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Designers Do a Double Take for Select Stores

No longer quite as lofty, designers have learned they can succeed among the masses by launching one-off collaborations or diffusion lines with more price-conscious chain stores.

No longer quite as lofty, designers have learned they can succeed among the masses by launching one-off collaborations or diffusion lines with more price-conscious chain stores.

And celebrities are sure to keep giving them a run: Witness the buzz surrounding Kate Moss’ line for Topshop, Sarah Jessica Parker’s Bitten collection for Steve & Barry’s, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s launch of The Row and Kylie Minogue’s and Madonna’s collections for Hennes & Mauritz this year. Roberto Cavalli is the latest designer to team up with the Swedish-based fast-fashion chain. The 40-plus piece collection will launch Nov. 8 in about 200 H&M locations around the world, following the lead of Karl Lagerfeld, Viktor & Rolf and Stella McCartney, who each had winning runs at H&M.

Nils Vinge, H&M’s head of investor relations, said celebrity lines from Minogue and Madonna had a “meaningful impact” on sales and were equally valuable for driving traffic into the stores and drawing media attention.

Cavalli’s collection for H&M will consist of 25 apparel and lingerie pieces for women and another 20 items for men, and accessories. The line will feature higher-quality materials than those traditionally used in H&M clothing, including cashmere and 100 percent wool. Prices have not yet been revealed, but H&M representatives said the most expensive pieces would be around 200 euros, or about $265 at current exchange rates.

During last month’s announcement of the one-off collaboration, Cavalli said, “Young people come up to me with these big eyes full of desire to wear a Cavalli dress and often they can’t because of the price. I dedicate this collection with Hennes & Mauritz to them, to give them the possibility to wear a Cavalli dress, whether it’s for New Year’s or another occasion and feel like they are on a red carpet.”

In releasing second-quarter results last month, H&M executives noted how store openings and trendy designs by pop icons such as Madonna helped lift profits 31 percent to 5.13 billion Swedish kronor, or $742 million. Don’t look for H&M to hit the brakes on these types of ventures anytime soon. Margareta van den Bosch, H&M’s head of design, said, “I think people are crazy about this. I don’t know how we could stop.”

This story first appeared in the July 10, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Target’s Go International campaign is also going strong with Erin Fetherston, who is ready to assume the role as guest designer this fall. She will follow in the footsteps of Patrick Robinson, Libertine’s Johnson Hartig and Cindy Greene, and Alice Temperley. As they can attest, the collaboration means major exposure. That should sit well with Fetherston, a Berkeley, Calif.-born, Paris-based designer who has only been in the scene for two years.

Fetherston has put her high-profile friends to good use: Ellen von Unwerth shot a short film featuring Fetherston’s creations on young women such as another of Fetherston’s chums, Kirsten Dunst. The Target-backed dresses, suits and coats are said to be hitting stores in November.

Simply Vera Vera Wang, Vera Wang’s affordably priced collection exclusively for Kohl’s, is another label that is ready for a fall launch. Apparel designs will range in price from $34 for a silk-blend T-shirt to $138 for a brocade car coat. There will also be footwear, accessories and jewelry. Kohl’s is banking on the designer’s collection to update its image and to boost the bottom line.

These types of publicity-generating deals could also pay off in other ways for designers such as Wang and Cavalli. Both are privately owned companies and have had their share of interested suitors. This fall they may hear their names being mentioned even more frequently by the financial community and potential investors.