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Do High/Low Collaborations Damage Designers?

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Eric Wilson ponders whether or not "masstige" (mass + prestige) collections have "hidden costs" for designers in a Sunday Times Magazine piece that mentions the recent collaborations of Uniqlo with Lutz & Patmos (who are actually producing more cashmeres for the store for fall), Phillip Lim, Alexandre Plokhov and Alice Roi; Target with Isaac Mizrahi, Behnaz Sarafpour, Rafe Totengco, Proenza Schouler, Libertine, Alice Temperley, Erin Fetherston; H&M with Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and Viktor & Rolf; the Gap's Design Editions with Thakoon, Rodarte and Doo.Ri; Payless with Lela Rose; and Kohl's with Vera Wang. The point of the piece is that a miscalculation or misstep with one of these large, mass-market retailers could ruin a designer's reputation, whereas Target or Uniqlo won't be drastically impacted if one of their guest designers' collections doesn't sell well.

...even less successful endeavors, like Todd Oldham’s dorm-themed home collection, which reportedly bombed, are of little real consequence to the retailer. Their sales represent merely a blip in Target’s overall revenues of $59 billion, while maintaining Target’s image as a store that sells great design rather than discount merchandise. ...While Target executives would not discuss details of its payments, people familiar with the arrangements said its Go International designers have been paid about $250,000 for each collection. But the real payoff comes in marketing dollars — first-class travel arrangements, big-budget promotional events, not to mention a blanketing of advertisements on television, magazines and bus shelters.
Wilson doesn't weigh in on whether or not these collaborations are good for designers, but the article does end on a positive note. Interestingly enough, WWD devotes a few pages today to one of those masstige collections, Simply Vera Vera Wang for Kohl's.

The article is mainly a compilation of quotes from customers, some who like the line (which officially debuted today, although the clothing has been in many stores for almost a week) and some who didn't care for it, but does mention that the frenzied crowds that have swooped down at every Go International launch at Target did not do the same at Kohl's. "The Menomonee Falls, Wisc.-based retailer ran ads for the collection in Vogue, In Style and Cosmopolitan, trumpeted Simply Vera on its Web site, hung banners over store entrances and received plenty of editorial play, but crowds never materialized." It would appear as if Eric Wilson's question—do masstige collections have hidden costs for designers—may be best answered by Kohl's little experiment. We thought the collection was terrible, but only time can tell what, if anything, it will do to Vera Wang's rep.
· The Big Brand Theory [NY Times]
· Simply Vera Vera Wang Kicks Off at Kohl’s [WWD, subscription req]