The Genteel
December 12, 2017
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Source: TimVogue.com.
Isabel Marant H&M Jane Birkin
Jane Birkin weeps for Isabel Marant x H&M.
Source: tomorrowstarted.com.

In every mega-successful fashion designer's career, there comes a time when they must ponder: "to collaborate, or not to collaborate, with H&M?" That is the question. 

Recently, Parisian oh-so-cool designer Isabel Marant had to contemplate this essential question, and I fear she has chosen unwisely.

Marant's clothing embodies the type of French insouciance and free-spirited flare that girls around the world spend hours day-dreaming about. Her peasant blouses, cropped skinny-jeans, bomber jackets, and trend-setting footwear are worn by adoring celebrities like Sienna Miller, Blake Lively and Kate Bosworth and are constantly knocked-off by other designers. I'm looking at you Steve Madden, who not only pirated the Marant sneaker wedge but made sure to beat her to stores. So tasteless.

Undeniably, an H&M collaboration raises a label's exposure and provides designers with a heap of cash - amounts vary, Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney reportedly received US$1 million in 2005, while Madonna is said to have received US$4 million in 2007 - but, selling your soul to fast fashion is terribly un-chic.

I hate to break the news, but when you're buying an H&M x Lagerfeld / Versace / Isabel Marant etc. piece, you're not buying Lagerfeld / Versace / Isabel Marant - you're buying H&M. The collaboration's garments are not handmade by the seasoned seamstresses that labour over those coveted, high-priced designer items; they're manufactured by H&M. At the end of the day, an H&M x Isabel Marant peasant blouse will sit differently (and look differently) than one by Marant herself. So what's the point?

Perhaps I am taking this a bit personally. I don't really care for Lagerfeld, Versace, Marni or Madonna - but Isabel and I had an understanding; an understanding about effortless clothing and style, and the idea of quality over quantity.

By accepting an H&M collaboration, a designer's reputation changes. Isabel Marant's exquisite, can't-touch-this-Parisian-chic is now tainted with the stinky smell of cheap, mass-manufactured garments.

Perhaps I am taking this a bit personally. I don't really care for Lagerfeld, Versace, Marni or Madonna - but Isabel and I had an understanding; an understanding about effortless clothing and style, and the idea of quality over quantity. "The Isabel Marant girl is the spiritual heir to a youthful Jane Birkin in the early 1970s, when she was hanging out on the Rive Gauche and wearing cute summer dresses on holiday in the South of France," wrote The Guardian's Jess Cartner-Morley. The youthful Jane Birkin in me quietly weeps with disappointment.

Perhaps Marant is on a power high? Her brand took awhile to sky-rocket - 15 years prior to the help of French Vogue’s Emanuelle Alt - so enjoying the success and wanting more is only natural. There's no doubt that the H&M x Isabel Marant collection will be successful (perhaps even more so than those of her predecessors), accumulate a lot of buzz and coverage, and makes the statement that behind the free-spirited designer is a smart businesswoman.

But, I can't help but wonder what a much bolder and brand-strengthening statement it would've been had Marant rejected H&M's proposal. Call me pretentious, but Isabel, I wish you hadn't. 

Have an opinion? Care to share your thoughts? Tweet @TheGenteel and @AlinaKulesh.

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