Over the last three years, mass retailers have increasingly been associating with designers and celebrities for limited edition collections as a strategy to increase footfalls. However, as the downturn in the economy creates uncertainty for the retailers and customers, the strategy has got a new twist with mainstream retailers and high-end designers joining hands to create exclusive collections in order to offer chic couture at cheap prices for the masses. Terming it more aptly as ‘Affordable Couture’, this new emerging concept is reported to be a rage amongst the customers who can now wear top-end designers without paying through the nose, triggering demand of such unique collections…
One of the most recent and highest selling partnerships was seen at the starting of this year itself, of Taiwanese fashion designer Jason Wu launching the limited “Jason Wu for Target” line in partnership with US cheap chic chain Target Corp. Going on sale with the mass retailer with price tags of $ 60 or less, the fashion line was sold out in a single morning. Comprising of wearable outfits like pleated frocks with sailor-striped hemlines, dainty silk blouses with neck ties and collars, and sportier knits and tennis skirts, the collection also had handbags and scarves ranging from $ 19.99 to $ 59.99. In a tight economy where the customer is always looking out for saving a buck or two, such offers have become extremely tempting for fashion followers as they can now afford their favourite designers in much cheaper prices, which was never an option available before.
Helping to reach out to a wider audience, Jason Wu himself said, “What Target is doing is bringing the boutique experience back into America. I think they are bringing a fantastic experience to people who may not otherwise be able to experience it. It’s an excellent strategy, and it’s also great for me as a designer because I am reaching a whole new audience that I wasn’t able to reach before.” Jason Wu’s limited edition collection has not only captivated the general public, but also US first lady Michelle Obama, who wore a US $ 39.99 sleeveless navy floral chiffon dress by him recently at a promotional event in Orlando, Florida for her “Let’s Move” initiative to fight childhood obesity.
It cannot be denied that such partnerships are lucrative for business as well, as on the one hand the retailers gains cachet, lots of new customers and loads of publicity, on the other the designers are making money because the retailer pays them to create a unique collection. According to reports the payment can be anywhere from $ 2,00,000 up to $ 1 million, plus royalties, along with which comes free publicity for both established and young designers in such a crunched time. For instance, Missoni, a not so famous Italian fashion house until last year, managed to make headlines all over the globe by bringing down Target’s website overnight, as it crashed from all the heavy traffic received with the brands partnership with the retailer available only for a limited period of time with limited quantity of items.
A similar example was witnessed late last year when hundreds of fashionistas flooded the street in front of the low-priced fashion chain H&M, as it collaborated with Italian luxury label Versace launching a new collection and customers waiting for the doors to open. Versace jackets that normally sell for thousands of dollars were selling at a shockingly low price of $ 129. What used to be an unthinkable strategy by high-end designers to sell their clothes at mass retailers, is now a profitable way of generating business as more and more of them team up regularly with GAP, Macy’s and Target to bring “cheap chic” to the masses.
With constant developments in technology and the manufacturing process getting more sophisticated with new machines and techniques, designers are today able to get really good quality at a low price. The main differences between the clothing produced by a designer’s own label and that of a lower priced line designed for a mass retailer are the materials used to create the products, the details put into them, and the styling. While high-end collections are made on a live model using in-house ateliers and may use as many fabrics and techniques as possible to create a theme-based collection, lower priced apparel goes through an edited down process where the apparel is made through flat patterns and measurements using less variety of fabrics and more styles of clothing.
Another unique collection in the pipeline which is soon to hit the stores is of Mary Katrantzou, a British designer who is famed on the London runways for her detailed digital prints, teaming up with high street retailer Topshop in Canada. The collection consists of a 10-piece range, incorporating an optic-shock of bright colours and wild prints whether in a trouser, dress, blouse or scarf with prices ranging from as low as £ 40 to a considerable high of £ 350. Whether worn separately or together the pieces are perfectly in tune with one of the season’s biggest trends of prints, and are also close to the aesthetic of the designers mainline as possible, with great control over the quality of design and production. Digital prints which were earlier considered to be a high-end expensive technology, is now accessible to the masses with a massive upgrade in the digital printing technology both in terms of quality and lower prices.
With a few successful lines backing the concept in the past, and a few eagerly awaited in the future, the strategy is a sure shot win in times to come and undoubtedly a treat for customers worldwide!