Fashion Diary: Lanvin for H&M, the latest designer collaboration

The Lanvin for H&M collection hits stores Nov. 20.
(Lanvin for H&M)
Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic

Fashion’s designer-matchmaking game has reached a fevered pitch with the Lanvin for H&M collection hitting select stores Nov. 20.

Check out PHOTOS from the collection here.

In this collaboration-happy era of Cynthia Rowley-designed Pampers and Christian Siriano-designed sponges, French fashion label Lanvin was one of the few holdouts. With the exception of an ill-conceived denim line produced with Acne, Lanvin’s creative director Alber Elbaz seemed content to ignore the affordable luxury trend and sell $540 sneakers to Michelle Obama and $3,000 gowns to Hollywood’s best dressed instead.

All the while, his signature details — dramatic ruffles, frayed edges, grosgrain ribbon and tulle-wrapped pearls — influenced design (to put it nicely) and boosted the bottom line at more mainstream clothing labels than you can count, including J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Old Navy, Forever 21 and Banana Republic.


So it was about time Lanvin knocked itself off.

The 80-piece Lanvin for H&M collection may be the best designer fast-fashion collection yet. With a focus on men’s and women’s holiday dressing, it is priced slightly higher ($9.99 to $349) than H&M’s past designer collections. And it’s worth it.

Elbaz is a gifted sketch artist whose humorous doodles are a recurring theme in his work for Lanvin. But he doesn’t rely on them too much here, apart from a T-shirt dress emblazoned with a pair of fishnet-covered legs ($49.95), and a couple of T-shirts with pretty faces on them.

Instead, most of the collection recalls Lanvin’s past hits. Elbaz’s greatness as a designer is that he has the light touch of a pastry chef. And that’s not lost here. Even with less expensive fabrications, ruffles sit like dollops of cream on the hip of a vanilla-colored skirt ($59.95) and the shoulder of a sunshine yellow cocktail dress ($199). There are playful tulle party dresses, too in red or black for $249, anchored to the shoulders with nude mesh, and a black silk evening coat ($349) with fraying edges, jeweled buttons and a removable faux fur collar.

A bright pink chandelier necklace ($39.95),is nearly identical to a Lanvin piece from last year that sold for more than $1,000 (and was knocked off later by Forever 21). Patent leather pumps ($99) with grosgrain ribbon ankle ties and rhinestone studded heels are also reminiscent of past seasons’ styles.

Menswear is relaxed and elegant. It includes drawstring-waist pants with tuxedo stripes ($59.95), a boxy blazer with grosgrain-tipped lapels ($149), mirrored metallic blue brogues ($79.95) and Elbaz’s signature batwing-sized bow tie ($29.95), made famous by Robert Downey Jr. on the red carpet.

For H&M, it should be a blockbuster. The Swedish fast-fashion giant is a pioneer in designer collaborations, launching its first in 2004 with Karl Lagerfeld and subsequent collections with Stella McCartney, Viktor and Rolf, Commes des Garçons, Sonia Rykiel and Jimmy Choo.

In an ever-crowded, ever-challenging retail environment, these kinds of collaborations have taken over, offering designers a chance to reach a new, younger group of shoppers with more accessible merchandise and giving mainstream fashion retailers a tidal wave of publicity.

Trying to guess who will pair up next has become a kind of parlor game. The latest? Derek Lam for EBay—didn’t see that one coming. And Kinder Aggugini for Macy’s — talk about under the radar. The Macy’s press materials had to resort to describing Aggugini as “former head designer for Versace and ghost designer for some of the world’s most notable luxury brands.”

The day will come when retailers have run out of big-name designer collaborators. Which may be why Target is celebrating five years of its Go International designer collaboration series with a greatest hits collection in stores March 13. Maybe it will be the beginning of a whole new era in fashion, one that Hollywood knows all too well. The re-release.

Next time we want Lanvin for H&M in 3-D.