Capsule Collections: A Hard Pill to Swallow?
It seems as though more and more people are becoming interested in owning well-known fashion brand clothing these days. It’s becoming easier to pick out Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel from a crowd than ever before. Take another look though - is that a two thousand dollar Versace dress? Or is it actually a two hundred dollar dress, courtesy of Versace by H&M? Capsule Collections - collections of clothing designed by one particular designer or brand, and created and sold by another - are becoming all the rage these days. As a way for people with a more modest budget to be able to get in on all the label love, stores have discovered how to make their merchandise as coveted and sought after as the runway looks they’re emulating by teaming up with some of the biggest names in fashion. With new ways to dress yourself in once coveted clothing, it’s reasonable to ask: are Capsule Collections a good idea that can expose shoppers to high-end brands, or do they somehow lessen the appeal of a well-established brand with an already good reputation?
As mentioned earlier, Swedish fashion giant H&M is one of the largest retailers putting Capsule Collections out into the marketplace. Past collaborations include designers and brands such as Lanvin, Versace, Comme des Garcons and most recently, avant-garde label Maison Martin Margiela. These collections (and the numerous others H&M has released) have created world-wide buzz and stock of the merchandise almost instantly sells out as each collection is released. With sales like these and line-ups out the door, it is clear that H&M has been able to successfully mine a mostly untapped vein in the market of fashion - high-end names with low prices. Having experienced more than one of these events myself, I can certainly attest to the frenzy that seems to overcome shoppers in the midst of such great finds. Often, shoppers will buy any item they can get their hands on and if they do not fit (or simply were not a desired item) they will simply resell them on Ebay for a much higher price, turning a profit for themselves.
When brands attach their name to merchandise like that which H&M produces for these Capsule Collections, it begs the question: do these collections hurt or help the brands in question? Certainly, Capsule Collections do raise brand awareness. While Maison Martin Margiela is a well-known brand among the ‘Fashion Elite’, it would not be a stretch to say that the average consumer has no knowledge of them whatsoever. Via H&M however, the brand has now been introduced to a much wider audience who may now seek them out and strive to purchase the real items Maison Martin Margiela produces, straight off the runway. Mens magazine GQ recently collaborated with The Gap for a very successful collection that sold out in stores across Canada and the United States with advertising opportunities on the internet, GQ Magazine and word-of-mouth. With such a collection, GQ was able to increase awareness of their magazine and increase sales and The Gap received an increase in traffic in their stores, as well as sales.
Though a greater public awareness of brands seems like it would always be beneficial, some might view these Capsule Collections as a cheapened version of the brands they represent and may look elsewhere for their high-fashion. Even though a name can be sewn into any garment, the quality of the name does not necessarily affect the quality of the actual clothing. While the appearance of many of H&M’s collections have been interesting, many people have noted that the garments and accessories themselves feel cheap and do not last nearly as long as their more expensive brethren.
Another interesting idea: if the high-end collaborator is someone who is relatively new to the fashion world, or a label with less recognition than other major designers, will people really line-up in hopes of scoring the newest pieces? For example, in the Spring of 2012, H&M released a Capsule Collection with Italian brand Marni. Though the brand is known in the fashion world and has created many wonderful collections, the general public was not as familiar with the brand - sales were not as strong as the previous Fall collaboration with Versace.
Capsule Collections are an interesting, relatively new fashion trend. Though a seemingly effective way to increase brand awareness and generate sales for large retailers such as H&M and Target, high-fashion brands run the risk of hurting their own brand image by collaborating with these typically lower-end retailers. Though the look may be there, the quality, generally, is not. Our suggestion? Make the purchase if it makes you feel good. Having a piece or two to enhance your own wardrobe can make you feel good and the items are generally rare enough that you might be able to feel like more of an individual in a crowd. However, we wouldn’t suggest splurging - spending all of your money to grab as many pieces as you can reduces the cool factor of what you’re buying. And if you’re going to be spending a large chunk of change, you might just be better off saving for the real thing - it will certainly last a lot longer!