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March 15 2012

The Rise of the Designer Collaboration, and What It Means to Canadian Shoppers

By Danielle O'Hanley

While I would call myself a (mostly) frugal shopper, I'm also known to have a few designer pieces in my wardrobe. Unfortunately, a lot of my preferred designers only have decent selections in American or UK stores, where you have to worry about excessive shipping/customs charges on top of your already-pricey buy (there's nothing worse than getting your order from a Kate Spade sample sale, only to find that you've been charged an extra 40% in duties). To get around this, I'll usually shop at places like Beyond the Rack or Gilt to these items on sale. But let's be honest: buying from these spots still means I'm splurging. So, what do you do when you don't want to overspend, but still want the designer name?

Enter the designer collaboration: typically, these involve a higher-end designer working with a retailer to create a collection that's sold at a lower price point.

Since their Karl Lagerfeld collection in 2004, H&M has paired up with other well-known designers including Stella McCartney, Jimmy Choo, Lanvin, Versace, and most recently, Marni. The night before these collections launch, it's not uncommon to see lineups starting outside the store, especially since H&M doesn't have an online shopping option in Canada.

These collaborations used to seem few and far between, but between today's Diane von Furstenberg/Gap Kids collection launch, last week's Mary Katrantzou for Topshop, the Marni collection at H&M, and the Jason Wu for Target pop-up shop, it's been a huge year for Canadians who are looking to get top names without having to blow their budgets.

With more American stores entering the Canadian retail space (J.Crew, Target, Nordstrom and Tory Burch come to mind), I think we'll be seeing a lot more of these collaborations over the next year or so.

The downside, however, is that low prices bring lots of crowds, and shoppers can be ruthless! My fingers are crossed that if there's higher demand, these stores will start producing larger runs of their designer collections.

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