By Jennifer Lynn
“I respect everyone who does it, but the reason I didn’t do it is because I work very hard to put the Versace line in the luxury section. I think to put the Versace line in H&M would confuse the brand.” Those were the words of Donatella Versace to New York Magazine in 2008. Fast forward to 2012 and those words have echoed around the globe and back after Donatella decided to design, not one, but two collections for the Swedish high street chain.
So why the change of heart? Some have suggested that Donatella’s sole motivation was to recoup the fashion house’s well-publicised lost profits from the past ten years. Although Ms Versace’s fee for the collection remains a closely guarded secret, it is said that unlike other designers who have collaborated with H&M, Donatella was not just paid a flat fee. Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney were rumoured to have been paid $1,000,000 respectively for their diffusion lines, while Donatella apparently received around this amount for each of her two collections, plus a percentage of every item sold. If this is true, judging from scenes on November 17th 2011 at the UK launch of The Very Best of Versace for H&M, Donatella is back in the money.
However does this dilution or “dumbing down” of a designer label cheapen the idea of owning luxury goods? Sure it’s great for those fashion fans who can’t afford to fork out £5000 for a frock, but are those buyers who can afford to shell out being given a raw deal, and are the diffusion pieces really of the quality we would expect from one of the biggest designers on the planet?
The likelihood is that Versace for H&M will appeal to an entirely different consumer from the mainline brand. Fans of the designer who never thought they’d be able to own an entire Versace outfit will benefit, as will the younger generation who are still a long way off being able to splash their cash on couture.
With her first collection for H&M, Donatella was keen to showcase Versace’s 90s heyday, prior to the death of her brother Gianni in 1997. She told Newsweek magazine: “I said I wanted to do the iconic pieces of Versace, Versace through history until now. I wanted to show the young people what is Versace. I was expecting H&M to tell me, ‘No, you can’t do this,’ but I gave them some sample, and they came back with something very similar. If you look very close you can see it’s not the same, but three meters away you really get confused about which one is the original.”
Despite the close similarity with Versace’s most-loved pieces, those microscopic differences are what will keep the high end shoppers off of the high street, and, perhaps more importantly, keep the brand’s cash coming in at both ends. By appealing to the youth of today, Donatella is creating her customer base for tomorrow, certainly not a dumb move by any means.
Image: Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com