Fashion collaborations between luxury and mass market brands have proven to be a quite known business strategy for some time now. As of today, H&M has been one of the main fast fashion retailers to have collaborated in the past with some of the most recognized luxury fashion brands in the world such as Chanel, Maison Margiela, Lanvin, Versace and so on. We are now only two weeks away from the official launch of the Moschino x H&M collaboration to be held on November 8th, and as that day approaches, it has been very interesting to notice how there still hasn’t been put into question the perception of luxury that these collaborations create on consumers.
As we all know, when we talk about collaborations it is inevitable to wonder about the benefits and disadvantages that come from them. The rational thing is to think that both parties should be equally benefited by a collaboration, but the reality is, that there is always going to be someone who gains more from it. Now, there are certain sectors and levels of the fashion industry and for the ones who want to understand the difference more easily, think about a luxury brand being at the top of the pyramid and a mass market brand being at the base. What separates the two of them from the pyramid is a vast number of factors starting from manufacture, quality, brand reputation, pricing and basically all the components you could think of that constitute a fashion company. When you try and think about it like that, the difference between a luxury brand such as Moschino and a fast fashion retailer such as H&M becomes very huge. With that said, approaching a collaboration between the two of them should logically mean a disparity of benefits.
Let’s begin talking about the benefits that a fast fashion retailer gets by collaborating with a renowned luxury brand. To set an example, when Chanel collaborated with H&M in 2004, the line sold out within an hour it was offered. This brings us to the first benefit: an increased visibility. Usually, there is a huge buzz whenever a new collaboration is announced. You will see it on ads everywhere from social media to the pages of Vogue, and you can thank both the fast fashion retailer and luxury brand for the effort put into that. As a consequence, the second benefit that a fast fashion retailer gets is related to the number of visits to their stores. We are all familiar with how competitive retailers have become even though they all offer pretty much the same, so a pinch of novelty into any of them is always going to come as a source of propulsion. Finally, as this is fundamentally a business strategy, the third benefit that a mass retailer gets is obviously an instant profit from sales. One of the most interesting advantages that retailers get from these collaborations is the fact that they are not moved from their comfort zones. What this means is that they get to use their same materials, offer the product at their stores, and have the benefit of charging a higher price just because they have a luxury brand momentarily in the picture offering their name.
On the other side of the picture, let’s talk about what happens with luxury fashion brands. Following the last example, the reaction from the public that Karl Lagerfeld got when the collaboration between Chanel and H&M was announced was a huge trending topic. This obviously created more engagement for both brands, but it could be put into question whether this could be considered a benefit for the fashion designer depending on the reviews from the public. The second benefit has been talked about by some journalists already, and it is related to the possibility for the luxury brand of reaching “new future customers”. However, this is something that should be considered a little bit too speculative simply because of the fact that you can no longer guarantee your “future customers” and if you can, a collaboration with a mass market brand is definitely not going to make the cut if you want to give your new customer the idea of who you are as a luxury brand. Another benefit that was approached before is the idea that collaborations are a form of experimentation for luxury brands; a chance to launch new product categories in a less risky and less costly environment. This is not only a very harmful argument against fast fashion retailers who are still businesses and not experiment labs but also an act that questions the effort for strategic innovation of luxury brands. Moreover, just because luxury brands are momentarily operating in a less costly environment for a limited time collection doesn’t mean that their brand image is not at stake. Finally, the ultimate and only valid benefit for luxury brands is profit. As we all know and we’re about to see with Moschino X H&M on November 8th, people are still going to buy the collection no matter what.
Touching the last point mentioned, there is one big reason why people buy into these collaborations as soon as they launch: they attribute luxury only to a name and a price tag. This is not necessarily the fault of the consumer, but it can rather be attributed to the bizarre (because that’s all it is) customer-brand relationship idea that luxury brands are trying to achieve. We’ve already evaluated the benefits that luxury brands get from collaborations only to find out that there is not a real intangible value coming from them, so why luxury brands keep doing this at the stake of compromising their brand image? The reason why brands such as Moschino or Chanel are globally considered luxury brands in the first place is attributed to a set of characteristics coming from aesthetics to special, high-quality, durable materials that can’t be put into an H&M t-shirt simply because there is no point of comparison between them.
Having said this, is the commercial side of fashion changing the idea of what luxury means for customers? This is only a red flag, but we’ll just have to wait and see.