Fashion's latest odd couple: Gap and Valentino
Designer and high-street collaborations might have been one of the fashion sensations of the Noughties, but they've stayed firmly on our shopping lists into the new decade. The next couple of days will see the launch of two big-hitting double acts – a capsule collection by Valentino for Gap launches in Milan today and in London on the 27 November, while Lanvin for H&M arrives worldwide on the 23rd.
These are just two of numerous designer collaborations around this season. Like those other Noughties sensations – Uggs and skinny jeans – they're still here. According to Charlotte Woods, at the retail analyst Verdict: "Well-executed collections with high-profile individuals still hold substantial pull."
It's hardly surprising, really. What's not to like about the chance to buy clothes with some designer flair at affordable prices? However, what has changed is that consumers have become more discerning and are no longer impressed by celebrity collaborations passed off as credible design. We're increasingly familiar with the names of the head designers or the houses originated a trend and we want integrity.
The unlikely pairing that is Valentino and Gap is likely to intrigue. Gap is known for preppy basics, Valentino for classically feminine clothes, ruffles and showstopping red dresses. Aficionados will know that the house's founder Valentino Garavani retired in 2008 and the label is now designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli.
The capsule collection of seven pieces – which adds oversized luxe frills and bows to parkas and has a cropped jacket and cargo pants rendered in khaki canvas – is billed as a reinterpretation of Gap's "quintessential American sportswear" along the lines of what Valentino calls its "unique vision of modern unconventional femininity".
It's a chance for the Valentino brand to reach a wider audience at a key point in its development of a more cool, contemporary image. Valentino is a hot favourite on the red carpet – Sarah Jessica Parker wore one of its dresses to the US premiere of Sex and the City 2 – and the label's studded leather pointy pumps have proved a stealth hit among members of the fashion crowd, such as the snappily dressed Vogue Nippon editor Anna Dello Russo and Alexa Chung.
For Gap, the collaboration marks its arrival in Italy by adding fashion credibility, especially as it's only available in the London and Milan flagships and the ultra-hip concept stores Collette in Paris and Dover Street Market in London.
Ms Woods believes collaborations can still do well for retailers, saying that H&M's recent range with Sonia Rykiel "encouraged positive sales growth and the latest one with Lanvin provoked substantial media coverage".
The Lanvin collection brings to a broader audience a prestigious fashion industry label, but isn't as well known as, say, Chanel. The average H&M customer might not be able to afford several thousand for a real Lanvin dress but they can snap up the label's Marry Me perfume for a hundredth of the price. It's also an easier collection to relate to than the Gap/Valentino fusion as the women's collection has translated Alber Elbaz's luxurious vision into pretty party dresses and eveningwear.
However, in their own way, each collection has a clear concept behind it, and this is key when it comes to successful designer collaborations. While consumers are still motivated by competitive prices – as Primark's profits show – we don't want to be tricked by empty displays of branding. We want to be part of the creative narrative, and we want it to have meaning as well as the right look at the right price.
Valentino: The label
Valentino Garavani founded his eponymous house in Rome in 1960, and throughout the decades he dressed the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor in clothes which exuded old-world elegance. He retired in 2008. The Valentino label is now designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paulo Piccioli, who are attracting plaudits for their version of modern femininity.
This season’s designer collaborations
Anya Hindmarch for Barbour The British designer, trade envoy and heroine of entrepreneurial sloanes everywhere has designed four jackets for the British brand; two waxed and two quilted. A match made in heaven – via the King's Road.
Barbara Hulanicki for George at Asda The founder of cult 1960s boutique Biba, Hulanicki has created a 14-piece collection for the supermarket chain Asda which includes T-shirts printed with dreamy illustrations.
Missoni for Converse This season sees the second installment of this hook-up. It's a collaboration that makes perfect sense because Missoni's groovy zig-zags and stripes look good everywhere.
Roksanda Ilincic for Whistles The Belgrade-born designer's final collection for premium high street chain Whistles launched yesterday featuring draped and twisted dresses in coffee and peacock silk.
Azzaro for La Redoute The French catalogue available in the UK has a distinguished history of designer collaborations, including Christian Lacroix.
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