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Is H&M collaboration the end of Isabel Marant's reign of cool?

June 11, 2013|By Booth Moore | Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic
  • French fashion designer Isabel Marant is teaming up with H&M on a collection hitting stores Nov. 14.
French fashion designer Isabel Marant is teaming up with H&M on a collection… (Robert Fairer )

It was announced Tuesday that French designer Isabel Marant will be bringing her signature boho style to H&M, designing a collection that will hit stores worldwide Nov. 14. But the question is why? And will this latest hi-low collaboration signal the end of Marant’s reign as the queen of insider cool, and preferred purveyor of Hollywood’s boho chic off-duty uniform, as worn by Kate Bosworth, Katie Holmes and Sarah Jessica Parker?

The H&M collection will include “a wardrobe of must-have pieces inspired by her signature style,” the press materials said, with clothing and accessories for women and teenagers, as well as Marant’s first-ever collection for men.

“I am flattered by this collaboration. H&M works with the best designers, and this invitation is an exciting honor," Marant said. "I aim at creating something real — something women want to wear in their everyday lives — with a certain carefree style.”

Marant launched her own collection in 1994, attracting a cult-like following with a string of footwear hits starting in 2009 with the Soono chain-covered boot, then in 2010 with the Otway cuffed boot with a triangular heel, through to the ubiquitous hidden platform sneaker, Dicker cowboy-style boots and this spring’s studded Calleen boot.

My gut reaction to this announcement was, if she is on such a roll, why mess with it, especially now that high-low designer collaborations do not seem to be generating the kind of excitement and sales that they used to? Then again, the prices of her own collection are out of reach for most (ahem, $600 boots). And Marant's boho-rhinestone-cowgirl aesthetic is still influencing street style in a major way, so why shouldn't she continue to capitalize on that? Also, Marant's H&M collaboration could be part of a bigger plan for growth.

Until now, Marant’s strategy to preserve the must-have status of her brand seems to have included limiting distribution. In the U.S., her collection is available at Barneys New York, but at no other major department stores. It is sold in upscale boutiques such as Curve and Elyse Walker in Los Angeles, as well as her own Isabel Marant boutiques in New York and West Hollywood, and on websites such as Net-a-porter.com.

But where in past seasons there were waiting lists for certain styles, this spring, at least, there seems to be more than enough Marant to go around. (Many spring styles are still available on websites and in stores, suggesting that the fervor for the brand could be cooling off, or that she's shipping more volume to stores.)

Marant's collection has always fallen in the contemporary category, with most pieces priced less than $1,000, but that has started to change, too. In the last couple of seasons, prices in both her main line and lower-priced Etoile line have been inching up, which leads me to believe that she may be trying to reposition the brand in the luxury category.

If that is indeed the case, and Marant wants to grow her business into an upscale global designer brand with licenses for perfume, sunglasses and the rest, the H&M collection would be a good strategy to increase awareness of her name.

What do you think? Is Isabel Marant selling out? Is the collaboration game played out? Will you line up for or turn your nose up at Isabel Marant for H&M?

ALSO:

Isabel Marant's L.A. flair, the French way

Paris Fashion Week Fall 2013 Review: Isabel Marant

Southern California Dreaming on the Spring 2013 Runways


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