By  on December 8, 2006

PARIS — Madonna's foray into cheap chic is proving more than just a passing fancy.

The Material Girl, who gravitates to Jean Paul Gaultier couture on stage, will create a second collection with Sweden's fast-fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz.

The line is in keeping with H&M's growing emphasis on designer duds and will be called "M by Madonna." It is slated to hit stores this March.

"Madonna has an impressive feel for fashion and trends," Margareta van den Bosch, H&M's head of design who is spearheading the project, said Thursday. "She was extraordinarily style-conscious, passionate, and was involved in even the smallest details of every design. There is no doubt that Madonna's influence is reflected by the line."

A spokeswoman for H&M said the collection would be made up of about 30 garments and about 10 matching accessories.

"There are tailored pieces, dresses and tops," she added. "The style is feminine, elegant and modern, with a narrow silhouette. It reflects Madonna's timeless style."

The Stockholm firm tested the waters with an initial Madonna tie-up this August when the singer helped design a tracksuit. She and her troupe also agreed to wear H&M during Madonna's "Con­fessions" world tour, which ended in Septem­ber, and appeared in a high-profile advertising campaign for the retailer.

That collaboration was seen as a success, and it helped boost H&M's sales by a better than expected 15 percent in August.

Such joint ventures have become integral to H&M's strategy to boost sales as the fast-fashion environment becomes more competitive. The company's high-profile collaborations with Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and, most recently, Viktor & Rolf have been deemed highly effective at generating traffic and buzz while elevating H&M's image for disposable chic to higher levels of creativity.

But extending its relationship with a world-class celebrity like Madonna indicates H&M will continue to steer publicity-generating schemes into different territory.

It also suggests that celebrity-designed fast fashion may be the new frontier, especially as more mass firms ink deals with fashion designers. On Thursday, France's Carrefour, the world's second-largest retailer after Wal-Mart, revealed its intention to forge a partnership with BCBG Max Azria to give its mass clothing more whiz. That deal was first reported by WWD on Thursday.Elsewhere, Roland Mouret has designed for Gap, Sophia Kokosalaki has worked with Nine West and Giles Deacon has partnered with New Look. Designers Alice Roi and Phillip Lim are working with Japan's fast-fashion firm Uniqlo.

"I've made no secret of my love of fashion over the years," said Madonna in a statement. "Working with Margareta and H&M was an exciting and new creative challenge for me. I'm really happy with the results and look forward to wearing ‘M by Madonna' along with the rest of the world."

The spokeswoman said the line would be priced like the majority of items at H&M and would be stocked in most of the company's 1,300 stores in 24 countries.

She added that it was "too early" to say whether Madonna would appear in the line's ad campaign — as she did for the launch of the tracksuit — or whether H&M would host a big party to introduce the line.

The collaboration comes as H&M tests ways in which to extend its business model. Apart from the growing number of designer partnerships, the firm is preparing to launch a new "niche" concept brand that will be more expensive than the company's existing products.

H&M has yet to reveal details of the line — including its name — but it has already signed leases for stores in London; Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Berlin, Germany; Brussels, and Haag, the Netherlands. The first store to open will be on London's Regent Street, some time this spring.

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