The Rise Of Fashion Collaborations

Once upon a time, high-fashion labels feared their reputable brand may become tarnished if they partnered with lower end brands and designers. However, today, luxury fashion houses are constantly looking to collaborate with fast fashion companies to produce collections that allow fans to have the designer look on a budget. The sheer amount of partnerships has skyrocketed in recent years; and with the help of celebrities and social media it's not hard to imagine why. How did this trend start and why has it been so popular in the modern day? As we look to explore their successes and failures, here are some of the most notable collaborations of the last three decades.

1983: Halston X JCPenney
We kick off with the first ever collaboration; the disco-era designer Halston teamed up with American department store JCPenney to create the cheaper and controversial ‘Halston III’ line. 30 years ahead of its time, the collaboration was the first mass market fashion partnership and received poor recognition by other upper-tier department stores. The likes of Bergdorf Goodman even stopped stocking Halston’s more expensive line, ‘Halston Limited’, in the fear that the JCPenney mark had damaged the luxury perception of the brand. Roy Halston Frowick, designer and founder of Halston, eventually lost his brand to Revlon when they acquired the company in 1986 after the failing collaboration. If only the designer were alive today to see his concept flourish.

2002: Isaac Mizrahi X Target
The Issac Mizrahi Target partnership is notable for many reasons. Firstly, the collaboration was the re-introduction of Mizrahi to fashion and mainstream America. Mizrahi was a national sweetheart in America, always lighting up the runways of New York in the 1990’s. Unfortunately for Mizrahi, ten years of terrific reviews added up to very little, with then owner Chanel pulling the plug on the fashion house in 1998. He moved to a career in Hollywood until Target approached him in 2002, reviving his career. Over time the line included accessories, bedding, housewares, pet products and is famously Target’s longest-running collaborative pairing, spanning across a period of 6 years with revenues of as much as $300 million each year.

2004: Karl Lagerfeld X H&M
H&M, along with Target, are another mass-market brand that hopped on the designer collaboration bandwagon in the early 2000s. Partnering with Karl Lagerfeld, the collection was the first pairing for the Swedish store. Lagerfeld stated that he would never work with the Scandinavian retailer again, calling them ‘snobby’ for producing minimal numbers of his designs. Unsurprisingly, the line sold out in a matter of hours when they went on sale in 20 stores across Europe. “It was great to work with the people at H&M as we all helped each other to make it a success," he told German magazine Stern. "But the incomprehensible decisions of the management in Stockholm have taken away any desire to do it again.”

2006: Christopher Kane X TopShop
Continuing the high-end meets high-street ideology, a young, relatively unknown Christopher Kane teamed up with the popular women’s brand, TopShop. Although only in his first few years of designing , Kane had already made his own line, Christopher Kane, and been credited with the best young talent in Scotland. His sheer dresses and alligator embellished pieces were heavily in demand with created queues of over 200 people at the store release. Kane went on to design a further two collections for TopShop, the last being his biggest and most successful with a total of 30 pieces ranging from scarves to dresses to footwear.

2010: Lanvin X H&M
H&M furthered their takeover of the luxury industry when partnering with French house Lanvin in 2010. The collection was much more high-fashion and arguably less accessible than any of their previous business ventures. Although the range was less wearable than other collaborations, the line was highly acclaimed; think taffeta cocktail dresses and overly-bejewelled embellishments. Ranging from £99.99 to £199.99, the aim behind the collaboration was to ‘translate the essence of luxury to a wider audience’, the then Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz said. ‘Designer's work is usually tailored to a very small group of people, but the collection for H&M was about trying to translate the dream of luxury to the masses.'

2011: Missoni X Target
The Missoni x Target collection spanned more than just ready-to-wear fashion. The brand's iconic chevron-printed pattern adorned everything from bicycles, blankets and other homewares within the sold-out collection. The partnership was so successful, in fact, that the retailer's site crashed on the launch date and the brand accidentally over-sold inventory that they didn't have. A backwards victory for Target it would seem.

