Lust for Labels

By Louise Logan


A recession does not care for fashion. With the current economic climate leaving luxury designers hot under the collar, a string of fashion houses have had to get a bit more inventive, descending from their ivory towers to come and dress mere mortals via the increasingly popular high street collaboration, the latest of which hits stores this month, as Versace injects a bit of Italian glamour into high street chain H&M.

Versace for H&M, Trousers, £39.99

It’s not the first designer range to grace the high street. It all began in 2004, when Karl Lagerfeld caused a fashion frenzy with his range,

also for H&M. People queued for days, some camped out- never before had we seen such devotion to a clothing line, and in just two days, it had sold out. It wasn’t long before a host of designers, noticing the profitability of such collaborations, were falling head over over-priced heels to get in on some of the high street action. Soon, they were popping up all over the place: Giles Deacon for New Look, Christopher Kane for Topshop, and Matthew Williamson for Debenhams, to name a few. However, H&M remain the undisputed champion of designer collaborations, which in recent years have included Roberto Cavalli, Lanvin, Jimmy Choo and Stella McCartney.

So, what does this all mean? Are designers becoming more affordable, or are high street stores becoming more expensive? Clearly, we don’t seem to care; the most successful lines, such as Christopher Kane’s, go faster than free iPods. Suddenly, we don’t have to take out a mortgage to buy a ‘designer’ dress- we just have to join a 3 mile long queue and risk the possibility of being crushed to death in a stampede– a small price to pay for a Lagerfeld jacket, some would argue.

Many remain unconvinced; the point of designer fashion is quality, and a little bit of exclusivity.

Versace for H&M, Silk Dress, £79.99

High street fashion is mass produced and about affordability; put the two together, and you have one mighty contradiction. You can’t mass produce quality, and the designer collections are often critically disappointing, yet very commercially successful, making it more about the name on the clothes rather than the clothes themselves. It’s not difficult to see the appeal; these unions allow the fashion-conscious on a budget to finally own something similar to

the ridiculously expensive garments splashed across magazines. They queue for hours through wind and rain; by time they reach the door they are practically feral, with rabid eyes and sharp elbows, ready for the hunt. The doors open and the pack is unleashed, before descending upon the closest thing in their size and racing to the checkouts. It’s only when they get home they recover from the hysteria

and realise that they’ve just queued for 10 hours for a leopard print dress that looks like it’s been plucked from the archives of Pat Butcher and cost £80, when usually you wouldn’t pay more than £15 for a dress in that shop – but it’s got a designer label on it!

Only time will tell if this latest fashion power couple will produce a successful love child, but personally I’m holding out for Chanel at Primark.


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