One of the highlights of this past Paris Fashion Week took place not on a dramatically lit runway with thumping soundtrack but at a low-key event at the Palais de Tokyo. At roughly the same time Sarah Burton was unveiling the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2013 collection, Carven and Petit Bateau were unveiling a capsule collection for men, women and children which will hit the Petit Bateau stores just in time for the holidays.
I should state from the outset that where both Carven and Petit Bateau are concerned, I can't be entirely objective. I love Carven as a brand for its signature blend of updated Parisian cool and relative affordability. Moreover, I grew up wearing Petit Bateau as a child and continued wearing it long after I had outgrown the brand's target age if not their size 14 white t-shirts. My expectations for this collection are understandably quite high despite my wary view of designer collaborations generally.
High/low brand collaborations have become a reliable cash cow for designers and mass retailers alike ever since that first foray into the genre by Swedish fast fashion chain H&M and Karl Lagerfeld back in 2004. Since then, many, many more have followed, some better than others. In theory, a successful collaboration of this nature should allow both designer and retailer to bring their respective strengths to the design table resulting in a product that offers consumers a bit of the designer's signature magic at a more affordable price point. As many of these collaborations have shown us however, that balance is trickier to achieve than it appears and consumers frequently end up paying a premium for the hype.
The most successful example of designer/high street collaborations to date remains the Jil Sander for Uniqlo collection. I also give high marks to Roland Mouret's collection of dresses for Gap back in 2006. Interestingly, both Sander and Mouret reportedly each insisted on the use of high-quality fabrics and remained personally involved in the production process from start to finish. That says a lot about the individuals in question. It also translates into a more honest product for the consumer.
From what I've seen, the Carven/Petit Bateau capsule collection promises to be in precisely that vein. Blending some of Carven's signature detailing (crisp, white Peter Pan collars, quilted textures and ruching) and the simple lines and soft woven cottons for which Petit Bateau is famous, the garments are highly desirable in and of themselves regardless of the brand names involved. The resulting collection, in other words, is more than the sum of its parts.
The collection will be hitting Petit Bateau stores December 4 after a preliminary stop at Paris concept store Colette and Smets in Brussels from November 5 and 10 Corso Como in Milan from November 8th. Mark your calendars.
The Luxe Chronicles