H&M clearly on ‘Target’

bg_sqpost_hm.jpgHave you been following the H&M groupies?

Better question, how could you have missed the crowds as they were lined outside the H&M store in Herald Square last week (and other various parts of the world) for the release of the Comme des Garçons collection? Perhaps you thought it was just another Apple launch. It had that kind of fervor, after all. The groupsters were gathering up armloads of affordable couture and even though the strictly enforced “only two same-style items per person” rule was supposed to deter the velvet-rope crowd from emptying inventory too quickly – shelves were just that. Emptied. Yet magically, pieces from the fashion and cash-starved elite immediately cropped up Ebay, i.e., an allegedly $24.99 polka-dot shirt selling for $100-plus buckaroos!

The designers at Target don’t make this kind of hullaballoo among consumers… what gives?

In September, Target gathered 22 of its designers to headline the launch of their “Bullseye Bodegas,” quasi-stores that were carefully peppered around Manhattan to unload deep discounts on its already discounted threads for a limited time (of course). But don’t feel bad if you missed it. Seeing Kiehls in a Target store caused more of a stir in the media (and an accompanying jolt in the aisles). But beyond the Kiehls phenomenon, some of the Target merchandise in the bodegas apparently erred closer to bodega than bullseye. Not one of “Tar-zhey’s” best moments.

From inception, Target has not been far from the fashionista’s radar. Target, eerily, has known that “cheap chic” was a worthy category to own and a trend that would last. Target has also known that it’s best to use shorthand to speak to the upscale discount-shopping audience. Give them names they already know – Michael Graves, Cynthia Rowley, and until recently, insider design favorite Isaac Mizrahi. To their great credit, they have trained us well – mass market never looked so good. But as in any other category, a brand’s competition will thicken, its genius gleaned and audience anxiously revved up for more. So what about exploring names that are not so household?

The collaborative effort between Comme des Garçons and H&M is incredibly intriguing – the proliferation of consumable couture. Think about it: H&M hits us with Madonna, Stella McCartney and Roberto Cavalli… big names, big appeal, big reach. Not such a surprise overall. Then there’s Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo, whose work has long been unattainable for the masses… until now. The lines of prestige are truly blurring. H&M seems to be playing it closer to the Apple playbook than Target’s, by focusing on creating desire. After all desire is a luxury and luxury is addicting.

So, even though we’re tightening our belts, we want our belts to be Gucci-esque. Consumers want the feeling of splurge, splurge, splurge, though it’s time to save, save, save. And when you’ve got Comme des Garçons at H&M, you get both. A little bit of branding genius that’s satisfying for all.

Filed: branding, fashion

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