Balmain x H&M: The Business Logic of High Fashion

Balmain x H&M: The Business Logic of High Fashion

As The New York Times columnist Vanessa Friedman so cheekily states: “Get ready for Balmainia.”

The Balmain x H&M collection will officially launch in New York today with a runway show and a killer, Instagram-worthy after party filled with pop stars, models and most importantly, Kardashians.

Unlike models Kendall Jenner and Jourdan Dunn who will most likely be wearing pieces from the collection while walking the runway, fashion enthusiasts of a lesser prominence can take a gander through the collection’s lookbook. The clothes themselves wont become available in stores or online until November 5.

The fact that the clothes wont be out for another couple of weeks, along with all the preemptive social media campaigning (the hashtag #HMBalmaination, anyone?) and early picture sharing beget the question: what exactly is H&M trying to accomplish here? Why stray from the profitable fast fashion market in the first place?

In an interview with The Business of Fashion, Balmain’s Creative Director Olivier Rousteing explained his vision for the label, acknowledging the need for a more comprehensive approach to allow everyone the opportunity to own a piece from a luxury label.

“I want everyone to know they are welcome in the Balmain world,” said Rousteing. “Balmain is a luxury label of expense and exclusivity that only a few can afford, but I also believe that fashion should be inclusive.”

Just based on the price points alone, it’s hard to imagine the average college student dropping an upwards of $5000 to buy a piece from the designer’s recent show at Paris Fashion Week.

But that’s precisely the point. The collaboration is purposefully released in limited edition to give those lucky girls with the compulsory $400 lying around a chance to become of a part of the “Balmain army” and join the ranks of Kardashian-Jenner clan and fashion’s current “it girl” Gigi Hadid.

Yet, neither the chosen designer nor the retailer is in it solely for the profit. The Business of Fashion reports that the designer collaborations produced by H&M make up only “a tiny percentage of overall sales for the world’s second largest apparel retailer.”

To put it bluntly, the collaboration serves the one purpose: marketing. Both the Balmain label and H&M hope to create positive associations between the brands and their target consumers.

It’s not that H&M is abandoning their ‘fast fashion’ model, because why on earth would they do that? Collaborating with Balmain, Alexander Wang in 2014 or even Karl Lagerfield way back in 2004 all provide the average consumer with the opportunity to own a piece designed by one of fashion’s current trailblazers — a sign of your superior wealth and presumable “good taste.” If you saw Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner walking around in a $375 sequined Balmain dress, the same dress you just so happen to see hanging at your local H&M, wouldn’t you, a young, impressionable fashionista, want to go out and buy that dress too?

Rousteing said that the underlying goal of the collaboration was to provide the average H&M customer spending $200 the same quality material and luxury aesthetic a Balmain customer spending $5000 would receive.

“If the label says Balmain, it has to have the same richness, the same attitude, the same positivity and energy,” he said. “Each campaign has its own story and for the H&M collaboration I wanted to show the power and diversity of the #HMBalmaination. The models are [purposefully] all so different, to show that [the line] is for everyone, no matter where they come from.”

Now we just have to wait and see if the Balmain x H&M collection is just as fascinating and aesthetically pleasing as the retailer’s antecedent collaborations.

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