A Closer Look at Mass Retailer Collabs: How Much Designers Actually Make From Them and How Success Is Measured

As you're probably aware, a fairly absurd amount of media attention has been focused on Versace's H&M collaboration over the past few weeks, which is set to hit stores this Saturday. As it turns out, media attention, rather than profits, is often the chief benefit for H&M and other mass retailers who choose to collaborate with designers. In today's Times, Eric Wilson takes an in-depth look at what exactly designers and retailers get out of these collaborations--from Alexander McQueen's Target collab to Christian Siriano's line for Payless. In theory, and as this article tries to show, designer collaborations are mutually beneficial for the designer and the retailer. The designer gets a hefty amount of money to put towards his or her own collection, as well as increased publicity and awareness among consumers; the retailer gets publicity, profits and raises its cool factor by attaching itself to names like Rodarte and Proenza Schouler.
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As you're probably aware, a fairly absurd amount of media attention has been focused on Versace's H&M collaboration over the past few weeks, which is set to hit stores this Saturday. As it turns out, media attention, rather than profits, is often the chief benefit for H&M and other mass retailers who choose to collaborate with designers. In today's Times, Eric Wilson takes an in-depth look at what exactly designers and retailers get out of these collaborations--from Alexander McQueen's Target collab to Christian Siriano's line for Payless. In theory, and as this article tries to show, designer collaborations are mutually beneficial for the designer and the retailer. The designer gets a hefty amount of money to put towards his or her own collection, as well as increased publicity and awareness among consumers; the retailer gets publicity, profits and raises its cool factor by attaching itself to names like Rodarte and Proenza Schouler.
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As you're probably aware, a fairly absurd amount of media attention has been focused on Versace's H&M collaboration over the past few weeks, which is set to hit stores this Saturday. As it turns out, media attention, rather than profits, is often the chief benefit for H&M and other mass retailers who choose to collaborate with designers. In today's Times, Eric Wilson takes an in-depth look at what exactly designers and retailers get out of these collaborations--from Alexander McQueen's Target collab to Christian Siriano's line for Payless.

In theory, and as this article tries to show, designer collaborations are mutually beneficial for the designer and the retailer. The designer gets a hefty amount of money to put towards his or her own collection, as well as increased publicity and awareness among consumers; the retailer gets publicity, profits and raises its cool factor by attaching itself to names like Rodarte and Proenza Schouler. Wilson even goes as far as to suggest, "Target has become a status symbol for up-and-coming designers." However, there is little mention of the Missoni for Target disaster or how much of these collections end up on eBay.

Here's what we learned, from how much designers like Karl Lagerfeld and Proenza Schouler are paid to create these one-off collections, to how retailers like Macy's and Target measure their success:

• Fees that designers can command from these collaborations have more than doubled over the past five years.

• Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney were each reportedly paid $1 million for their H&M collections in 2005.

• Madonna was reportedly paid $4 million for her H&M line in 2007.

• Retailers don't make as much money from these collaborations as you would think. Their success is actually measured in how much media attention they receive (Versace must have done extremely well already). Here's how that works:

Sales of Ms. Versace’s collection for H&M, or the wildly popular Missoni line that was sold at Target this fall, will barely have an effect on the retailers’ overall sales volumes. In fact, their success is not measured in dollars, but in overall media impressions, the metric used to determine how many times consumers read or saw a mention of the collaboration in the news media. The Missoni for Target collection, for instance, was covered in the September issues of more than 40 magazines and amassed impressions in the billions.

• McQueen's Target collection was one of the most successful because it received more media attention than Proenza and Rodarte, for example, even though it made less in sales.

• In addition to getting paid for designing the shoes, Christian Siriano now receives royalties from Payless for every pair of shoes sold.

• Proenza's Target deal "approached seven figures."

• Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Mini for Target will have an ongoing presence in the store.