After an endless slew of sneak peaks, ad campaign previews and instagram teasers, the highly anticipated Alexander Wang x H&M collection, announced at Coachella in April, finally hit the stores on November 6th. The inordinately long queues of eager shoppers wrapping around several blocks across many cities, many of whom slept on the pavement to ensure access to the collection, and H&M’s website crash due to excessive traffic, are testament to the collaboration’s popularity and tremendous success. It took only a few days for the majority of the collection to sell out. However those disappointed in missing out, need not fret as several of the collection’s coveted items are available on eBay, although with fairly sizeable mark ups. For instance, one puffa jacket that retailed at £249.99 is currently listed on the site for a staggering £599.99.
A distinct athletic theme runs throughout the collection, with the clothing and accessories adhering to Wang’s signature monochromatic colour palette limited to blacks and greys. The fashion show promoting the line aptly had a running track as a runway, the center of which housed a gymnasium structure replete with bars, weights and a trampoline. While sportswear has increasingly infiltrated everyday street-wear, items in this collection contain functional detailing rendering them appropriately suited for the gym. The performance potential of the clothing is evident with the use of water-resistant fabrics, reflective strips, side ventilation zips and quick-drying t-shirts. The accessories of real-life boxing gloves, goggles and a magnetized Alexander Wang trophy cup underscore the sporty theme. Above and beyond the practicality of the collection is the tough and edgy vibe of the clothing that is achieved through the use of unconventional materials, fabrics and textures. The sweatshirts, t-shirts, leggings, coats, crop tops and bralettes contain mesh, scuba and latex detailing.
The fashion frenzy Alexander Wang x H&M elicited was easy to predict given the precedent of collaborations between high-end designers and low-end retailors. Such collaborations have become an annual staple of H&M, as the company has put forth collections by Isabel Marant, Karl Lagerfeld, Lanvin, Stella McCartney and Jimmy Choo. Other retailors have jumped on the ‘high-end for low-end’ bandwagon, which has become a fashion formula that seems to ensure commercial success. For example, Target has released collections by Missoni and Phillip Lim, both of which incited levels hysteria tantamount to that of Wang’s collection.
The cachet of brand names is predominantly what attracts flocks of consumers and drives the success of such collaborations. One quickly detects a pattern when flipping through the Alexander Wang x H&M lookbook – the inclusion of ‘WANG’ is featured on virtually every article of clothing and accessory. The prominence of the designer’s name plastered throughout the collection’s items literalizes the phenomenon of brand desirability that permeates contemporary fashion culture. There is a strange pleasure that exists in wearing something discernably designer, as high-end retail is associated with exclusivity, notoriety and affluence. Introducing designer collections to more conventional stores and drastically lowering astronomical price points renders designer items accessible to the masses for a limited period of time. People feel compelled to take advantage of the rare opportunity to acquire apparel and accessories associated with a famous designer or brand name, despite the cheaper quality in comparison to actual designer products. The widespread phenomenon of brand obsession speaks to the way elements of dress are viewed as status symbols, where designer items are exalted to a position of eminence within the fashion hierarchy.