers it’s a way to spread a very powerful image since they have the opportunity to sell clothes and/or accessories branded by famous stylists in their stores. It is also a key point of differentiation from other retailers and gives consumers a new reason to visit stores. At the same time, another important result is the increase of revenues and margins since materials used by low cost retailers are the same, despite the fact that the price is higher.
From luxury brands’ point of view, there are opposite opinions. Of course, designers get more visibility and it’s a perfect occasion to extend their brand to new areas or to reach new customers, for example young ones, who will perhaps become important future clients. Collaborations with high street retailers also allows luxury brands to experiment with new categories of products in a less risky and less costly environment. Jimmy Choo was able to move from producing shoes into women’s clothing for H&M’collection. Moreover they could get significant financial remuneration (Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney were paid $1 million for their H&M collections).
This kind of partnership can be a huge success, but it raises questions as well. A luxury product is a mix of quality, longevity, emotion, experience, so why should luxury brands attach their name to a product that doesn’t match these criteria? Is it a confusing message sent to consumers? And what happens if high street consumers have a bad experience with the new product?
As a consumer, what is your point of view?
To learn more:
Lilly Pulitzer for Target: They Came, They Waited, They Went Home Mad
Data Shows Balmain’s H&M Collaboration Will Make Resellers Plenty Of Cash
For and Against: Luxury Brand High Street Collaborations