Missoni. Versace. Zac Posen.
These are some of the many designers that have done fast-fashion collaborations with massive retailers. In 1983, Halston was blackballed by highbrow department stores after he made a collection with JC Penny. Nowadays, from Target to H&M to Kohl’s, the high-low collab has been one of the biggest fashion phenomenons in the past few years, cashing in on the appeal of high-end designers and the craving for a bargain.
Launched last week, Prabal Gurung for Target was the most recent success story, almost completely selling out in one day. But less than a month ago, as Target floundered with terrible sales from its “collabapalooza” with a laundry list of CFDA designers for the holiday, critics were writing that the “Age of the High-Low Collaboration” had ended.
So what gives?
Here’s my theory: the high-low formula will never be obsolete as long as people are idolizing designers that aren’t within their budget. I myself am a collab veteran. I waited all night to get my hands on a bird fascinator by Anna Dello Russo and nearly froze sitting outside for Maison Martin Margiela for H&M.
And I wasn’t alone. The reason these collections sell out in a day is precisely because of the buying frenzy that they excite: when Target released their Missoni collection, shoppers literally brought down the website with their enthusiasm. It’s intoxicating to feel like you’ve gotten something so "high-end" for such low prices.
Once removed from the situation (and hopefully with a little perspective), it can all begin to seem a little silly. The reason people buy designer clothing is for the quality of the fabric and unique design — neither of which you’re likely to find much of in these collaborations.
What they’re doing is capitalizing on the designer’s image. When you wear that Prabal Gurung dress, you’re in the company of women like Michelle Obama, Kate Middleton and Iman. You suddenly forget that your dress is from Target.
Hey, there’s nothing wrong with making fashion accessible. And again, I will admit I’m often a victim of this effect. But it’s important to remember that the ultimate win is individuality in your personal style, and you’ll never find that if you’re caught up in a high-low designer fantasy.
So, as always: Be yourself. Be Different.