The High and Low of 2014’s Designer Collaborations


‘Designer collaborations’ were the words on everyone’s newsfeed this year. 2014 was definitely the year for designer collaborations that generated excitement or headaches among fashion followers. The teaming of high fashion designers and big box retailers is not new, but why do they still happen and why do you care? Simply, this is high end fashion made available to the masses.

As an ode to the democratization of fashion, here’s a recap on 2014’s accessible designs and the pieces you missed out on.

The Bestsellers
Alexander Wang X H&M launched near the end of this year in November, and we covered it in real time before in this post, but this collaboration stands out as 2014’s most memorable one. The hype started half a year ago with surprise sneak peeks at the collection and this showed with the excitement at launch. Fans that waited so long for this collaboration, even lining up a day before in the cold to have a chance at owning a piece of AW. It was all over Instagram and featured in numerous editorials, with celebrities like Rihanna even wearing pieces before the launch. Alexander Wang’s designs are known for their wearability with his oft black, grey, and white collections reflecting New York’s concrete streets. It’s no wonder that so many want to emulate this ‘downtown cool’ feeling of New York and one way to do that is wearing Alexander Wang. But his creations including, Alexander Wang, Balenciaga, and even T by Alexander Wang are not in the ideal price points for the average consumer. So what do you do when your nearest H&M opens up shop with these designs? The answer is simple: you go. Men and women, old and young shoppers flocked.

Alexander Wang H&M 2014

Jil Sander X Uniqlo collaboration had been available for awhile under the name +J Brand. But it disappeared and a revival happened in October at exclusive locations. Though this collaboration doesn’t mimic the strategy adopted by Alexander Wang, followers of the Jil Sander aesthetic gladly welcomed the relaunch. The best news is that production didn’t stop after the supply was bought out, +J Brand is still available at Uniqlo. What makes this designer collaboration a cult favorite is that these could be the only basics you’ll ever need. The designer’s approach to everyday dressing: a perfect pant and clean white shirt definitely influences her designs. Although Jil Sander’s minimalistic collections are unattainable to the average nine to fiver, +J Brand is just an arm’s reach away, literally.

“I like to think that I have taught Uniqlo how far a “basics” company can go in the direction of quality, style and modernity. For my part, I learned how to design the best possible collection with limited resources.”

Jil Sander x Uniqlo +J Brand

Altuzara X Target happened in September with lots of buzz from excited fans of Altuzarra’s sexy, modern designs. The lookbook’s release generated so much excitement because there was so much variety. 50 items included basic, but sophisticated pieces that any women would love to have. Unfortunately, a trade off that occurs with these high-low collaborations is the low quality of fabrics and some shoppers were disappointed with this. When this happens its as if the exclusive designer pieces shoppers wanted are only a fraction of what Altuzarra’s actual collections will ever be. Nonetheless, there were a combination of responses with numerous positive reviews.

“Being invited to a collaboration means that in some sense your brand stands for something…it enhances my image and brings my name out there in a way that, on my own, I never could.”

Altuzarra Target 2014

What really spurs shoppers on to buy designer collaborations is that pieces are only available for a short period of time and in limited quantities. With Jil Sander and Uniqlo, this differed because uniqlo continued to carry +J Brand. What’s more significant is that these collaborations allows a greater market to attain and wear these designer names. How often have we wanted to, but could not support these designers we love on an average budget?

Granted, these pieces won’t compare with the designers’ own lines and this is what happens in a high-low collaboration. The high end name is meshed with low end businesses. But our desire for something designed by Jil Sander or Joseph Altuzarra is a small factor in these compromises. Its likely that collaborations like this will continue, hopefully for the benefit of the designers and their fans.