2013: Isabel Marant X H&M
The French designer Isabel Marant was the next on the Swedish retailer H&M’s checklist. Preferred brand to the likes of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Alessandra Ambrosio, sporting pink jeans and wedged sneakers, a collaboration of this magnitude came as a surprise to fashionistas. This didn’t stop any of them buying the pieces, however, with the collection selling out within minutes of release and the site crashing for over an hour. The range featured an assortment of peasant tops, embellished pants and fringed boots that perfectly echoed the designer's Parisian, bohemian style.

2015: Balmain X H&M
Fast forward two years to the Balmain X H&M collaboration, where there was no surprise of its success - especially when the likes of Gigi Hadid and Kendell Jenner modelled the collection. Not only did the collection sell out in seconds, it is also docked as the store’s most successful partnership, despite the 100 piece collaboration being the most expensive to date. H&M’s designer collaboration only make up a small percentage of overall sales for the world’s second largest apparel retailer however the marketing benefits for both companies is incredible. Impressions (a metric used to determine how many times consumers see mention of the collaboration) was said to be measured in the billions. Oliver Rousteing, Balmain’s ever loved Creative Designer, “I want everyone to know they are welcome in the Balmain world. Balmain is a luxury label of expense and exclusivity that only a few can afford, but I also believe that fashion should be inclusive.”

2017: Mary Kantrantzou X Cowshed
Collaborations don’t just stop at fashion, as Mary Katrantzou and Cowshed have proved. Reimaging the packaging of four of her favourite products, Katrantzou’s limited-edition range of beauty and loungewear products takes inspiration from the natural ingredients used by Cowshed with a stunning take on her signature floral prints. The collection included a silk pyjama set, make up bags and cosmetic products.

2017: JW Anderson X Uniqlo
When we heard that JW Anderson was set to become the latest designer to create a bespoke collection for Japanese retailer and Freedom client, Uniqlo, we were all very excited. The collection did not disappoint. Released earlier this year, the 33-peice collection is inspired by Anderson’s British heritage and features everything from herringbone to tartan to tweed. The Northern Irish designer said, “Collaborations are incredibly important in design. When I think of Uniqlo, I think of things that are perfectly made, that people have spent a lot of time considering; it’s a difficult job, and I think Uniqlo does it very well. Working with Uniqlo is probably the most incredible template of democracy in fashion, and it’s nice that my designs can be accessible to anyone, on all different levels.”

A common trend we have seen blossom in the past decade is the collaboration of artistic celebrities and brands. Starting in 2004, when Kanye West collaborated with Louis Vuitton for a series of sneakers, the trend has continued to grow. West famously fell out with LV after they snubbed his request to continue working with the brand, subsequently starting his brand, Yeezy, in partnership with Adidas. Although the Louis Vuitton collaboration may not have been as successful or long lasting as some hoped, it set precedence for the future ventures to come. This year, we have already seen Gigi Hadid once again collaborate with Tommy Hilfiger, as well as Rihanna X Chopard, Bella Hadid X Chrome Hearts and A$AP Rocky X Raf Simons; even European supermarket Lidl got in on the action, producing a line with Hedi Klum, renowned supermodel. Not forgetting Freedom’s very own client Reserved who partnered with Kate Moss during their takeover of the UK a few months ago. In a very clever business move, the relatively unknown Polish brand used one of Britan’s most popular fashion icons to attract the UK market and its media. It seems the celebrity approach to collaboration is not slowing down.

We have seen collaborations between designers, retailers and celebrities and with the rise of influencer marketing, we can’t help but ask, can a blogger go from the likes of being a brand ambassador to designing their own collection in order for high street brands to hit a wider audience? Aimee Song X H&M has a ring to it but the real question is would a multi-million pound retailer take the risk? As we have learnt from Halston, time will only tell.