"Same Soul, Two Bodies" in Fashion - What does it mean for Brands?

H&M’s one-off collaborations with luxury designers have differentiated it from the pack of fellow fast-fashion retailers such as Zara, Uniqlo & Gap etc... 

H&M's most recent exclusive collaboration with Balmain marks H&M’s 20th designer collaboration since, with past partners including Roberto Cavalli, Versace and Alexander Wang, in addition to Lagerfeld.
Just like H&M, Target has gotten on board with this new "brand-building strategy" trend. This strategy (collaborations with world renowned designers) creates a buzz and aims to get people who never shopped at Target to consider shopping with them, whilst offering "more" than the norm for existing customers.

Recently, the great Jean Paul-Gaultier has joined the likes of Target as part of the retailer’s “Designers for Target’ program which also includes Dion Lee, Stella McCartney, Missoni and Josh Goot. Target's Managing Director, Stuart Machin commented that “Our Designers for Target program makes high-end fashion affordable and more accessible to everyone.”

So, then, comes the irony of this term: "High-end fashion, affordable and more accessible to everyone".

High-end fashion & luxury brands have long been out of the reach for us common folk - for the very reason that it was meant NOT to be accessible to everyone. The idea was to create a disillusioned perception of setting a status quo for the Rich & Famous, that was meant to be inaccessible to the masses.

The dilemma that is apparent is the fact that the High-end Fashion Target Audience differs greatly from the Fast-Fashion Target Audience. It is highly unlikely to find a customer of JPG (Jean-Paul Gaultier), shopping at Target, and vice versa. The level of extrinsic brand value increases for brands like Target & H&M when they collaborate with bigger designers, hence creating the illusion of a more premium product offering, which can be seen as misguiding to some, but more so a loss of a "purist" functionality for such High-end products.

However, even though a customer may seem to be buying a JPG quilt cover set from Target, they are still shopping at Target, and it is still a Target product. Hence, all they are buying into, is a "Brand Extension".

Lets face it: A Holden Commodore is still a Holden Commodore even if someone like Filippo Perini (Lamborghini Head of Design) were to work on a new body & design.


Based on a case study from the Balmain x H&M collaboration, sales have significantly increased, and in this day and age, "BUZZ" is king, especially throughout Social Media. H&M created a temporary "shopper frenzy" allowing new customers to shop at H&M, provide an accessible High-end Brand to the masses, hence making it more accessible than usual. So, sales does the trick, but what about Brand Integrity?

Some might argue with this article, and think that regardless of the body, it's the soul that matters. Well, to the naysayers and my fellow marketers alike - think of the 7 P's across the collaboration. That should sum it up.

Daniel-Jacob Santhou


Twitter: @djsanthou
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Melbourne, Australia  


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