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Designer exclusives: exciting or exasperating?

Point of difference. It’s something every retailer and brand is always on the hunt for.

And exclusive products have long been the most obvious way to highlight the uniqueness of a store’s offer but, as etailer Mr Porter prepares to put live its latest raft of one-off capsule collections from the likes of Raf Simons, Ami and Alexander Wang, there’s one question this trend for designer differentiators has prompted: where is the line drawn?

An exclusive style or colourway here or there is a nice way to give a stockist something special, and it goes without saying that buyers work with designers to ensure the collections are tweaked so they offer both commerciality and creativity. What’s more, the prevalence of pre-collections has also given retailers far more saleable ways in which to buy into the cool factor of a brand without scaring off its hard-earned customers. This is taken even further when capsule collections are in the mix, as stockists have even more influence over designers, creating in the process a designer/retailer hybrid.

Some of these are more successful than others, but where does it end? The reason why the retailers originally want to do business with these creatives is because they like what they’re making, so why mess around with it?

When does an item or range stop being the designer’s and start being damaging to their brand’s image? After all, if these special projects are what the designers really wanted to create, surely they would have designed their ranges like that in the first place? Too many cooks means a dilution or sanitisation of ideas, robbing the clothes of their magic and transforming them into basic commodities.

I completely understand the commercial aspect of such projects and appreciate the guidance and improvements working with buyers offers, but when it’s already so easy to hang with the cool kids, why ask those kids to change?

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