Down the aisle: Heidi Klum’s Lidl line

As Heidi Klum’s new col­lec­tion lands in Lidl, have we reached peak celebrity/ fash­ion col­lab­o­ra­tion? An­n­marie O’Con­nor re­ports

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Inside -

There’s noth­ing quite like a juicy hook-up, es­pe­cially when it comes to fash­ion. As de­sign­ers and celebri­ties con­tinue to lend their names and nous to high­street col­lec­tions, shop­pers just can’t seem to get enough. Or can they?

It ap­pears we’ve reached peak col­lab­o­ra­tion. Since H&M launched its first 30piece de­signer cap­sule with Karl Lager­feld in 2004 (a sell-out in mul­ti­ple ci­ties within in an hour), ‘high­low’ has be­come the hottest trend in re­tail with, lit­er­ally, hun­dreds of col­lab­o­ra­tions clut­ter­ing the mass mar­ket land­scape.

Kate Moss for Top­shop, Vic­to­ria Beck­ham for Tar­get and Ri­hanna for River Is­land are a few of the me­dia-fren­zied part­ner­ships over the years that have in­spired round-the­block queues, crash­ing web­sites, stam­ped­ing crowds and eBay bid­ding wars - all in a bid to bag some lim­it­ededi­tion swag. 2017 sees X mark­ing the spot across scores of hotly-tipped two­somes: JW Anderson x Uniglo; model-of-the-mo­ment Gigi Ha­did x Tommy Hil­figer; not to men­tion H&M’s sweet six­teenth col­lab­o­ra­tion with Lon­don-based la­bel Er­dem. Oh, let’s not for­get Lidl and Heidi Klum.

That’s right. Lidl and Heidi Klum. Pause. Scratch head. Read again. Verklempt?

Su­per­mar­kets and su­per­mod­els aren’t the most ob­vi­ous two­some. So, when Ger­man gro­cer Lidl un­veiled plans for its first ever ‘high-end yet af­ford­able’ fash­ion col­lab­o­ra­tion with Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret An­gel, lin­gerie de­signer and TV host Heidi Klum, some style seek­ers were more in­trigued (nay, per­plexed) than ex­cited.

The ‘Heidi & The City’ col­lec­tion, which will be avail­able ex­clu­sively at over 150 Lidl stores na­tion­wide on Septem­ber 18 priced from €5.99 to €59.99, taps into the high-low egal­i­tar­ian mantra of pre­mium ac­ces­si­bil­ity but at what cost? The fash­ion math is ob­vi­ous. Com­bine a big name and big buzz with lim­ited run of prod­uct at low prices for an even big­ger re­turn. The re­sult?

De­sign­ers re­ceive a broader cus­tomer base (at a fea­si­ble price) while re­tail­ers bask in the glow of the im­plied grav­i­tas. It all starts to get a bit frayed around the edges, how­ever, when vis­i­bil­ity trumps cred­i­bil­ity in a bid to cash in on a good thing.

What’s more, Klum’s new col­lec­tion which, ac­cord­ing to Lidl, ‘mir­rors her char­ac­ter­is­tic style’ (think leop­ard print blaz­ers, bomber jack­ets and su­per-skinny jeans) adds a level of cache into which her loyal fol­low­ers will un­doubt­edly be buy­ing.

Fac­tor in Lidl’s re­cent ex­pan­sion into the US mar­ket (its first stores opened in June with an­other 80 planned for the East Coast by mid-2018) and the ap­par­ent puz­zle starts to make sense. Why?

Its state­side com­peti­tors Wal-Mart and Tar­get have al­ready made con­sid­er­able in­roads into su­per­mar­ket chic – the lat­ter of the two boast­ing the most bank­able de­sign dyads with power play­ers like Peter Pilotto, Pra­bal Gu­rung, Zac Posen, Philip Lim and Mis­soni to name a few.

That said, some folks still aren’t (and won’t be) buy­ing it. Writer and In­sta­gram­mer Lind­say Woods (@manolo­mummy) is one of them. “I’m all for an emer­gency aisle 3 pur­chase of a 5-pack of cot­ton briefs when life and age have sagged my knicker elas­tic to a tragic end,” she ad­mits.

“But do I re­ally want to pur­chase a frock with my frank­furters? No, I do not. The thought leaves me as cold as the strip light­ing by the dairy fridges.” Ouch.

