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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Licentiate Column 11/11/10

If you’re up to date on what’s happening on the high street, you will know all about the new collaboration between high street behemoths H&M and the impossibly chic Lanvin, a designer label whose elaborate hand-painted t-shirts often run in excess of five hundred euros. To many people, this sounds like a dream come true, so the story of this collaboration will be written in a fairytale fashion that Charles Perrault (much more stylish and parfait than those uncouth Grimm Brothers) should be proud of.

Once upon a time there was a very lonely shop. This shop should not have been lonely, for it had all the customers that it could dream of, clogging up it’s dressing rooms and buying inexpensive snoods en masse. This shop was also magical, for it somehow managed to manufacture massive amounts of on-trend stock and sell at bottom dollar prices without any major human rights violations on the part of it’s factory workers in third-world countries.

What this store needed was a partner. Oh, it had had flings before, with all the right people. Stella MacCartney, Karl Lagerfeld, Victor and Rolf, Sonia Rykiel... the list went on. This store blazed a trail in sartorial lovers, all different, all special, all extremely productive. The fruits of these labours were gobbled up greedily by the customers, but such delights were not enough. Now, with such affairs concluded, the shop was not only forlorn, but faced with greedy, happy faces all in anticipation of the next scandalous partnership, like a woman who has just picked up a copy of Hello with Cheryl Cole on the cover.

What this shop needed was a fairy godmother. And, thus, Alber Elbaz, head of H&M, appeared in a flash of tulle and couture. “Worry not!” Alber exclaimed. Together we shall make a partnership the like of which no customer has ever seen. We shall have exaggerated florals, acid brights, designer tailoring, distinctive silhouettes and more cocktail dresses than you could shake a Christmas party at!” And together, the lonely shop and Lanvin joined hands and lived happily ever after. All the customers got their designer dresses at high street prices and they lived happily ever after too...

And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

What’s interesting about fairy tales isn’t what you are told, but what the storytellers choose to omit. The lonely shop (that’s H&M for those who haven’t quite cottoned on) wants to push up profits while Lanvin probably wants to introduce young customers to the heady thrill of designer buying, making them more likely to pick Lanvin in the future. Not all the customers will get their cheap designer dresses and many will go home unhappy.
There are three reasons for this (three being the best number for any fairytale gone wrong).

1) The collaboration is only coming to 200 selected stores, one of which is in Ireland.
2) If you manage to get past the queue and elaborate wristband system H&M have devised, you will only be allowed to buy one piece of clothing.
3) Having found the dress of your dreams, you peer at the pricetag. It will probably cost two hundred euros, one hundred and fifty if you’re lucky.
Designer at high street prices? I think not. The fairytale has well and truly ended.