H&M

So Alexander Wang, left, is the latest runway designer to team up with H&M in their high/low limited-edition strategy for creating buzz and best-sellers. He’ll be the first American to get the gig. The news was announced yesterday by Mr Wang via Instagram, which was seen as very cool, while at Coachella, which is even more cool. The message being, of course, that he is just cool, and this project is going to be super-cool. Except it always seems to me the appeal of the H&M collaborations was they took names that weren’t cool – they were haute, and generally unreachable – and it was the combination of unlikely bedfellows (the high street and the high fashion) that was actually the cool part. This one seems to indicate a slight switch in strategy. 

I was struck this week by a report from Havas Media on the world’s most “meaningful” brands – struck by the fact there was but ONE luxury brand in the top 20 (L’Oreal), and by the fact that this all was revealed only a day after I returned from the FT’s luxury conference in Vienna, which had culminated in a panel of luxury CEOs all discussing the need to connect meaning to their brands, and how they are going about it (education, sustainable supply chains, philanthropy), and only a few days after Gucci held its Chime for Change concert in London, which raised over GBP4 million for women’s causes around the world. It’s hard not to think that whatever luxury thinks they are doing, it’s not getting through broadly enough. 

Helen Hunt wearing an H&M gown on the red carpet at the Oscars on Sunday

On Wednesday H&M is having its first-ever Paris fashion show – in the Musée Rodin, the haute art ex-venue of Tom Ford’s Yves Saint Laurent and John Galliano’s Christian Dior. Coming on the back of Sunday’s Oscar moment, when best supporting actress nominee Helen Hunt wore H&M on the red carpet, it seems to indicate more upmarket ambitions for the brand. So, is this a sign of the times or a sign of the decline of western fashion civilisation? Maybe a bit of both.

(Note: it doesn’t seem to be the unveiling of the group’s new, higher-priced brand collection & Other Stories – it’s H&M itself. So it’s not a move to elevate a line to, say, the Martin Sitbon level.)

On one level, it sounds silly. The whole point of great high street brands such as H&M is that it so quickly, effectively and economically translates high-fashion trends for the rest of the world without the frills, hoo-ha and elitism associated with the whole show system, its seating ranks, invitations and exclusionary velvet ropes. It led the revolution to democratise style, and its consumers love it for it. 

Here’s a small pictorial preview of Anna Della Russo’s accessories collection for H&M, which goes on-sale Oct 4, and which she was wearing at Jason Wu’s show in New York. 

So after all the chat about the current economic situation driving a polarisation of price-points – either super-high-end luxury or cheapo Uniqlo – Euromonitor has come out with some research that begs to differ.  

The question of “what will they do the next?” has been answered: after collaborations with Stella McCartney, Roberto Cavalli, and, most recently, Marni, H&M has unveiled what is perhaps its most counter-intuitive creative partner to date: the brand famed for its deconstructivist approach, Maison Martin Margiela. You could say it has mystique, but it’s a mystique of the conceptual, and this is, by definition niche. H&M is by definition not niche, so it seems to me we are faced with something of an oxymoron here. 

After the much-publicised sell-out success of their pre-xmas collaboration with Lanvin, high street megalith H&M has announced their next partner: Elin Kling, a Swedish fashion blogger and stylist.

Yup. The bloggers have moved from commentators to creators.
 

Last night I went to the Pierre hotel in New York to see a Lanvin loves H&M fashion show. They – by which I mean H&M, since this was clearly their gig to fund, though it had been given a Lanvin make-over — had taken over a jewel-like ballroom in the luxury hotel and erected a catwalk; outside was a red carpet.  

What’s a brand to do when it has a good idea and then everyone copies it? Accessorise, of course! So seems the conclusion, of H&M, which is embarking on a new project with Lanvin, Today, for example, a new, full collection video with serious production values has launched on the H&M home page starring, in no particular order, Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz, and famous models including Natasha Poly and Hannelore Knuts (among others. Take that, Target! 

The Vanity Fair New Establishment 100 list has just been unveiled, and its criteria for picking “the 100 most influential” are increasingly impenetrable.