Last night's Billboard Music Awards brought the news that Olivier Rousteing for Balmain will be collaborating with Swedish fast fashion giant, H&M for an upcoming collection slated to hit stores (and the web) on November 5th. The upcoming collab, which will consist of 250 pieces, was announced via Twitter, with Rousteing – or his famous friends, actually – hinting of the collab before it was made official. Kendall Jenner, for instance, posted a selfie with Rousteing and fellow model Jourdan Dunn before last night’s Billboard Music Awards with the caption: “We have some news” and linking to Balmain and H&M. The brands have since encouraged fans to use the #HMBalmaination hashtag to “join a movement of togetherness." (a notion that is questionable on so many levels given the origin of fast fashion, the fact that any sense of a Balmain movement seems to have quieted since Rousteing's predecessor, Christophe Decarnin, left the house in 2011, etc.).
Balmain was founded in 1946 as a haute couture fashion house by Pierre Balmain, who was later categorized by Vogue as "a king of French fashion." With this in mind, Balmain is certainly an interesting choice for a low-end collab, especially as the Paris-based design house is modernly known for its often outrageously priced wares (think: $1000+ for a tank top and $5000+ for a mini dress). At the same time, creative director Olivier Rousteing, age 29, is a social media darling, which is exactly what it takes to build up the anticipation for yet another collab - in case anyone has tired of the long-running series of high-meets-low collections; after all, H&M has been stocking them for about ten years now.
If nothing else (since we here at TFL will certainly not be shopping any fast fashion collections any time soon), it will be interesting to see if Rousteing, who often struggles to win over critics (most notably the New York Times' Vanessa Friedman, who called the brand's most recent show one of her least favorite of the fashion month), will be able to translate the brand's over the top take on sex appeal (which often results in a lack of basic ease/practicality coupled with a fashion faux pas for the wearer) and make it enticing for the general public. As indicated by the brand's revenue breakdown (think: as of 2012, 50% of the company's total income came from license royalties, such as eyewear, fragrances, etc., and as opposed to actual sales of its garments), the brand itself is largely putting in work (in terms of high fashion) to sell lower priced goods - something that is not completely unheard of for an array of high fashion brands. It is also worth noting briefly that the brand launched a much, much lower-priced diffusion line in 2011, called Pierre Balmain. How the H&M collection will differ from this is yet to be seen.
Chances are, if this collection is going to work (as social media fury by way of a trending hashtag does not automatically mean sales), Rousteing will have to continue to call in his most famous friends (i.e. the Kardashians) to win over the crowds. Thoughts?