When the Margiela collection came out I made the trip to the nearest store carrying the collection, a 3 hour drive away from where I live. I found everything to be overpriced but I did buy the nude fishnet-effect leggings and treasure them even though the elastic at the waist is terrible and needs to be replaced. I bought the mirror ball leggings and returned them after having worn them once because the mirror stickers all fell off. I also bought the refrigerator magnets which were hidden away with the men’s collection. They’re brilliant. I looked at the dresses but everything was just too expensive for me. A few months later Martin Margiela for H&M went on clearance at 90% off but I couldn’t get back to the store. I probably would have bought everything at those prices.
The internet was aflame with people bragging about buying the $200 dresses for $20 and I was so disappointed that I hadn’t waited later to make the trip to the H&M store in Montreal. Mentally I was kicking H&M in the shins for not making the collection available online like they had promised to do. Even if consumers weren’t willing to pay $200 for a dress, surely a 60% discount would have driven the clothing into every fashion lover’s cart. For some reason H&M didn’t think to transfer the Margiela collection to other smaller stores. That might have moved some merchandise.
Unfortunately for H&M, piles of Margiela clothing remained unsold and savvy e-bayers took advantage of
their position of being able to get the clothes into the hands of consumers willing to pay for the collection. I found 3 dresses on bay under $50 with shipping at $10-$20 each. If I was willing to pay an average of $65 per dress, (and other ebay buyers were too,) it stands to reason that H&M’s limitations in selling the line were the price points and the inaccessibility of the clothing. To a lesser extent, the quality of the garments was detrimental to sales figures as items had to be returned.
What did stores do before do before e-bay?
What some may perceive as the ebay collaboration graveyard, I see a second life for the garments. There must be dozens of reasons why, years after the collaboration’s debut, people are still buying and selling collaboration items on e-bay.
One of the reasons is that the clothing is easily searchable. Since the particular collection is limited to 200 items, those items will most likely appear in the search for “Margiela for HM”. And this collection is absolutely identifiable to the time of its release: Margiela for H&M released in November 2012.
A search for these items is possible while a search for “Erdem Fall 2009″ will yield a mixed bag of results, most of them far from a consumer’s desired outcome.
Another reason is that the clothing is both fast fashion and designer fashion, that is, infinitely disposable and collectable at the same time.
New clothing arrives on H&M’s floors almost every week accelerating the fashion cycle and making consumers yearn for something new all the time. The designer collaborations are the something-new that is yearned for and is quickly disposed when the next something-new hits stores. In this way, some consumers will buy the clothing and wear it for a few months then clean out their closets making room for new clothing, as they have become accustomed to do.
Other consumers will look at the clothing from a design perspective and appreciate that the offering differs from the other merchandise offered at the fast-fashion retailer. I would be remiss if I didn’t consider the brand name association that fuels the frenzy for this clothing: Having an item from a designer collaboration makes the clothing affordable to people who may not be able to participate in consuming luxury products, but want to. On the side of the fast fashion consumers the intense marketing for the collections make the clothing too recognizable and the half-life of the clothing is shortened because of this and its easy to look like a fashion victim.
On the flip side and from a sustainable fashion perspective, designer collaborations are more recyclable. While a random dress from H&M might not find a buyer on ebay, dresses from the Margiela for H&M collection are all reselling for over $50, dresses from the Versace collection go for about $200 and the Matthew Williamson collaboration dresses are difficult to find on ebay for less than $150 but can reach $700 for the long dresses.
The point I am trying to make is that consumers who view the collaborations as fast fashion can resell the clothing on e-bay without guilt because other buyers and collectors who are willing to take the long view of fashion snap them up.
As for me, I continually buy designer collaborations on e-bay and I never never get rid of them, even if they don’t fit, because I see myself as a collector. I have only worn the red Margiela for H&M dress once because it is way too short on one side and looks like puffy red pajamas when I maneuver and tie the fabric for a more modest effect. The beige lining dress is too tight in the bust but I’m hoping to find an extremely minimizing and flattering bra that will enable me to wear it more often. The printed sequin dress is by far the most wearable. I wear it by folding up the hem and tucking it into leggings for a tunic effect or I wear it long with a long grey cardigan. I bought some sticker sequins at the dollar store and stuck them on the dress. The effect of seeing real sequins on top of printed sequins is amusing. These fall off as I move through the world and it pleases me that the printed sequins will never budge.