A few years ago (longer than I'd like to think) H&M announced their collaboration with Stella McCartney. I'd ignored the Karl Lagerfeld one (while I can admire his Chanel looks from afar, I was never impressed with his own label or for much of his work with Fendi). I may have been a bit green but the world was different then and so I decided to work an hour early that day and pop into one of the Broadway H&Ms around 9-10 am. Walking in, I saw nothing and asked the sales assistant where I could find the stock only to be told to look in the dressing rooms for what was left. I was very surprised that so much stock had sold in an hour as I remembered the Karl items hanging around for some time. I had my list (I remember a dress and the skinny pants were on it) and managed to find a silk camisole I'd liked (well made but I think I wore it once), a black silk skirt I wanted (but in a larger size, again well made) and a pair of wide legged pants that were more of an afterthought and, at the time, a size too large. Those pants are still wearing well and are incredible--now slightly tight (reminding me of the weight I need to lose), I have worn them every winter and they still look and feel expensive. The construction, fabric details, including covered buttons, remind me of far higher priced items. The quality of the items I saw were great but as the hoarders are still trying to off-load pieces on ebay, some still for inflated prices, one problem with collaborations remains strong.
Stella for H&M is one reason why I still hold out futile hope for collaborations--futile in terms of quality and in terms of accessibility (no reasonable shopper should be expected to stay up all night in the hopes that they are in the right time zone to get what they need online--Target I am looking at you--or spend the night camping outside stores to have a chance to buy as is now the case with H&M). It was not the only good collaboration that fruitlessly keeps my hopes high and frustrations higher for the few such partnerships that still interest me. When Phillip Lim collaborated with Uniqlo, I got up at the crack of dawn (younger and with less responsibilities then) and waited in line while all of us outside watched fashion insiders hanging out with the man himself, sipping champagne and eating canapes while they picked up freebies). At least it was a sunny early summer/late spring day, so waiting wasn't unpleasant. There was also a lot of stock, Lim himself and champagne and canapes for those of us in line. Again, the quality of the items was far superior to what's available today and the plaid dress I purchased is still holding up well as a summer regular--the linen dress was also great and still in good shape but it attracts a little too much cat fur for regular wearing (my mistake for getting the black). I paid less than $90 for both which counts as a great deal.
Another fabulous collaboration was the Gap's first with Roland Mouret. I got up super early as this was going to be very limited but as there was next to no press it was me, the Style Channel and about three other people waiting outside the Lex Ave store before it opened. One of those people was an ebay vulture who put her arm through an entire rack of dresses as I was looking for a S and told me to F*** off as she swept them all to the cashier and ran down the stairs with her bags. The staff were so nice--laughed at her and showed me the large stash of merchandise in the back of the store, replenished the racks, found me my dresses which fit well and shared the horror story with their colleagues. I got home, logged on ebay and there she was. As the stock was all drastically marked down within weeks I'm sure she sold very little and hopefully got what she deserved. I bought two dresses--one, alas, was a great style but scratchy and I was allergic to the wool heavy fabric so I didn't wear it. The other I still wear today and occasionally scout ebay for a second (my only regret was just getting one). It's held up like a dream and is a workhorse. But still a collaboration lured me to ignore my best instincts and buy something I should have left on the shelves. Nice as it was, this collaboration watered down Mouret's corseted style and origami folds, but I think the dress I got was ultimately far more wearable and more in keeping with my lifestyle. Gap collaborations were, in general, OK. Availability not too limited, website that didn't crash, returns easy to make and the quality was decent--but the restrictions (white shirts, khaki) really let them down. I bought the Thakoon petal dress and it's very nice and still holds up but how much better would it be in a Steven Alan style plaid or a darker, more wearable colour?
These collaborations are part of the problem, however, in that they make me believe that perhaps I'll luck out again, even as I know that the frenzy has increased as the quality has nosedived.
No surprise, Target is a particular offender here. Given the shoddy quality of the actual items (versus the glossy images in their ads/lookbook), they really should be able to make their stock in far larger quantities. I presume the Stella/H&M and even Mouret/Gap were decent quality because they may have been loss leaders to gain press (the old PR stunt) but Target's stuff is generally no better made than their routine offerings so limiting stock quantities is pure misguided PR that only feeds ebay hoarders (a vile phenomenon exemplifying one of the worst traits in our culture). I've only had two experiences with Target collabs--the Proenza Schouler pop up at Opening Ceremony where only the largest sizes were available after the fashion in-crowd shopped. I got a green striped long sleeved t which would have been great had I been able to get a smaller size and the palm tree dress which was also too big, an odd fit and disintegrated after I wore it once. I also purchased two Liberty of London pieces--one of which was canceled--getting a cotton nightie that was OK but only worth what I paid. Most of these collaborations are cheap and ugly but clearly popular as the Missoni demonstrated. I was interested in a couple of Jason Wu pieces but as their website launched the collection at 2 am EST and sold out immediately, like most on the East Coast there was no way I could get any of it. It's likely a blessing in disguise as I'm again falling for the advertised pieces not the real thing which is likely shoddily made in cheap fabrics.
After a parade of ugly collaborations (Versace, Cavalli) or overpriced poorly made cocktail dresses (Lanvin), the collaboration that is really guaranteed to frustrate me is the upcoming Marni for H&M. I love Marni and hope the quality here will aspire to Stella levels but it is all moot as there is no way I will (a) spend a night camping out to get it, (b) want to deal with aggressive shoppers who only want to take the stuff home and put it up on ebay for inflated prices and (c) refuse to support such scalpers.
Given the largely negative feedback these collaborations provoke--the shortage of supply created/made worse by the resellers, the disappointing quality, the anger amongst those who wanted items and sacrificed sleep and comfort to get nothing, the bad will they instill among the frustrated and, perhaps most significantly, the way they feed the cycle of consumer greed and desperation--I can't help hate them. I hate myself for falling victim to so much of their publicity, wasting time thinking about buying them, even as some of their earlier incarnations have been valuable assets in my closet.
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