Fast Fashion Brands Are Moving Towards Luxury. What Now?


Many were surprised when Anne Hathaway wore a shirt-dress by fast fashion retailer Gap to a Bulgari event. But the draw here: the dress was custom-made by Gap’s Creative Director Zac Posen, who has long been considered a high fashion insider. Remember Deepika’s pink gown in the 2019 MET Gala? Posen had designed that. Many of the most famous red carpet gowns have been designed by him.

But this is not the first time Gap has done a partnership like this. In June 2020, Gap famously collaborated with Kanye West’s luxury streetwear brand Yeezy. H&M, too, has been famous for collaborating with fashion houses like Balmain and Jean Paul Gaultier as far back as the 2000s.

But this brings up the question: why would two very different segments of fashion want to collaborate in the first place? Especially, when for the longest time, such collaborations were a taboo in the world of haute couture.

See, collaborations are meant to profit both sides. In an economy where many people are unsure whether to splurge on that edgy partnering with affordable retailers, it also gives an entry point for customers to buy at least something from the high-end brand. If they end up liking it, there is a good chance they will buy more of the designer’s products in the future.

Besides, fast fashion brands possess the technology to mass produce goods, so, designers can produce larger quantities of their clothes at a lower cost, adding to that extra income (unless of course, it’s limited edition, and very few products are intentionally made by the retailer to maintain the quality and get a few bucks more out of the product).

Not only that, fast fashion brands are notorious for making dupes of the products that do well on the runway. So by working with these brands, designers get more control over how their designs are distributed throughout the market.

As for fast fashion brands, it’s a huge economic boost. Especially for big-name brand partnerships, people flock to the stores to get their hands on the products. Picture this: practically every girl dreams of wearing a Sabyasachi lehenga or sari at their wedding. But for those who can’t afford it, collaborations are their chance at owning at least something from their favourite brand. Besides, the collaborations mix the creative vision of all the brands involved, so you’re sure to find something new out of these pairings.

Here, we made a list of some of our favourite designer labels and fast fashion retailer collaborations over the years.

H&M X Sabyasachi

The Sabyasachi-H&M collab is probably the most well-remembered one in recent memory. Titled ‘Wanderlust’, it featured both ethnic clothing and accessories in Sabyasachi’s classic Indian prints, as well as shorts, T-shirts and bomber jackets to go with the needs of the collaboration’s customers.

J W Anderson X Uniqlo X Roger Federer

Tennis fashion was all the rage this summer, thanks to Challengers. And Uniqlo had Loewe’s creative director JW Anderson on board to design not one, but two collections for its Spring-Summer ’24 season. The former, characterised by relaxed silhouettes suitable for the summer heat was released side to side with another tennis-inspired collection, called the LifeWear collection. What’s more, the Japanese affordable retailer also brought tennis legend Roger Federer into the collaboration, making for the ultimate tennis girl summer.

Diesel X Urban Outfitters

Diesel jeans dominated the luxury denim industry in the ’90s, and since he was appointed the creative director of the brand in 2020, Glenn Martens has been influential in making Diesel a household name again. In 2023, the brand collaborated with Urban Outfitters to create a nostalgic, edgy Y2K collection reminiscent of Diesel’s glory days, featuring logo tees, metallic tops low-rise jeans and cargo jumpsuits.

Mugler x H&M

Another H&M collaboration, and probably my personal favourite, the Mugler x H&M collaboration brought the classic blue and black denim patchwork jeans and dresses to the retailer at a fraction of the price. I remember waiting for this collaboration to drop after seeing this pair of jeans on Mamamoo’s Hwasa, but well, the jeans had sold out before yours truly had the chance to get it for herself.

Victoria Beckham X Mango

Victoria Beckham Mango

2024 seems to be the year of haute couture and fast fashion collabs, and Victoria Beckham joined the trend with a chic collection with Mango (finally a collection without a logo tee, oof!). What’s better? This collection was all about the office siren and it’s still available on Mango’s website; so trendy or not, you can always channel your inner Giselle Bündchen from The Devil Wears Prada. But that’s not all. Beyond brand collaborations, fast fashion retailers are also making custom-made looks for red carpet events. Gap and H&M are becoming regulars at the MET Gala, with figures like Paloma Elsesser and Awkwafina wearing custom H&M at the 2017 Met.

As the fast fashion market begins to get oversaturated, affordable retail brands are now looking to shift into the luxury sector. When Zac Posen was declared as the creative director of Gap, CEO Richard Dixon reportedly said that the designer had been hired to overhaul the company’s image into that of a high fashion brand. Zara, too, is pushing towards that road, with the launch of their new label, Zara Atelier.

But the question remains, with fast fashion’s notorious attitude towards the environment and sustainability, will these brands adopt a more eco-friendly approach? Or are the exquisitely designed products just an expensive front while the age-old practices still continue?


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