First River Island, then Whistles and now H&M – The Industry debates whether the high street is encroaching on fashion week.
Alexander McQueen, Givenchy and Industry member Corrie Nielsen cancelled their catwalks last week, a revelation that was only heightened when River Island, Whistles and H&M announced plans to show at London and Paris. Are the foundations of luxury fashion institutions falling, and if so what will these high street brands bring to a new, more modernist and seemingly democratic schedule?
Topshop first showed their premium line, Unique on the London Fashion Week schedule back in September 2005. The decision was initially met with skepticism, leaving even Vogue wondering what this meant. In their official review they wrote: “Topshop was more than capable […] to sit alongside the big names on the runway, but begged the question why would you want to do it?” The business model obviously worked, because 13 seasons later and it’s now one of the hottest tickets on schedule. They’ve convinced even the most discerning of fashion editors that they’re worth their salt, with the general public lapping up their edgy, cool and somewhat progressive credentials generated as a direct result.
More recently, River Island, Whistles and H&M have jumped on this very same bandwagon. For Whistles this is a relatively unsurprising move, seeing as Jane Shepherdson had a hand in pioneering Topshop‘s initial move onto the LFW schedule eight years prior. “I am delighted and excited that Whistles will be debuting at LFW,” the Whistles chief executive explained. “It has always been our intention to take the brand in this direction.”
That direction happens to be Dover Street, where the business is building a brand new flagship store beside the likes of Acne, McQ and Wolf & Badger. Essentially the strategic shop move and the LFW marketing push positions the brand with the types of labels that it would like to be associated. This is sure to resonate with consumers, however whether or not luxury design houses will be happy rubbing shoulders with the high street is yet to be seen.