The fashion industry used to view collaborations between luxury brands and fast fashion as taboo. Luxury brands were reluctant to partner with fast-fashion retailers for fear of damaging their brand image. Nevertheless, the landscape has changed as consumer attitudes towards fashion have shifted and new financial incentives have emerged, resulting in a shift into the world of namesake dupes.
Back in 2007, New York-based luxury fashion label Proenza Schouler took a leap into the fast-fashion world with a collaboration with Target. The collection showcased the brand’s distinctive contemporary designs and vibrant prints at a fraction of the cost of their usual collections. The collaboration proved to be a massive success, with many of the pieces selling out within hours of their release. Encouraged by this, the collection was brought back again in 2019 to cater to the ever-growing demand for affordable fashion.
In a comparable fashion, Karl Lagerfeld collaborated with Amazon Fashion and released a collection featuring items such as graphic tees, sports shorts and footwear, priced between $40 and $476.
Another player in the high-low fashion game is fast fashion retailer H&M, which has also been leading the charge in collaborating with luxury brands to create affordable and stylish collections. In recent years, they have partnered with high-end designers such as Versace, Balmain, and Moschino. Their latest collaboration with Mugler is yet another example of how fast-fashion retailers are bridging the gap between high-end fashion and affordable clothing.
Conversations for this collaboration between H&M and Mugler had reportedly started before the unfortunate passing of Manfred Thierry Mugler in January 2022. Through the collection, the duo is looking to fuse Mugler’s past, present, and future by featuring various classics and signature pieces.
“It is truly an honor to collaborate with H&M. The collection is a celebration of everything that defines Mugler as a house and each piece is authentic Mugler, from the bodysuits, which have become a signature of ours, to the sharp tailoring and worked denims. It is a showcase of our icons,” said Casey Cadwallader, creative director at Mugler at the time of the announcement.
The collection encompasses womenswear, menswear and accessories, and is available in stores and online, with prices ranging from $39.99 to $549. Additionally, the H&M and Mugler collaboration offers pieces that bear a striking resemblance to those available under the Mugler brand at a premium price point. For example, the Mugler bare-leg leggings retail for $520, while similar-looking leggings can be purchased through the H&M collaboration for just $99.
The transformation in consumers’ perceptions of fashion is a crucial element that propels the “high-low” fashion game. Moreover, customers are expressing more openly their hesitation to splurge colossal amounts on luxury fashion when comparable designs are offered at a fraction of the cost by fast fashion retailers. The democratization of fashion and the expanding impact of social media magnify both these aspects. Customers are now more knowledgeable about the fashion industry and call for affordable and easily accessible fashion alternatives.
In addition, luxury brands are discovering fresh economic benefits in partnering with fast fashion retailers as the fashion market becomes increasingly cut-throat and luxury brands feel the need to stay pertinent and lucrative. Collaborating with fast-fashion retailers enables them to expand their reach to a larger audience and access new markets.
The foray into dupes and collaborations with fast-fashion brands also follow the finding that consumers have cut back on discretionary spend to combat inflation.
According to PYMNTS data, consumers have been cutting back on non-essential items, causing discretionary retailers to feel the impact. Many consumers are now reevaluating their preferred merchants and price points. In fact, 56% of U.S. retail shoppers have switched merchants to save money, and price is a deciding factor for 67% of shoppers when choosing a large retailer.
With over 180 million views on TikTok alone, the hashtag #lululemondupe has gained significant traction to date. Lululemon has recognized this as an opportunity to reshape the narrative by offering customers an authentic product experience.
In early May the athleisure brand hosted a dupe swap event at the Century City Mall in Los Angeles. The event targeted dupe enthusiasts, encouraging them to exchange their counterfeit products for a pair of black “Align High Rise Pant 25,” a staple item in Lululemon’s collection since 2015.
The dupe exchange event hosted by Lululemon took place at the Century City Mall in LA, a prominent center for content production and creators. Additionally, Lululemon partnered with a textile recycling company to ensure that the swapped counterfeit pants are not disposed of in the trash.
Although it may not be possible to completely alter the dupe narrative, Lululemon can leverage this opportunity to convert those who participated in the event into loyal customers. By providing customers with the chance to test and experience their products through events such as the dupe exchange or in-store, it can minimize returns and encourage more deliberate and informed purchases.
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