Hmmm, where do I stand on designers doing collaborations with stores like H&M, Target and Macy’s? I’m sort of in the middle, I guess, weighing a bit heavily on being not exactly in favor of them. Truthfully I never gave much thought to them until I found out that one of my favorite designers, Alberta Ferretti, was going to be doing a collection for Macy’s Impulse brand.
My love affair with Alberta Ferretti is long standing. For the past 16 years, or so, I’ve been naming her as the designer I would wear if I ever went to a major red carpet event (not that I have plans any time soon). I once got a glimpse of her team fitting a celebrity in her Milan Atelier about 12 years ago and I’ve drooled over the looks in her store windows on more than one occasion. Alberta Ferretti, for me, has always been one of my “stretch goal” designers, someone I’ve dreamt about wearing…one day. Therefore, the idea of her doing a line for Macy’s, with price points ranging from $49-$119, just sort of cheapens the whole Alberta Ferretti experience for me. Regardless of the fact that I am a long-standing fan, I don’t think I will be checking out this collection.
Let me explain my feelings by telling you a quick story…
My mother-in-law has quite a collection of gorgeous designer clothes. Recently, she pulled out this absolutely exquisite Missoni cardigan from her collection that she bought several decades ago in Italy for enough money that she plans to pass it down to her granddaughter when she dies. When I saw the cardigan I nearly dropped to the floor. The workmanship, the quality, the beauty; truly it was a piece of artwork. Yet, when my fourteen year-old niece (the person to whom it is being willed) got her hands on it the only frame of reference she had about Missoni was that it sold at Target. And this, my friends, is exactly my point about designers doing limited edition collections for mass-market brands. I’m not against them, but I do think the reverence of the designer brands can get lost, as well as under-appreciated once they sell in a mass market way. And, who can blame my niece for the response she had? She’s fourteen years old and Missoni for Target was one of the biggest shopping moments of 2011 when a bunch of “Johnny come latelies” claiming to be fans nearly crashed the Target website.
One may argue with me that the secondary and bridge lines of designers, like Lauren Ralph Lauren, DKNY, KORS Michael Kors also cheapen the designer labels of these bridge brands, but I disagree. These are secondary lines created by the designer as a secondary line, a less expensive tier in their own company. They often have an entirely different point of view, attract a different type of customer and, on their own, become their own brand, regardless of the fact that they are the stepchild to a higher-level label. People who buy them know that they are not buying the actual designer line and they usually buy these secondary line because they like the clothing found in that line…not for the label. While that may also be the understanding for these designer collaboration lines with mass-market stores, the flavor of them is different than if a designer creates a line of their own for a secondary, lower price point market. Am I splitting hairs here?
It’s quite possible that I will receive a lot of flack for feeling the way I do. One could argue with me that these collaboration lines create a greater appreciation for the great work that these designers have done at a couture and designer level. Sure, that may be the case for some, but I don’t think the mass opinion. How many people bought Missoni and then went on to really appreciate the skill and craftsmanship found at the designer level price points of this line? How many people really cared to know or care? We live in a time where we want everything accessible to us and, quite frankly, I think greater appreciation of things come when everything isn’t accessible. To me, designer collaborations would be the same as if Picasso was still alive and suddenly started making artwork for Target. Would we still have the same reverence for his priceless works found at museums? Doubtful. I believe everything shouldn’t be available to us at our fingertips unless we can truly afford it, which is why I also hate when people carry knockoff designer handbags. But that is another blog post entirely.
I may be missing the point of these collaboration lines, maybe the idea of couture level designers creating accessible pieces for the masses is a good thing, but, personally, I’d rather skip the mass market items and work for the day when I can actually afford Alberta Ferretti. And, if that day never comes, appreciate her from a distance just as I would a dream car or home.