From the designer’s perspective, the upsides are clear: H&M offers intense exposure, including press coverage and a robust marketing budget. Prince and Nicki Minaj performed at a party celebrating Versace’s collaboration in 2011. Sofia Coppola directed a commercial for Marni’s collection in 2012, as did Baz Luhrmann for Erdem in 2017.
It can also be personally lucrative for them. The Times has reported that Stella McCartney and Mr. Lagerfeld were each paid $1 million for their collaborations. “And in many cases, beyond that, there’s some sort of a royalty or a revenue share on top,” said Marc Beckman, whose advertising firm DMA United has brokered fashion collaborations involving Gucci, LeSportsac and the N.B.A. H&M declined to comment on its financial agreements with designers.
Yet some designers, such as Rick Owens, have spoken out against working with fast-fashion companies, citing concerns over waste and disposability — an image H&M has spent years toiling to shed.
Here, the designers provide an upside to H&M: a “halo effect,” Mr. Beckman said.
“Some people will stay interested in the environmental concerns, regardless of these top-tier types of aspirational collaborations,” he said. “But a lot of people will look the other way so that they can get a piece of luxury.”
Democratization or Dilution?
A decade ago, Jessica Y. Flores waited in line overnight for H&M’s Versace collaboration at a store in Midtown Manhattan. She sat on the sidewalk, she said, recalling that it was so cold outside that people took turns warming up inside a nearby pharmacy.
She was there because she’d grown up admiring Versace. “But I am someone who was a first-generation American, and I come from a working-class family,” said Ms. Flores, now 36. “Buying high-end luxury to wear was not something that was available to me. I heard about this collection, and I was like: ‘Oh, I can buy this.’”