PARIS — Karl Lagerfeld isn’t only going fast fashion — he’s also dabbling in men’s wear.
On Monday, Swedish giant Hennes & Mauritz confirmed its collaboration with Lagerfeld for the coming fall-winter season, with a 30-piece Karl Lagerfeld for H&M collection slated for delivery to roughly 800 doors in 19 countries.
This story first appeared in the June 22, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
This confirms a report in WWD on April 28.
H&M characterized it as a “onetime” deal it hopes will cause a sensation when the merchandise arrives in specially demarcated in-store shops in mid-November.
The Stockholm-based firm declined to give sales projections, but industry sources characterize the figures as a “drop in the bucket” for the $6.2-billion firm compared with the likely windfall in free publicity.
“We wanted to offer something new for our customer that is roughly in line with what we believe about fashion,” said Margareta van den Bosch, head of design at H&M. “And everybody knows about Karl Lagerfeld. I think everybody knows him even if people are not connected to fashion.”
Van den Bosch declined to give specifics about the collection’s styling, which is still being finalized, but said it would include some items for men and span clothes for every day and special occasions. “We hope to appeal to our [existing] customers and new ones,” she said.
Prices are expected to be at the higher end of the fast-fashion spectrum, but within H&M’s “normal price levels,” van den Bosch noted. Prices for women’s items currently range from about $6 for a T-shirt up to about $60 for a tailored jacket.
Although this marks the first time H&M has enlisted a well-known designer for a joint label, mass-class collaborations are becoming increasingly common across the industry — and creating ripple effects throughout retail. Last week saw Isaac Mizrahi mixing the two ends of the spectrum on the same runway as he showed $2,500 dresses destined for Bergdorf Goodman alongside the low-cost clothes he does for Target. Meanwhile, U.K. clothing retailers have a running list of guest designers: Sophia Kokosalaki, Hamish Morrow and Hussein Chalayan for Topshop; Georgina Goodman and Eley Kishimoto for New Look, and Clements Ribeiro for the Allders department store chain.
Sagra Maceira de Rosen, an analyst at J.P. Morgan in London, said the Lagerfeld collaboration should burnish H&M’s image and help it differentiate itself from other low-cost chains. “Beyond extra sales, the driver is the extra publicity,” she said. “I think it’s going to generate high levels of free publicity and p.r., plus editorial in fashion magazines, which is very influential for consumers.”
She noted it is likely to boost traffic during the key holiday selling period, “which may generate additional sales for non-Lagerfeld merchandise and also attract a more fashion-forward, sophisticated customer.”
Also, “it should help to boost H&M’s high-fashion profile without actually increasing fashion exposure, as the collection is very small,” she added.
Still, de Rosen stopped short of saying a bargain Lagerfeld line would dent business for the other brands he designs: Chanel, Fendi and Lagerfeld Gallery. “I don’t think he’s going to steal a lot of customers from Chanel,” she said.
Van den Bosch, who was slated to meet with Lagerfeld in Paris today to finalize the looks, said the designer was immediately receptive to H&M’s overtures.
“He knows a lot about us,” she said. “He’s very much interested in the project.”
For his part, Lagerfeld is a firm believer in fashion’s two extremes — and bored by what’s in between.
“My dream is to do very expensive lines like Chanel and Fendi and very inexpensive things,” he said in an interview last week. “Today people wear T-shirts and jeans with exceptional things.”
Although no details about the marketing plan were disclosed on Monday, Lagerfeld is slated to appear in an H&M ad campaign, which the designer will also photograph, as reported,
Asked if H&M might extend its ties with Lagerfeld beyond one season, or approach other designers for future collaborations, van den Bosch demurred.
“We don’t know yet. We’ll see,” she said. “We have a lot of other projects with our other collections. But this has been fun so far.”