Why Are H&M and Luxury Designer Collaborations So Successful?

With the collaboration trend started with Karl Lagerfeld in 2004, H&M brings luxury and the street closer than ever before.

H&M x Balmain, 2015
H&M x Karl Lagerfeld, 2004

The first years of the millennium were very difficult for the fashion world, especially luxury brands. Consecutive economic crises and terrorist activities around the world led consumers to spend less money, and at this point, they first gave up their fashion habits. On the other hand, rapidly growing ready-to-wear brands offered a democratic fashion experience to consumers with similar price segments all over the world with their globally opened stores. At this point, H&M, which was strongly involved in the game, was looking for a difference that would differentiate its opponents and move them one click higher. The classic Chanel tweed jacket on the H&M T-shirt, used in the editorial shoot of Kate Moss in British Vogue in May 2000, gave the brand the opportunity to catch an innovation that had not been thought of. If luxury brands were ready to meet the streets, why didn’t H&M lay the foundation for it? The brand rolled up its sleeves and made an offer to Karl Lagerfeld, the creative director of Chanel at the time. The luxury fashion industry, which had not opened its doors to anyone from the street until then, was ready to go down to the street under the leadership of a genius like Karl Lagerfeld. According to Mark Tungate, there were two important reasons why this proposal was accepted by Karl Lagerfeld. First of all, luxury fashion brands were aware that they were gradually demodulating and starting to lose the new generation of consumers. Secondly, H&M, which has never hesitated to advertise until now, was confident that they would create a mutual win-win situation with the mind-blowing advertising budget it offered Lagerfeld. As a matter of fact, the parties were not mistaken, when the H&M x Karl Lagerfeld collection was launched in 2004, the stores were plundered within minutes, even when the social media did not exist.

H&M x Stella McCartney, 2005

The trend that started with Karl Lagerfeld in 2004 was followed in 2005 by the collaboration with Stella McCartney, known for her environmentalist stance, which is called green fashion of the period. On the other hand, this collection, which was welcomed by the consumer, received reaction from certain circles due to the conflict between Stella McCartney’s environmentalist stance and H&M’s production procedures. Viktor & Rolf winked at professional workwear in 2006, and in 2007 continued the collaboration with Roberto Cavalli with the party theme. The collections continued with the Comme des Garcons with its avant-garde stance in 2008, Matthew Williamson, the representative of bohemian fashion in 2009, and Jimmy Choo, the first name that comes to mind when it comes to high heels in 2009.

H&M x Versace, 2011

2010 and beyond has become a much more challenging process for both H&M and designers. While the rise of the internet shopping trend and the determining authority of social media caused a great challenge for both sides, it raised expectations on the consumer side. While the collaboration with Lanvin in 2010 was a tribute to stylish clothing, in 2011 the Versace collection, consisting of eye-catching pieces, witnessed the greatest interest ever achieved. Marni with its daily wear collection in 2012, Isabel Marant, who made a homage to the French style in 2013, and the cooperation trend that accelerated its rise with Alexander Wang in 2014 with sportswear, reached its peak in 2015 with Balmain. When Balmain, who renewed its brand image in the same period, worked with names such as Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner for its advertising campaign, a worldwide congestion was inevitable. While the products were finished within the hour of their sale, they managed to find buyers at exorbitant prices on the black market in the same minutes.

H&M x Erdem, 2017

Kenzo with its futuristic style in 2016, Turkish-born British designer Erdem with floral theme in 2017, Moschino with a camp and leather style in 2018, and Giambattista Valli collection, which resembles a graduation ball, were launched in 2019. Saying that it will not publish any luxury collaboration collection due to the pandemic in the world in 2020, H&M’s 2021 choice is a big curiosity. A Givenchy collection that will justify the rumors that have been going on in fashion backstage for years? Or a Vivienne Westwood collection with a punk attitude? We’ll wait and see.

H&M x Moschino, 2018

While creating the collaboration trend of H&M, it is not only the capsule collections it has released with famous brands that reinforce its success, but the public relations work of these collections. The collections, which are offered for sale every year like November or December, are leaked to the press with various rumors in the first months of the year. Like March or April, it is announced which brand will be involved in the collaboration. For the rest of the time, products are introduced as objects of desire that cannot be reached by the consumer, with actions such as different press promotions, influencer campaigns and special sales events. This successful public relations strategy causes products to be out of stock in both internet and physical stores within minutes at the end of the day, to be sold at exorbitant prices on the black market and to queues in front of the stores starting from midnight.

H&M x Giambattista Valli, 2019

Many brands, from Adidas to Lacoste, from Dior to Louis Vuitton, have tried and continue to try the inter-segment collaboration trend. Especially the increase in second-hand clothing habits and the fact that this market is threatening luxury brands under the name of vintage has caused the brands that have closed their doors to the streets until now to finally lower their guard. While low-segment brands increase their prestige thanks to these collaborations, high-segment brands are getting closer to the new consumer they cannot reach. The fact that everyone can have H&M x Versace products even if there is no Versace in their wardrobe, explains us the desired win-win relationship in the most accurate way.

Fashion Branding Researcher | M.A. Fashion Marketing Communication