H&M’s new collaboration with Balmain started off with a bang in New York City on Tuesday, October 20, 2015, as the night brought together fashion industry heavyweights, music icons, and pop culture leaders. A dance crew hyped the crowd for a runway show featuring some of the hottest models in the industry right now.
“Tonight has been a dream come true for me. The energy and vibe are unbelievable,” says Olivier Rousteing of Balmain.
Balmain x H&M is another key collaboration for the fast-fashion brand, bringing accessible items to the masses, also known as masstige, which has been a part of H&M’s genius marketing strategies for the past several years. From Karl Lagerfeld X H&M in 2004 (one of the first to try high-low fashion combinations), to the Alexander Wang X H&M collab (with a launch performance by Missy Elliot), to Versace X H&M (with a performance by Prince), H&M continues to pull together design, music, and the masses in a uniquely successful way, which then resonates across social media, and especially among young buyers.
Even though the masstige collaborations are only a small portion of the actual H&M sales, as we’ve been in our Youth Culture Studies over the past 8 years in particular, H&M continues to climb the radar as one of the most liked brands and retailers among 13-25-year-olds in the United States, and especially in our European Youth Culture Studies. This is in the midst of many teen retailers struggling to make ends meet with this new consumer group.
According to a review of the Balmain X H&M collaboration by Business of Fashion, Rousteing, the creative direction of Balmain said, “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.”
When it comes to designer collabortaions, H&M creative advisor Ann-Sofie Johansson says, “It’s brand building, of course. It creates a buzz and maybe gets people who never shopped at H&M before to shop with us. We’ve been doing [designer collaborations] for 11 years now — and we didn’t necessarily expect to. They are successful.”
Masstige, as we’ve always said, also helps the designers reach a mass market that normally they never could simply because they’re too pricey. According to BofF, sub-scale luxury label like Balmain, with annual sales of just over €30 million (about $34 million) in 2012, the sheer exposure generated by a collaboration with the Swedish retail giant can be powerful.
“I love Instagram because my followers can be part of the Balmain life. Now, with this H&M collaboration, they will get the chance to finally wear the pieces for themselves,” said Rousteing.
“In the hardcore fashion world in Paris, it would have looked a bit funny to walk around with an H&M bag,” said Donald Schneider, the creative consultant to H&M, who conceived the designer collaboration concept more than a decade ago. “Suddenly, it was totally okay for a woman to walk into the Ritz wearing H&M with a Dior top. It opened up a lot of things.”
“For me, it was important to approach everything about this collaboration the same as if it were for Balmain. If the label says Balmain, it has to have the same richness, the same attitude, the same positivity and energy,” he said. “Each campaign has its own story and for the H&M collaboration I wanted to show the power and diversity of the #HMBalmaination.” The H&M X Balmain collection debuts to the public on November 5, 2015.
There’s no doubt that masstige, a.k.a. high-low collaborations are going to continue in the future of fashion. Undoubtedly it’s playing both sides of the field, but with today’s youth culture marketplace that can easily mix and match a thrift piece with expensive, limited-edition sneakers, and a cross-section of accessories, such fun and unexpected story-telling within one’s style is the path moving forward.