PARIS — Fast-fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz said Tuesday it would launch a collection in collaboration with Marni, marking its second high-profile partnership with an Italian designer brand in less than a year, following the recent launch of Versace for H&M.

This story first appeared in the November 30, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The collection of women’s and men’s clothing and accessories, designed by Marni founder and creative director Consuelo Castiglioni, is to go on sale March 8 in about 260 H&M stores worldwide and online.

“I created a small repertoire of all that represents the Marni style, for men and for women, with great attention to quality and details,” Castiglioni said. “It’s beautiful to be able to speak to a larger public, and in particular to the new generations: As a designer, it gives me new energy.”

The collection will feature Marni’s trademark bold prints and streamlined cuts.

The women’s collection will include African-inspired patterns as well as color blocking on pleated skirts, dresses, cropped trousers and jacquard knits, in fabrics ranging from silk to cotton poplin. Accessories will span jewelry and bags to shoes and scarves.

The men’s collection will focus on relaxed ensembles, with print used more subtly, for instance as a contrasting detail on shirts or in a jacket lining.

Margareta van den Bosch, creative adviser at H&M, said the collection made an upbeat statement for spring.

“Marni has such a modern touch with everything they do, mixing prints and accessories in a playful but chic way. It’s fantastic to see how Consuelo Castiglioni coordinates her designs, matching new combinations of print and color, with such incredible craftsmanship behind every piece,” she said.

H&M routinely unleashes pandemonium among shoppers with its designer collaborations, which have included collections designed by Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Viktor & Rolf, Roberto Cavalli, Comme des Garçons, Matthew Williamson, Jimmy Choo, Sonia Rykiel and Lanvin.

The announcement arrives at a time when the Swedish high street retailer is seeking to reinforce its fashion credentials in the face of sliding sales, as consumers in Europe — its main market — tighten their purse strings amid fears of a new recession.

Simon Irwin, retail analyst at Liberum Capital in London, noted that the Marni collection will come on the heels of the Versace for H&M pre-spring collection, launching online only in January, and the David Beckham Bodywear line for men, scheduled to bow in February.

“There is a bit of an acceleration going on in terms of these designer-led initiatives,” he said.

Irwin added that it was not the first time that H&M had programmed several high-profile designer or celebrity launches in rapid succession, pointing to the launch of the M by Madonna and H&M Loves Kylie collections in spring-summer 2007.

“H&M, with things like Marni, is clearly working extremely hard on self-help measures, because the market isn’t going to come to your help,” he said. “I wouldn’t be optimistic about next year. The overall economic environment in Euroland, I would have thought, is probably going to get worse before it gets better.”

The analyst said that the financial impact of the Marni collection would likely be limited, as it will go on sale in only a fraction of the retailer’s stores, which totaled 2,410 as of Oct. 31.

H&M reported that net profit fell 15 percent in the third quarter as economic uncertainty and bad weather kept customers out of stores in key markets, triggering intense price competition between fast-fashion retailers.

Though its gross margin has been steadily declining, due to factors including rising raw materials costs and currency fluctuations, the decrease was smaller in the third quarter than in the second quarter, Société Générale analysts Anne Critchlow and John Baillie said in a research note published last week.

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