In case you missed it, Balmain is coming to H&M this November and now we have an ad campaign – starring: Surprise! Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Jourdan Dunn, Dudley O’Shaughnessy, and Hao Yun Xiang. 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 at the high fashion level (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 it work 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.
Aside from the brand’s very hit or miss runway collections, I’m skeptical of whether this collab will be a smashing success. Considering that when you buy Balmain, you are arguably paying for the intricately beaded blazers or rope-infused dresses (and a bit of the buzz created by the celebs that wear it), I’m not sure how the designs will fare when they are dumbed down (for lack of better words) to a price point that can be reconciled with H&M. Usually first to go when prices are slashed to a fast fashion level: the quality of materials and the fit of the garments themselves. With this in mind, while the campaign does a good job of selling very Balmain-esque looks (in fact, some appear to be mere replicas of Balmain looks past), my guess is that in real life, this collection will be messy. Think: cheap materials, cheap construction and unflattering proportions. But then again, are H&M shoppers concerned with such things?
If this collection is going to work (since social media fury by way of a trending hashtag does not automatically equate to sales), Rousteing will have to continue to call in his most famous friends (i.e. the Kardashians) to win over the crowds. Thoughts?