When Kendall Jenner stood on the red carpet on the night of the 2015 Billboard Awards with Oliver Rousteing and announced a new collaboration between H&M and Balmain, #Balmaination was born. I, along with millions of other fashion enthusiasts could not wait to hear more. Kendall’s navy embellished blazer dress was beautiful and the fact that it was going to be sold in H&M, a high-street store commonly known for it’s cheap and sustainable clothing, excited me more than the unveiling of Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood music video that premiered the same night.
H&M is widely known as a fashionable brand that sells quality clothes at a cheap price – every students’ dream! Branded as an economically conscious company, they the aim to make fashion sustainable at the same time as offering the best quality products for a good price. All students know H&M as a reliable high-street shop, ideal for essentials but also for its wide range of clothing, accessories and sports clothes. So the announcement of a new Balmain collection was exciting and the whole fashion world waited with baited breath for the launch party.
It did not disappoint. The star-studded launch video is compressed into one short video, it embraces Balmain’s energetic and expressive values that the 29 year old fashion director of the Parisian house, Oliver Rousteing, has pursued since he was appointed in 2011. The celebrity supermodel gang consisting of Kendall, Gigi Hadid and Jourdan Dunn all walked the runway, which concluded with an irresistibly epic performance by our favourite 90’s heartthrobs: return of the Backstreet Boys. This launch party paints the new H&M x Balmain collection as an accessible, fun and a fashion forward collection that opens the haute couture fashion house to a high street audience.
It is interesting to understand why H&M decided to collaborate with a haute couture label. Oliver Rousteing has increased Balmain’s coverage by being BFFs with celebrities like the Kardashians and Rihanna, so why collaborate with H&M? I can certainly see the appeal of this collaboration; it supposedly opens up H&M to a whole new demographic being sold in a high street shop. But why did H&M feel the need to collaborate with a couture label? Is an association with a luxury label hinting towards a drastic rethink of their target market? Or was it just for the press and hype around the shop?
The clothes in the collection are beautiful: full of embellishments, strong shapes and distinctive shoulder pads but are they really accessible for H&M’s target audience? The queues on the launch day and the fact that it sold out within hours would argue yes. But, for H&M’s normal audience, us students, what does the collaboration mean? Personally I thought the clothes were breathtaking, as were the prices. It would be a dream come true to own something from Balmain and the collaboration did make that possible, but the extortionate prices meant it was way out of my budget and I just ended up lusting after it online. As I would do for any other haute couture line!