When Halston inked a deal back in 1983 with J.C. Penney on the budget-friendly Halston III collaboration, the guilt by association caused Bergdorf Goodman to immediately stop carrying the main Halston line. Fast forward three decades to the eagerly buzzed-about Altuzarra for Target. Rather than tarnishing the designer's image, the reverse may actually happen notes fashion writer Ruth La Ferla: associating with Altuzarra could help Target restore some of the good will they lost following setbacks like the massive hack that exposed the payment info and personal deets of tens of millions of their customers.
A young designer like Altuzarra stands to gain from this project in two main ways: (1) Target's financial support, an estimated $500,000 and $1 million which may not be a big deal to a big corporation but is a huge deal for a small fashion brand; (2) the PR and marketing blitz - a widely rolled-out broadcast, magazine and billboard advertising campaign - which small brands can't afford. “Being invited to a collaboration means that in some sense your brand stands for something,” notes Altuzarra. “It enhances my image and brings my name out there in a way that, on my own, I never could.”
But not without certain trade-offs, in particular, fabric. Instead of his customary leathers, silks and fur, all materials that whisper L-U-X-U-R-Y, the designer had to make do with embroidery, beading and busy prints. “In the customer’s eye," notes Altuzarra, "those things give a lot of value to the piece."
But I doubt anyone willing to shell out up to $80 for clothing with the word Target in the label would be fooled. Rather, what shoppers will be putting in their carts and e-baskets will be the sexy slit pencil skirt with a distinctly Carine Roitfeld feel, the tuxedo suit, slinky disco-wrap dress and other pieces that are très French fashionista. It isn't fabric trickery they'll be falling for but Altuzarra's aesthetic. (image)
For brands like Comme des Garcons or Margiela with reputations built not on fancy tailoring or snooty fabrics but on wild creativity, I think these types of high-street projects are a great fit. After all, creativity isn't limited to certain fabric mills, hand-sewing skills or forboding price points; if anything, designing within the constraints of a Target pricepoint would probably juice up the creativity factor. However, for a label like Altuzarra which made its name offering luxe fabrics, exquisite tailoring and general spendiness, all the embroidery and beading in the world can't distract from the step down in quality that is required to offer up fashion at special blue-lit prices.
A: While a Supremium fashion tribe* designer like Altuzarra can try to do the mass thing, to me, unlike CDG for H&M (left), there's just no "there" there.
Podcast music: Kevin MacLeod, Incompetech.com
- Lesley Scott