“She said she was wearing Jason Wu.”
That damning beat wouldn’t have happened a hundred thousand beats ago, when high-low collaborations were still fresh and signals of a new era in fashion. Now they signal how quickly new eras get old. Not many fashion writers/editors are publishing this, but as Jason Wu for Target and Marni for H&M collabs hit Canada, they’re sighing it privately: fast fashion needs to slow the eff down.
Jason Wu’s adorable collabo made mayhem at Targets across America, but here, where at the pop-up event purchases were wisely cut to three per shopper, the excitement seemed likewise curbed (even if this publication did liveblog it). At the media preview a publicist said three people had lined up at 8 a.m. for the noon start time, which isn’t quite madness. And of the 1500 shoppers I wonder how many plan to scalp the wears on Ebay, hoping to fetch prices like last year’s Missoni for Target pieces, some of which went for the cost of regular Missoni. What began ostensibly as the democratization of luxury has devolved into a desperate exercise in too-late capitalism.
And more surprisingly, in this most commercial form, fashion has come to resemble the art market, in which pricing has little to do with the materials used and everything to do with intangibles and hype. We know that when we buy designer labels we’re paying largely for the label itself–and all it says about us, the bearers, to others–but we tell ourselves it’s also about quality, fit, construction. The price is justified and fixed. But when past fast-fashion collabs get auctioned at near-designer prices, or showcased as they were at the Wu preview, like collectibles under glass, the lie’s revealed. More like the artifice market; Damien Hirst for Target can’t be very far off.
Two nights earlier, at the Marni for H&M media preview, I noticed a few editors reaching wearily for a printed pajama shirt. When they touched the cheap-feeling, alleged silk and read the tag–$130–they seemed to wake up (at least the Target collaborations are priced in accordance with their materials; $20 t-shirts, holla). The PR machine would have us believe that Marni founder-director Consuela Castiglioni created the collection herself, and certainly it bears her sport-deco aesthetic. It looks, I think, like the best designer collaboration H&M has done to date. But with that quality, the “pieces” feel more like designer-sanctioned knockoffs.
In my colleague/friend Chris Randle’s recent piece on Shary Boyle and Christine Fellowes, which, P.S., you should read, he used the word “conspire” instead of “collaborate.” It was on-purpose and effective. “Conspire” suggests a grand scheme without the hyperbolic connotations of “collaborate,” which has become such a marketing buzznomen that nobody knows whether it means anything. I’m not wholly disenchanted with fashion’s high-low dialectic–I mean, if somebody else lined up for me, I’d buy that leather contrast-sleeve #MarniAtHM tee for suuure–and I almost believe the designers when they say they’re in it for the people, not the paycheque. But in more and more of these so-called collabs, “collusion” would be a better word.
Sarah Nicole Prickett is Toronto Standard’s style editor. You can follow her on Twitter at @xoxSNP.