If there was ever a most Instagram-worthy collection award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the newest H&M collaboration with fashion designer Giambattista Valli would certainly fit the bill. The Italian designer, whose atelier is based in Paris and whose ready to wear and couture collections are a staple of every Paris Fashion Week, teamed up with the Swedish-bred fast fashion chain to unveil a pre-collection on May 25 with the full collection set to drop in November.

#Project?, the collection’s name and built-in hashtag for maximum social media exposure, is only the latest in a long history of H&M designer collaborations. Their first was with esteemed fashion Icon Karl Lagerfeld. Only Lagerfeld could introduce the concept of luxury at a semi-lower price point to great fanfare. He showed it could be done, and fashion houses throughout the industry have followed suit. Other luxury brands who have collaborated with H&M include Commes des Garçons, Lanvin, Versace, Balmain, amongst others.

This latest line showcased 19 pieces designed by Giambattista Valli thus far – seven gowns / dress separates, seven suiting separates and five accessories.

“The idea is to bring the Valli DNA of extraordinary, of one-of-a-kind, of uniqueness, of couture” the designer stated to “Vogue”. “We have our fans and they see all these beautiful moments on the red carpet, Valli girls at official events. It’s a nice way to share this flavor with them.”

And that they did as each gown looked liked it belonged on the red carpet. Standouts include a frothy bubblegum pink strapless dress with pleated tulle and an asymmetrical bustier neckline and a white tea-length decorated with Valli’s signature embroidery and lace appliqués.  Another item utilizes a blush pink lace and organza top with a draped silk chiffon shirt. This look offered a hint of Spanish flair to the collection.

To balance this whimsy, chic suiting separates for women and men were designed in a simple palette of black and white. Interestingly, this seems to work off of the designer’s recent Haute Couture collection where he elevated his decadence with a mature collection of opposites.  (One senses the Yves Saint Laurent muse in this work, as well).

The accessories, ranging from rhinestone tiaras and necklaces to brand heart socks, offered the consumer an opportunity to play in this collection without having to fully commit to Valli’s undeniable Parisian aesthetic.

Designer collections, though not new, are fascinating as they weather the ever-changing fashion industry. At the time of the first H&M collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld, luxury fashion was reserved for a wealthy elite few. With the passing seasons, fashion at the highest echelon has become far more democratized thanks to H&M and other similar fast fashion brands which have brought these designer collections to a wider, more global audience.

This sentiment still holds true with today’s millennial generation leading the charge in buying fashion. #Project? was clearly designed with them in mind. Giambattista Valli has what “Vogue” best describes as a “young silhouette”. The pieces in the collection seen thus far have the dash of energy that has become Giambattista Valli’s staple – and one he does better than any designer in the world. Factor in the hashtaggable name and the social media campaign that smartly paired the pieces with some of the industry’s most followed and notable influencers like model Kendall Jenner and blogger / entrepreneur Chiara Ferragni to name of few, and you have a collection made in Instagram heaven.

But, with a recent article from “The Business Insider” noting that today’s youngest shoppers are choosing to rent items, as opposed to purchasing them, is a designer – fast fashion collection still relevant? These pieces may be markedly less expensive than Giambattista’s couture and ready to wear collections, but they are certainly not cheap. On average, dresses cost around $400 with lower-priced accessories averaging just over $68: they are considerablymore expensive than H&M’s regularly priced garments.

We’ll have to wait to pass final judgment on success until the full collection is released later this year, but it should be noted that the pre-collection sold out almost instantly but “Fashion Week Daily” reported the eBay re-sales are not as successful with this collection as in the past. Is eBay the barometer for successful fashion? Absolutely not, but it has become a benchmark of how much consumers desire a collection, and how much they are willing to spend.

What can be said is this: democracy in luxury fashion is always a good thing. The consumers of all income levels have an opportunity to experience superior design, the better they and the industry is for it. Knowledge is power … even when it comes to fashion.

And the designer himself should be incredibly proud of himself for unveiling a collection true to his jubilant aesthetic and also taking a step forward in his trajectory by producing menswear pieces for the first time. Bravo, Mr. Valli!

–Jennifer Perusek

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