Remember Madonna for H&M? The Highs And Lows Of High Street Collaborations

This weekend, Alexander Wang announced a forthcoming collaboration with H&M. We look back at the rollecoaster of high street/designer collaborations...


by Pandora Sykes |
Published on

Remember when high street shops used to just be shops and fashion labels used to just be fashion labels – and they were NEVER seen together? Nope, us neither. (Spot the Millennials.) Even so, it’s big news that Alexander Wang, NYC’s hottest designer (he of eponymous mainline label Alexander Wang, diffusion line T by Alexander Wang and the French fashion house, Balenciaga) is to cosy up to the collaborative high street monolith, H&M.

Cue a trillion girls in Indio peeing their artfully-frayed vintage Levi’s in excitement, after Wang announced the news via his newly launched Instagram page, during Coachella. What with AW x H&M and Kate Moss’s much-hyped return to Topshop, we’ve got designer collaborations on the mind. But for every Peter Pilotto for Target, there’s a Madonna for H&M. And if you fall in nostalgic lust for the below, check out eBay, essentially a back catalogue of high street collaborations...

Kate Moss for Topshop, 2007


The thought of emulating KM (at the height of her rock starriness in 2007, hitting every other headline with Pete Doherty) was almost too much excitement to bear. How close would the collection match her enviable vintage wardrobe? A lot, as it turns out – with most of the designs being exact replicas of vintage pieces she’d worn on Portobello Road. It’s unequivocally one of the strongest high street collaborations, _ever. T_he iconic dresses – the vintage floral, the one-shouldered white, the lemon yellow, the ‘caged’ black A-Line – and much of the collection is still available on eBay. Hands up if you’re excited for 2014’s, yeah?

Madonna for H&M, 2007


In these early days of celebrity collaborations, Madonna for H&M taught us all a valuable lesson. Partly because unlike Kate’s unbelivably cool but ultimately achievably wardrobe, Madonna’s aesthetic has always been very, well *Madonna. *It also never really consisted of white zip tops, pencil skirts and short sleeved shirts. In retrospect, if Madge had simply done a few more buttons up, it would be a perfectly acceptable minimalist, monochrome wardobe. Just nothing to do with Madonna.

**Henry Holland for Pretty Polly, 2009 **


One of the jolliest members of the young British fashion scene line-up, Henry’s colour and print popping garms are the candy-coloured icing on the cake to every London fashion week. But we were slightly less excited by his hoisery collection of 2009. Unless your name was Harriet, or Holly, or… you get the drift. It felt rather disingenuous to be wearing H’s all over our legs.

Alexa Chung for Madewell, 2010


It’s one of life’s great sadnesses that J. Crew’s little sister Madewell is still not available in the UK and it got even sadder when our homegrown leggy muse launched her collaboration with them in 2010 (she did a follow-up collection in 2011) and we couldn’t get our mitts on it. Featuring a stable of preppy cute Alexa classics – think velvet shorts, stripey dungarees, classic silk shirts and peacoats – we await a UK Madewell opening with baited breath.

Hello Kitty for Liberty, 2011


Not the most natural of collaborations: Olde English Liberty of London and... Japanese anime kitty with its own cafe in Seoul. If you were looking for plasters for small girls, or miniature vanity cases, this was a hit. Otherwise, not really. That said, you can still buy Hello Kitty Liberty dresses for tiny people via Brora, so there's clearly a market…

JW Anderson for Topshop, 2012


Snapped up by an eagle-eyed Topshop when he first began making waves on the London fashion scene, the JWA x Topshop collab was the uniform at the Topshop Unique fashion show of September 2012. Alexa was spotted everywhere in his black waffle Batman sweater, while the turtle print jeans, quilted paisley and tartan ‘tees’ were no-brainer wardrobe staples. Though his second collection proved equally profitable, his debut collab was one of the most impressive ever, being truly reflective of the JWA aesthetic. Clap clap clap.

3.1 Phillip Lim for Target, 2013


To understand how impressive the US supermarket’s roster of designer collaborations is, imagine if George at Asda had collaborated with (now folded British label) Luella, Mulberry, Peter Pilotto (the most recent) or Missoni. Again, Target isn’t available here, much to our chagrin, though it populates eBay in force, so don’t despair. The strongest of the collections to date was by Phillip Lim. His satchel produced for Target (still available through eBay) bore a startling resemblance to his mainline Pashli handbag, but his pop art ‘Boom’ sweater and graphic leopard print skirt would have sold for ten times the pricetag.

Meadham Kirchoff for Topshop, 2013


MK’s fourth collection for Topshop was their barmiest (read: most Kirchoffian) so far. And while it was lapped up by their devotees, it was in essence a fusion of Alice In Wonderland and Grayson Perry’s wardrobe; not exactly the most wearable of collections, which should really be a criterion for any high street collaboration. The crochet poloneck dress was a cute take on that blanket you spent forever knitting with your gran, but the platform monster boots and Mongolian fur heart coat packed an, er, punch. Not totally sure about a high street coat costing £750, though...

Rihanna for River Island, 2013


Let’s be honest, Rihanna could have produced a denim thong and the hype behind it would have been mega – which she thankfully didn’t for her debut collection. The second collaboration, dare we say it, was all a little contrived. Even Cara Delevingne looked like a sort of club kid McDonald’s worker in the yellow shirt dress with poppas, while only Jourdan Dunn has the sass to pull off ‘G4LIFE’ all over everything she is wearing.

Isabel Marant for H&M


The collaboration frenzy reached its zenith with this one: imagine the antipation of the Kate Moss for Topshop debut collection, but this time people had savvied up, embraced digital, and knew you could flog a sellout £70 blazer for £950 on eBay. It all got a bit depressing, but the collection itself was undisputably strong, wearable and sheer Marant. Her famous 3/4 length trousers were rendered in lace-up leather, while the boho printed quilted jackets, slub tees, oversized textured knits and flippy skirts worn with sweatshirts and dangly trousers were just what our wardrobes ordered.

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Pictures: Rex

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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