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PARIS — They don’t call it fast fashion for nothing.
This story first appeared in the November 26, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Only weeks after shoppers scooped up H&M’s latest joint label — a highbrow, black-centric affair with Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons — the Swedish fashion giant is out to make a color-drenched splash via a summertime collaboration with hip London designer Matthew Williamson.
Williamson told WWD his collection for H&M would be a melting pot of ideas in a palette of peacock-feather tones “drawing on color, print and decoration with lots of fresh ideas.”
Despite H&M lines’ lower price points, the company has given Williamson free rein in terms of design, he said, predicting that the tailored pieces will prove particularly popular.
The tie-up will also mark a men’s wear debut for Williamson.
“It’s really centered around my own wardrobe; it’s capsule pieces for a summer holiday,” he said of the men’s wear pieces, initially for H&M only. “But I would love to do it for my own label in the long term.”
Known for his feminine, hot-hued chiffon dresses with bohemian flourishes, the 37-year-old Saint Martins graduate first hit headlines in 1997 when muse Jade Jagger walked in the first show, joined by Kate Moss. Prince staged an impromptu concert at the designer’s spring show in London this year.
In September, Williamson quit his two-year stint as creative director of Pucci to focus on his own line.
After a five-year run of designer collaborations around the holiday period, H&M executives deemed Williamson’s colorful universe more suited to the spring-summer season.
“We always like to surprise,” said Kristina Stenvinkel, head of communication for H&M. “We’ve had our eye on him for a few years. He has a great way with color and is very artistic.”
The Matthew Williamson for H&M collection will be released in two parts, beginning with a 20-piece capsule women’s range to be unveiled at 200 stores on April 23, which will include tops, skirts, dresses and select accessories.
A second delivery, comprising accessories and 30- to 40-piece men’s and women’s apparel lines, will be rolled out in mid-May to all of the mass retailer’s 1,700 stores.
“It will have a longer life span, it’s a much wider collection,” Stenvinkel said, adding that H&M doesn’t rule out repeating the gig for the following spring.
Results for the Comme des Garçons collaboration were good across all markets and on a level with previous designer collaborations, she said. Prices for the new collection will be in line with previous designer collaborations. Comme des Garçons’ collection, for example, ranged from 19.90 euros, or around $25 at current exchange, for a T-shirt, to 300 euros, or about $380 at current exchange, for a showpiece black dress.
Karl Lagerfeld was the first designer to take up the store’s popular high-low initiative, in 2004, followed by Stella McCartney, Viktor & Rolf and Roberto Cavalli. The event has become a fixed date in the diaries of fashion fans worldwide eager to get their mitts on accessible designer clothes.
“It’s a win-win situation, as the designers like it, we like it and the public likes it,” Stenvinkel said.
Other recent buzz initiatives by H&M, Europe’s second-largest clothing retailer (after Spain’s Inditex), have included a jewelry line with Solange Azagury-Partridge for the 2005 holiday period, as well as M by Madonna merchandise in 2006 and 2007.
The H&M collection is just one of Williamson’s initiatives. Early next year, the designer will unveil a 2,500-square-foot store in New York’s Meatpacking District, in addition to his London store on Bruton Street, Mayfair, which opened in 2004. He also plans to launch standalone stores in Dubai and Kuwait next year.
In 2006, the Icelandic investment company Baugur took a minority equity stake in Matthew Williamson Holdings Ltd., while Marvin Traub’s investment firm, TSM Capital, took a further minority stake in 2007. Williamson and Joseph Velosa, the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer, retain a majority stake.
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