If cre­at­ing the right mood is crit­i­cal to re­tail ther­apy, then what visual stim­uli will it take for pun­ters to part with their pen­nies? Stylist Irene O’Brien (Irene.ie) is cu­ri­ous.

“Is it go­ing to be more like an in­stal­la­tion or a pop-up in the mid­dle of Lidl?” she asks. “Be­cause I can’t imag­ine that you’re just go­ing along pick­ing up your posh vegetable crisps and, then, your Heidi Klum clothes. Is that bring­ing peo­ple in or is that bring­ing peo­ple back be­cause I don’t know if it will. It is kind of bonkers but, maybe, bril­liantly so.” Good point. Some­times the most un­likely pair­ings keep the tills ring­ing. Un­like the ques­tion­able part­ner­ing with Paris Hil­ton on a hair care line (re­ally?), Lidl boxed clever in choos­ing the run­way vet­eran whose com­bined so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing (ex­clud­ing Snapchat) tips over 12 mil­lion. These days mak­ing a good im­pres­sion is as much about im­pres­sions (on­line) as it is to do with dis­play and de­sign. What’s more, Klum’s new col­lec­tion which, ac­cord­ing to Lidl, ‘mir­rors her char­ac­ter­is­tic style’ adds a level of cache into which her loyal fol­low­ers will un­doubt­edly be buy­ing.

Indeed, badg­ing a brand with a cred­i­ble am­bas­sador seems to have kept high­street chains fash­ion­ably black where others have been left red-faced.

Top­shop set the bar high over a four-year de­sign part­ner­ship (2007-2010) with su­per­model Kate Moss, rais­ing sales for the store, ac­cord­ing to re­ports, by up to 10 per cent; while Bey­oncé’s Ivy Park ath­leisure range for the re­tailer (now in its third sea­son) was

an in­stant sell-out at its launch in 2016.

M&S ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar suc­cess with su­per­model Rosie Hunt­ing­ton-White­ley at the helm of three col­lec­tions (swimwear, nightwear and un­der­wear); whereas Alexa Chung’s ‘Archive by Alexa’ edit ap­pealed to her fans (the Vic­to­rian-col­lared ‘Harry’ blouse sold out by the end of the first day) but not nec­es­sar­ily the am­per­sand duo’s tra­di­tional, more con­ser­va­tive cus­tomer base.

And therein lies the rub. There’s a big dif­fer­ence be­tween au­then­tic al­liances and flimsy mar­ket­ing ploys as O’Brien rightly points out.

“If I feel that it’s a part­ner­ship and a col­lec­tion in its own right that is specif­i­cally de­signed by a de­signer or house with these peo­ple in mind,” she says, “that’s very dif­fer­ent than say­ing, ‘Let’s cre­ate this one-off col­lec­tion and get ev­ery­one in the door so that you can get a taste of this de­signer.’” This is where de­part­ment stores like Deben­hams and Dunnes have risen to the top – as­tute in par­lay­ing rep­utable names that tap into spe­cific cus­tomer seg­ments.

The 18-strong De­sign­ers at Deben­hams range has en­er­gised the Bri­tish brand with lines rang­ing from the youth­ful H! by Henry Hol­land to princess-ap­proved Stu­dio by Preen (one of Kate Mid­dle­ton’s favourite de­sign­ers) and Ire­land’s own John Rocha. Dunnes Stores has like­wise hit the sales sweet spot with a high­qual­ity, de­sign-cen­tric ros­ter in­clud­ing wish­list­wor­thy la­bels like Len­non Court­ney and Joanne Hynes; not to men­tion for­mer Kerry foot­baller Paul Galvin’s ur­ban her­itage hy­brid. Low on frenzy, high on cred­i­bil­ity, these ranges prove their met­tle in longevity — some­thing from which other chain stores might learn.

Whether Lidl’s love-in with a house­hold name like Heidi can go the dis­tance, only time will tell.

To para­phrase a fa­mous Project Run­way quip, “one day you’re in and the next you’re out.” Fast fash­ion in a nut­shell.

Heidi Klum. with her new line for Lidl. Op­po­site: Vic­to­ria Beck­ham, Bey­once and Kate Moss have also launched af­ford­able col­lec­tions.

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