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Have Designer Collaborations Jumped the Shark? Some Fashion Folks Think So

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All 24 CFDA designers involved in the Target-Neiman holiday 2012 collaboration
All 24 CFDA designers involved in the Target-Neiman holiday 2012 collaboration

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Sales from the holiday season's two biggest designer collabs—Margiela for H&M and the Target-Neiman Marcus partnership with 24 CFDA designers—have reportedly been lack-luster, leading some fashion industry experts to suggest that the era of the high-low collaboration has passed its prime.

"It's become very formulaic at this point," Mickey Boardman, editorial director of Paper Magazine, told the New York Post. "Everyone does them, and so they don't really seem as special."

"Getting a Margiela dress for a few hundred dollars is not a good deal," said Joanna Douglas, senior fashion and beauty editor for Yahoo Shine, of the Neiman Marcus for Target line. "People in middle America on a budget are concerned with trends, but these avant-garde pieces are outrageous. Initially, this was such a great idea: getting designer items for less. But as time has gone on, some of them haven't been that great, and price points have gone higher."

The Post asked us for our opinion on whether the trend is on its way out. We pointed out that Racked readers didn't seem to be too upset at H&M's announcement that the retailer will be skipping a spring 2013 collaboration. Compared with the 32 comments we received from readers speculating on why the Target-Neiman launch wasn't as successful as anticipated, not one Racked reader commented that they were disappointed that H&M will be sitting the season out. In fact, a handful of readers "liked" the post, indicating that the announcement was welcome. (Racked's regular contributor Frank Gargione had already called collaboration fatigue way back in July.)

Additionally, news that Prabal Gurung will be designing Target's spring collaboration hasn't been as buzzed about as you might expect. Compared to the lookbook for Jason Wu's collection for Target last spring, which was one of the most popular posts of the year on Racked, the announcement that Gurung is up next was met with only a mild flurry of excitement.

Back in November, we asked Gurung if he thought designer collabs were still relevant. "There's still a relevance factor, otherwise people wouldn't be doing it," he told us. "Target were the pioneers of starting a collaboration like this, and... this is like the benchmark that as a new designer you want to keep. The audience that they have, hundreds of millions! As you grow your brand, what you want to do is increase brand familiarity."

So a fast-fashion collab may still be one of the best ways to spread awareness for a designer brand, but is that what shoppers want?

Douglas told the Post she thinks the most successful collabs are with brands that have recognizable logos or prints, a la Missoni. "I think Target should do a line with Pucci next," she says. "[Shoppers] want obvious pieces, and those are always the first ones to sell out. Obviously, everyone would want anything with a Chanel logo."

What do you think? Has the high-low collab jumped the shark? Would a collection with a major logo brand like YSL or Chanel reinvigorate the concept? Do you plan to shop the Prabal Gurung for Target collection this spring? Speak your mind in the comments.
· Designer Duds [NYP]
· The Target-Neiman's Collab Launch Was Kind of a Bust [Racked]