Overpriced and Overhyped: Designer Collections for National Chains

Impeccably designed clothing at affordable prices? Yes please, sign me up. While designers are sadly still charging an arm and a leg for original pieces, affordable retailers like Target and H&M provide the fashion-obsessed with designer collections that we can feasibly purchase.

Starting with a collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld in 2004, H&M added designer collections to its merchandise. This past year, H&M chose to work with French fashion house Lanvin. If you’re anything like me, you stalked the collection online weeks before its release date, but were slightly disappointed that many of the items were priced at over $100. When the collection actually debuted, crowds went absolutely ballistic and the vast majority of pieces sold out in a matter of hours.

Target experienced a similar phenomenon this September with the release of their collection by high fashion Missoni. While stores were swarmed by avid fans, the Target website actually crashed from the deluge of online shoppers eager to get their hands on the famed Missoni knit zig-zags. Shoppers were outraged with the corporate superpower’s seemingly rookie mistake.

This November (the 18th to be exact), fashion powerhouse Versace will release its much anticipated line for H&M. I’m sure H&M sales associates are already shaking in their designer-collaboration boots in anticipation of the mobs they will have to fight off. These mobs are ferocious, unstoppable, and require a small army of mall security guards to keep them in line.

In the Versace vein, I was extremely disappointed to learn that the collection prices range from $20 (for crazy underwear) to $300 (for Anna Dello Russo’s studded leather dress). I’m not sure I could justify paying more than $60 (which I did on a fabulous Zac Posen for Target dress) for anything from Target or H&M, even if it is “designer.” Which brings me to a question: are purchases from these collaborations worth your money?

These collections gain a lot of hype because of the high-profile designers who choose to do them. Who doesn’t want to own some Versace or Missoni? For fashion fanatics, that stuff is art. And when every one of your favorite fashion bloggers is discussing the upcoming collection and all your friends want the soon-to-be-released aqua leather bandeau so badly, how can you not get sucked into wanting a taste of it for yourself?

But, subjective views aside, although these clothes are designed by top names in the fashion industry, they often aren’t much better quality than the regular H&M- or Target-brand clothes. And, in my opinion, many of the designs aren’t exceptionally innovative—there might be one piece per collection displaying the originality of a real-life ready-to-wear collection. Thus, is it worth it to pay upward of $200 for an average-looking dress of average quality?

In my experience, if you peruse designer re-sale stores often enough (I’m obsessed), you can actually find real pieces from any of the designers you dream about at prices that won’t totally break the bank. I would rather spend extra time shopping and find a used Versace dress for $200 than buy an H&M version for the same price. So it comes down to how much time you want to spend shopping re-sale versus how much time you want to spend waiting in a line at Target. Either way, make sure you end up with something fantastic to add to your closet so that it’s a win-win situation.

In my opinion, these designer collaborations have become less about making fashion affordable to the general population and more about each constituent making an easy dollar. With the clothes’ low level of quality and design, consumers are enticed into buying these pieces for the designer name itself. Miucca Prada could design a line of potato sack dresses for Target and everyone would scramble to buy one. Shoppers justify the grossly inflated price tag with the designer’s name.

So before you go out and purchase the entire Versace for H&M collection, consider whether you’re buying the clothes for the brand name or if you actually like them. If you actually like a piece, it might be worth the money. But the majority of college students, including myself, don’t have that kind of money lying around. If you’re buying strictly for the designer, go check out some re-sale stores for the similarly-priced real thing. Never buy something just for its label.

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