Why H&M Is The Go-To Partner For Luxury Brands

Why H&M Is The Go-To Partner For Luxury Brands

This week, H&M and Mugler introduced a collaboration on a “high street” collection set to release this spring. It elicited an immediate response on social media that ranged from mixed to negative reactions. But H&M has a storied history of collaborating with high fashion labels that started shortly after the Swedish company expanded operations to the United States in 2000.

 In 2004, Karl Lagerfeld partnered with H&M, shocking industry figures and even Chanel insiders. The launch marked a turning point in the fast fashion retailer’s history and soon enough, more brands joined the fray. There was Stella McCartney in 2005, Versace and Lanvin in the 2010s and Simone Rocha in 2021.

Regardless of nationality or brand aesthetics, labels were rarely hesitant to work with a fast fashion brand even as questions of environmental politics and climate change came to the forefront. They all cited a common theme: accessibility. 

Via Wear-Next
Via Wear-Next

The Benefits of Blandness

Founded in 1947 by a Swedish businessman, H&M is short for Hennes and Mauritz. Hennes is Swedish for “hers” and in 1968, they added an M after the addition of menswear. The retailer is a succinct representation of Scandinavian style and mainly features basics – neutral garments and clean silhouettes. They are as adaptable as they are inoffensive. Also, the clothing can be layered or used to ground a more ostentatious piece. A lack of any discernible identity allows labels with varying aesthetics – sensual, feminine, glamorous – to release lines that don’t tarnish their image or H&M’s. 

H&M: A Beast in Fast Fashion

Versatility aside, the retailer is also a juggernaut in fast fashion even as other corporations have fallen. Forever 21, an American fast fashion company, came into the scene relatively recently in 1984. Decades later, it became a fixture of shopping outlets and malls and well-known among adolescents and young adults. Starting in 2018 and approximately three decades after its conception, it declared bankruptcy and downsized retail stores. Its undoing occurred well before the COVID-19 pandemic and caused by the burgeoning mainstream conversation around sustainability in fashion.

On the other hand, H&M enjoyed a steady rise through the decades with relative stability despite the pandemic. From 2020 to 2021, its annual revenue jumped from approximately $20B to $23B,  a 15.86% increase. In 2022, The HM Group announced retail and e-commerce expansion in South America and Israel. 2023 is no different as their plan is to “open around 100 new stores and close around 200 stores, making a net decrease of around 100 stores.” 

Via The Wall Street Journal

H&M: Accessible to the Masses

Today, brands want to increase their audience reach as consumers critique exclusivity and the less wealthy access luxury through digitalization. The H&M collaborations consist of clothing that is significantly cheaper than typical retail prices. A typical Versace dress goes upwards of $9,000, compared to the average American’s weekly median income – approximately $1,000. In contrast, the prices for the Versace x H&M ranged from $29.95 to $399. Other collaborations also had a median price of a couple hundred dollars, making it considerably lower than an original Balmain or Simone Rocha. 

Ultimately, consumers gain the ability to participate in the luxury market without the high price points. And labels can use H&M’s low price points and wide reach to showcase their brand to potential buyers. And while buyers may not buy a thousand dollar garment instantaneously, they may save money or something more achievable. Beauty and fragrances, the most profitable section of luxury houses, can serve as a replacement item for the masses. One is still wearing Versace whether it’s a dress or a perfume. 

In the future, the collaborations will continue with new and veteran designers taking part. There is no doubt that the recent partnership will be any less successful. Though Mugler was at its height in the 90s, ambassadors such as Kim Kardashian have increased visibility and worthiness. It means a way to courting young buyers and establishing an era of inclusivity. 

H&M’s Future Plans

The question is who will H&M partner with next? One thing to note is the labels whose aesthetics do line up with H&M are not frequent collaborators. There is no Celine or Jil Sander partnership in sight. Could it simply be a case of not needing what they already have? Or is the fast fashion brand simply a target of companies who desire attention, ones for whom aloofness is no longer a sign of luxury?

Featured Image Via NSS G-Club

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