There was a significant line outside of H&M’s Newbury location on Nov. 2, as people were waiting eagerly to shop the Scandinavian brand’s new high-end collaboration with Canadian born, British-Turkish designer Erdem Moralıoğlu. Those who shopped for H&M’s earlier collaborations knew the drill: Groups of 20 would get bracelets in different colors that indicated the time they were allowed to get in. Once inside, they would only have 15 minutes to search the store; they would have the option to try what they picked later on, but they couldn’t go back after the 15 minutes were up. After one group’s time was up, more people would be let in, undoubtedly disappointed to find out most of the items they wanted were already sold out.
Mainstream consumers found out about H&M’s collaborations with high-end brands two years ago, when Balmain launched its iconic campaign with Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid. The collaboration became infamous after several people across the world got injured trying to buy looks from the collection. Yet, fashion insiders have been enjoying such collaborations for years, ever since the “H&M x Karl Lagerfeld” line. Top designers such as Stella McCartney, Isabel Marant and Alexander Wang have all collaborated as well as brands like Lanvin, Marni and Maison Martin Margiela.
Fans of such collaborations argue that these collections are a huge bargain compared to the price tags of the designers with which H&M is working. Critics point out that these collections promote an unhealthy and consumerist lifestyle and that the quality of the clothes is poor. This year’s Erdem collaboration confirms both arguments; while the prices are a bargain compared to the designer’s usual price tags, the success of the line is based on hype more than quality.
H&M’s decision to collaborate with Erdem was one of the smartest moves the company has made. The Balmain collaboration two years ago was a success that would never be replicated again, yet the mainstream exposure had the possibility to damage the ‘exclusivity’ of later collaborations, which would turn off the fashion-savvy, high-income audience the brand was targeting. Erdem is the perfect way to win back the same audience.
Erdem as a designer is admittedly not very popular in United States, but he is beloved by fashion circles across the world. His designs celebrate femininity and tell romantic stories inspired by the British countryside. Experimenting with tradition and femininity at a time when androgynous clothing is cherished can perhaps best be interpreted as a bold and refreshing choice. After years of seeing well-known, established brands, it was time for an up-and-coming designer to collaborate with H&M.
Although Erdem is an emerging designer, his eponymous line sure isn’t cheap. His dresses usually sell for around $1,000. The H&M collection is not as cheap as its regular price tags, but it offers Erdem’s target audience a chance to buy comparatively more affordable clothes. It is unlikely, say, for a college student interested in fashion to buy a $1,000 dress, but if they are a fan of the designer, it wouldn’t be as bad to spare $99 for a hoodie from the H&M collection.
The line itself is very reminiscent of Erdem’s usual patterns and forms, but there are some twists. Most importantly, it is more casual, as there are hoodies and t-shirts in addition to skirts and dresses. Furthermore, the collaboration includes a men’s line, a first for the designer. The men’s line does not shy away from embracing the designer’s feminine touch and includes silk shirts, bomber jackets and hoodies with embroidered floral patterns. Even though the clothes are similar to Erdem’s usual designs, the quality is not. In some cases, the prints look so faded that an online made-to-order sweatshirt would look higher quality.
Overall, it seems that the hype around H&M collaborations is what makes them successful, in addition to the experience of buying an item. Even though it is consumerist behavior at its best, there’s something enjoyable about waking up early and waiting in line for something one looks forward to. Similar to KAWS Companion toys that sell out in minutes or new Adidas sneakers that have massive crowds waiting for them, the effort of buying from the collaboration is what makes the item more valuable. This proves that hype is not a concept exclusive to ‘sneakerheads’ and streetwear; it could be translated onto the fashion world in general.