What’s the difference between the designers who create fashion-changing clothes at high-end labels and those who create the clothes we all buy from stores at the local mall?
Yes, it’s a trick question. Because there’s not that much difference. For designers, it’s not what many people seem to think: the best going off to the luxury labels to help drive fashion forwards and the rest ending up in retailer design studios churning out catwalk copies.
The two groups actually have very much more in common. Chances are, the designers at your favourite catwalk label trained at a fashion college alongside the designers who work at some of the most successful high street stores.
In some ways it could be argued that working for the latter is more of a challenge. After all, at a high-end label a designer has the highest quality materials to work with, can work within a price range that’s much more conducive to creativity, and (at the more fashion forward designer labels) has implicit permission to help drive change in the way we dress.
The equally-creative people working in retailer design studios are heavily constrained by price, have to make sure that the details, materials and so on that they choose don’t hurt their margins, and have to track trends rather than creating them. The fact is, if Miuccia Prada decides to radically change pant shapes for the season to make a statement, that’s what her team will do. The teams at Zara. M&S, Reiss, Bebe, Karen Millen, et al base their decision-making more on careful tracking of sales figures, o what the competition is doing, and how general trends are developing.
OK, that’s all an over-simplification, but I’m sure you get the point.
Which brings me to the H&M Studio collection that was shown at Paris Fashion Week yesterday. Like Topshop Unique in London a couple of weeks ago, the mass-market fast-fashion retailer sent out a premium collection full of current key trends. Sheepskin outerwear. Tick. Wider pants. Tick. Folk influences. Tick. Snakeskin. Tick.
These clothes – or some of them at least – will be in a store near you come September and you might just be able to afford them, even if you’re not living off a trust fund.
So while some might still struggle with the idea of high street retailers taking part in the month-long celebration of the most expensive fashion in the world, spare a thought for the work all those designers at those retailers put in and just enjoy. The celebs in the front row certainly did.