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A guide to help the average man... look less average

High Fashion & Affordable Fashion Collaborations

Mark Kwak

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How do you feel about these new collaborations that are happening between luxury brands and cheaper stores (ie: Target/Neiman Marcus or H&M/Margiela)? You think it’s worth it for me to get stuff from these collections? – Matthew

I was hoping a question like this would come up, thanks for asking. As many of you know, these days there are a lot of partnerships occurring between high fashion and affordable fashion.  Gap partnered with GQ to bring several higher end designers (Mark McNairy, Ian Velardi, Ovadia & Sons, etc.) to their stores for a limited time. H&M partnered with Versace, and now Maison Martin Margiela to do the same. Even as recent as last week, Target released a collection of items with Neiman Marcus to bring 50 CFDA designer pieces to retail Target stores.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about these new collaborations that keep popping up.

Some part of me is extremely excited to see designer pieces being offered at reasonable prices. For instance, a Maison Martin Margiela coat is over $2k the last time I checked. Barney’s sells them, and I may look, but the likelihood of me buying would be quite low. However, with H&M offering a similar piece still designed by Margiela for $150… who knows?

The other part of me knows it’s all just a marketing tactic to get folks in stores to buy things they don’t want/need, and in ridiculous quantities. Do I have any urge to check out H&M these days? No. Will I walk in and considering buying from there now that they have this collab collection? Probably.

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Now I’m all for bringing designer pieces to people for affordable prices. I think it’s a genius idea both for the business and the consumer. However, to me, it really comes down to quality. Will these products even slightly compare to the real deal, and last just as long? Sure they may look good, but that won’t help if they fall apart on me in three months. To me, if the quality is bad, I’m out… even if it looks like an unreal deal from the outside.

Well, from my experience, it’s generally been a bit disappointing.  I checked out Gap for their GQ collab, H&M for their Margiela collab, and Target for their Neiman collab. Walked away with a piece from each, but not much more than that, and for good reason.

First, you need to go in with the right expectations. You’ll definitely find that the quality is inferior to products offered in designers’ main lines. I do hope most people expect that, since it can only be that way considering the prices and the scale of manufacturing. Also, know that the fits will differ slightly from mainline items. This is probably so that the pieces will fit a wider breadth of people, but I wish they would just keep it the same. Lastly, now that the pieces are more available, you'll notice a lot more people wearing the same stuff. Will this be something you're okay with? Probably not for me.

Once you get past these points, sometimes the price can be justifiable for such pieces, but I highly suggest you check the items out for yourself to truly know. Don't compromise in quality just because of the brand. Before you purchase, make sure you're doing it because the item fits well and is of great quality, not just because the label on the back says Thom Browne.

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Got myself a Rag & Bone sweater from Target/Neiman and turns out it's actually a great piece quality-wise, and something I would be willing to pay for even if it wasn't Rag & Bone. Also was able to pick up a pair of Margiela H&M boots with leather soles for under $100. Pretty good in my book. Suffice to say, I passed on 99% of the other stuff because they didn't meet the quality & fit : price ratio I was looking for.

Bottom line: I think these collaborations are fun and exciting, and can provide a couple cool items for your wardrobe. However, I wouldn't go jumping on every one of them expecting the same level of detail and quality as mainline items. Choose carefully when looking through these collections, and think quality and fit first. All else should fall by the wayside.