High fashion designs not a top priority for students

One woman reportedly slapped a fellow shopper in the face after a trench coat was ripped from her hands at a Target store in Bondi Junction, Australia. According to The Daily Telegraph, within 10 minutes of the store’s 9 a.m. opening, it had sold out of its fight-inducing Stella McCartney line.

Similarly, when Sweden-based fashion retailer H&M launched its exclusive line by Viktor & Rolf in November 2006, People magazine’s “Off the Rack” blog reported shoppers camping out in the streets at 3:30 p.m. in Los Angeles the day before the line launched.

While these designer collaborations with retail chains may cause midyear re-enactments of Black Friday across major cities, the pandemonium hasn’t hit Tampa Bay quite as hard. Instead of spending hours in line before clawing over the latest limited-edition designer goods, Tampa residents seem more interested in an ensemble’s look rather than its label.

“When people like something that actually fits them, they may stock up on a style of something,” said Amy Riffe, women’s floor manager of Target on Fletcher Avenue. “I haven’t seen anyone going crazy over a designer like they have to have it or anything.”

Target features a GO. International line, which mass produces select pieces from a new designer about every 90 days, according to a Target press release. The line currently hosts Jovivich-Hawk, made up of actress-turned-designer duo Milla Jovovich and Carmen Hawk.

“I really like the Jovovich-Hawk line out of the designers I’ve seen,” women’s studies major Jessica Floyd said. “It’s much closer to my style. All of the clothes are flirty, with big floral prints that have this summery, girly appeal.”

GO. International’s next line should be released sometime in mid-June, and its designer has yet to be revealed. This tactic keeps designs fresh and supplies limited, which may increase the store’s buzz in major cities, but Target’s ultimate goal is to make high fashion more affordable to the masses. Rather than focusing on snagging big-name designers, the chain emphasizes selecting designs that customers are most apt to wear.

“The entire process is built upon collaboration,” said Amy VonWalter, spokeswoman for Target, in an interview last April. “Target works hard to retain the spirit and point of view of the individual designer while also making the collection marketable to our guests.”

In addition, the local renown of a designer’s name could also play a part in Tampa Bay area sales.

“I would think a lot of these people don’t know the designers,” Riffe said. “Personally, I don’t know them. Maybe someone who studies fashion would, but I think that most people coming in here and shopping at Target don’t know who they are.”

Attaching a celebrity’s name to a product is another way stores can bolster sales.

When Kohl’s store brand, Candie’s, changed its spokesmodel from America’s Most Talented Kid star Cheyenne Kimball to pop singer Fergie, former Clearwater juniors department manager Meghan Rose noticed an influx of teenaged shoppers to the store.

“I think people see a celebrity endorsement, which gets them to try items on, but the fit of the clothes determines whether they’ll buy it,” she said.

Last fall Kohl’s joined the ranks of retailers who’ve partnered with major designers by introducing a women’s line called Simply Vera by Vera Wang. Blogs gave the line mixed reviews, which is reflected in customers’ attitudes toward it at the Clearwater store, Rose said.

“I’d say it’s been selling moderately, at least in our store,” she said. “It seems like people either love it or hate it. It’s very New York and it very much mirrors Vera Wang’s runway collection. Since the designs aren’t really scaled down for the average customer, I think that’s why some people dislike it.”

While Kohl’s transitions into lines by high-profile designers, H&M has shifted in the opposite direction. Limited edition offerings by runway-renowned artists such as Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld have given way to style icon collaborations with celebrities such as Madonna and Kylie Minogue. This transition has more to do with the clothes themselves than the face behind them, H&M spokeswoman Lisa Sandberg said in an interview last April.

“It’s a great way for our customers to experience haute couture and introduce them to designers and fashions that may have previously been out of reach,” she said.

H&M creative director-turned-creative adviser Margareta van den Bosch echoed Sandberg’s sentiments in an issue of Women’s Wear Daily.

“We proved that fashion isn’t only a question of price,” she said.

Just because H&M’s designer collaborations focus on making high fashion affordable doesn’t mean that the retailer isn’t aware of the profits celebrity collaborations yield. Head of H&M womenswear and soon-to-be creative director Ann-Sofie Johansson told Women’s Wear Daily that it’s better to model the latest trends off of celebrities rather than runway looks.

“Kate Moss is still another influence,” said Johansson. “Rihanna is another, as is Chloà Sevigny and models like Agyness Deyn. Our costumers aren’t interested in (catwalk) designers. They look at celebrities.”

Floyd said she was in New York shortly after H&M released its Madonna-endorsed line of clothing, but found that the garments didn’t meet her expectations.

“I wasn’t impressed,” she said. “Nearly everything in H&M is decently priced, but her line was more expensive than the regular clothes and it looked the same as anything else in the store.”

When it comes to shopping, Floyd said her decisions depend on an item’s design, not its label. Accounting major Andrea Waldron also said that brand names come second to a garment’s look.

“I’m sure I’ve bought things from (designer collaborations), but I couldn’t tell you what they were specifically,” she said. “There are certain brands I know I like, but buying anything depends on whether it’s my style.”