Fashion

Rabanne H&M: affordable luxury or fast fashion rebranded?

6 Mins read

Are H&M designer collections worth fighting eBay resellers for, or are they fast fashion quality for luxury prices?

H&M’s most recent designer collaboration to hit shelves is the Rabanne H&M collection, which dropped November 9, 2023. While some pieces are miraculously still available online, much of the collection quickly sold out; this has become the norm for these designer collaborations, occurring only once or twice a year.

The aim of these collaborations is to make luxury fashion more accessible for the average person, being cheaper than buying straight from the luxury brand. However, the prices are still high and due to the popularity of the collections, it can be hard to buy the pieces you really want before they sell out.

H&M have collaborated with designer brands to create limited collections since 2004, with their first being Karl Lagerfeld x H&M. Since then, the list has grown to include brands such as Versace, Moschino, Stella McCartney, Alexander Wang and many more.

Inside an H&M store.
Collections are mostly sold online to avoid chaos in-store. [Unsplash: Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu]

H&M’s 2004 collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld was an iconic and groundbreaking moment for both brands. Lagerfeld, who was creative director of Chanel at the time, had never created a mass market collection before. Despite his history of working in luxury fashion, he agreed to collaborate with H&M.

The advertisement for the collection was equally as iconic. “Karl! Is it true? But it’s cheap!” a snobbish man exclaims across a restaurant. Lagerfeld responds dryly: “It’s all about taste. If you are cheap, nothing helps.”

The collaboration broke down barriers between high street and luxury fashion, allowing many other successful partnerships to follow. Not only have H&M worked with designer brands but also Crocs, Uniqlo, Mango and even Target, an American supermarket.

Another successful collaboration for H&M was with Balmain in 2015. The campaign featured supermodels Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, and Balmain’s popularity with the Kardashian family contributed to the hype around the collection.

Police had to be called to deal with overwhelming crowds outside the Regent Street H&M store, with the website also crashing at 9:00 am when the collection went on sale.

The Guardian reported: “two minutes up the road, some enterprising shoppers were reselling their loot on the street.” Pieces are still resold for staggering prices on eBay, pieces often going for hundreds of pounds more.

Balmain x H&M became the most successful collaboration they had done, setting the tone for what was to come. Long lines outside stores, panicking as the website crashes and scalpers reselling on eBay are now common occurrences for these collections, with Rabanne H&M being no different.

Image from the Rabanne H&M campaign, model wears a silver chainmail dress with matching fringe bag and headpiece.
Rabanne often uses chainmail. [Photo courtesy of H&M]
Image from the Rabanne H&M campaign, two models wear military inspired outfits.
Military jackets are similar to a past collection. [Photo courtesy of H&M]

In a press release, H&M says: “Rabanne H&M flirts with fantasy, dances through decades and dreams about the future. Bringing together the carefree exuberance of the 1970s, the optimistic futurism of Rabanne and a touch of retro-inflected romance, the collection channels a modern vision of approachable opulence, joy and confidence.”

Rabanne — formerly known as Paco Rabanne — has a history of using unusual materials such as sequins, chainmail, plastic and metals in its designs. The brand often references futurism, having designed costumes for films like Barbarella, but recent collections have also been inspired by 70s disco aesthetics.

Rabanne H&M takes clear inspiration from Rabanne’s recent Spring ’24 collection. Gold and silver chainmail dresses, fringe bags and headpieces seem to be lifted straight from the runway.

“Prices should have been lower in my opinion. Rabanne’s solo collections are naturally always better.”

Eda @fashion.wonderer

The military-inspired jackets are also almost exactly like Rabanne’s Resort ’19 collection. This would be alluring to fans of the brand that cannot afford the pieces and the sparkly designs work perfectly for the holiday season.

However, the big difference between the collaboration and Rabanne’s luxury fashion is the price range. For example, the Rabanne H&M disc-embellished shoulder bag is £169.99, but the similar Sparkle Gold Bag from Rabanne is £990. While the H&M version seems like a bargain, there is a difference in quality, as the Rabanne bag uses more metal and gold plating.

Eda, who goes by @fashion.wonderer on Instagram, bought the disc-embellished shoulder bag: “Because of the fact that a fast fashion brand is involved, I was afraid for it to be low quality but they really surprised me. The sequins are plastic, but the metal parts are almost made out of 50% recycled metal. I was happy because the pouch portion of my bag was real leather. The bag reflects the light so perfectly and it’s very comfortable to carry,” she told me.

“Prices should have been lower in my opinion. I think if it’s possible for one to do so, it’s better for them to save their money and buy real Rabanne. They had beautiful designs in this collaboration but Rabanne’s solo collections are naturally always better.”

Eda was lucky to get her hands on the sought after bag. “I was so lucky this time, I was waiting for the website to open. I think I bought it in a couple of minutes. I really had a hard time with the Mugler collab.”

The H&M website is notorious for crashing upon the launch of their collaborations, leaving shoppers scrambling to buy what they want before it sells out. Online waiting rooms are set up so that users can enter the website in groups on a first come first serve basis, so many log in early to get the best chance.

The H&M Mugler presale event
Queues for the event were huge [Molly Wilson]
The H&M Mugler presale event
People rushed to get the pieces they wanted [Molly Wilson]

In May 2023, H&M collaborated with Mugler for another successful collection. I won a ticket to the pre-sale event at the Regent Street store, which took place the day before the collection went on sale. This meant no waiting rooms for me, as I was able to shop the collection before the rest of the world.

The line wrapped around the street corner long before doors were due to open, despite everyone there needing a confirmation email to be allowed in. We were given 15 minutes to shop before enjoying the rest of the event, so people were eagerly pushing to grab the pieces they wanted before they sold out.

I opted for a T-shirt costing £30, which was much more expensive than H&M’s usual prices. Upon seeing the queue for the dressing room snaking around the store, I opted to just go straight to the till. Unfortunately, after much wear this shirt now has a hole, which may not be unusual for high street quality clothing, but for the price point it was disappointing.

Some criticised the Mugler H&M collaboration, as many pieces were similar to Mugler’s Fall ’21 collection but made with cheaper materials. In a TikTok, one shopper called the clothing “uncomfortable and cheap,” as they were made from polyester.

One commenter agreed, saying: “This is just like Swatch x Omega. You’re not buying an Omega watch, you’re buying a Swatch. You’re not buying a Mugler dress, you’re buying an H&M dress.”

Some shoppers would rather save their money to buy the real thing. Another commenter said: “not to mention everyone’s gonna be walking around in the same items. Soon it’ll feel like Shein.” The allure of luxury fashion is that it is exclusive and — judging by the advertisement for Karl Lagerfeld’s collection — many believe these collaborations worsen the reputation of the designer brands.

Woman walking with H&M shopping bag.
[Unsplash: Fernand De Canne]

When deciding whether you’ll buy from the next H&M designer collaboration, consider the craftsmanship and materials you’re paying for. If it’s polyester and plastic, you may be better off saving your money. However, some items can be real leather and wool, in which case the prices are much more reasonable.

Seeing the clothes in person is the best way to know for sure, as you can try things on before making such a big purchase. If you must buy online, log into the website as early as possible to be first in line when the collection goes on sale. Whatever you do, don’t give in to buying from eBay as you’ll be paying a premium for high demand.

H&M designer collaborations can be a great way to buy affordable versions of luxury items, especially if you’re already a fan of the designer. However, it is more cost effective to invest in the higher quality pieces than waste money on a T-shirt with a logo printed on it.


Featured image by Sei on Unsplash CC.

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