The Future of Affordable High Fashion Is Now


Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld recently grabbed headlines when he announced that he’d canceled his signature runway show in Paris in order to focus on a new effort — a “masstige” (mass + prestige) collection that will be sold mostly online. A spokesperson for the brand told industry mag WWD that Lagerfeld’s decision was based upon a wish to reach a “broader audience rather than just the peak collection business.”

[Photo via Uniqlo]

Meanwhile, other designers are moving in a similar direction. Master of minimalism Jil Sander has forged an ongoing partnership with Japanese fast-fashion chain Uniqlo, also known for its clean-lined men’s and womenswear. New York Times style critic Cathy Horyn wrote of Sander, “instead of replicating her earlier upscale output, she has become the first high-level designer to devote her entire skills and energy to affordable fashion. ” Her third collection for the chain will debut on October 7.

[Photo via Payless]

Up-and-coming designer Christian Siriano is also enjoying the fruits of an extended partnership with mass retailer Payless. The reality TV star showed his spring 2011 collection on Thursday, and as he has the past three Fashion Weeks, he included the shoes that will eventually show up (in a modified format) on Payless shelves across the country.

The growing trend of long-term collaborations was reported on recently by WWD, who made mention of Lagerfeld and Sander’s collections as well as designer Olivier Theyskens’ new line for contemporary clothing brand Theory.

Though many designers still enjoy one-off partnerships with brands like Target and H&M, those limited-edition collections do not really help big names reach a mass audience. High demand and low supply–plus a short time frame–makes it impossible for many people to get their hands on masstige products, which typically sell out within hours of launch. A longer collaboration, spanning multiple collections, allows true fans (and not just eager eBayers) the chance to actually access the merchandise.

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