The Problem With Target’s Designer Collaborations

In Lifestyle, Meanderings by Liana Lozada

When I first aired out my grievances with Target’s capsule collections, it had just been announced that Altuzarra would be the next  high-end fashion designer to produce a big box line.

On Sunday, February 9, 2014 my alarm clock went off around 7:15 AM with the title “Peter Pilotto time!” My targeted Target was a suburban one, away from the hustle and bustle of a bigger, city-centralized outpost. Today was the day I would pop my Target designer collaboration cherry, and who better to do the honor than Peter Pilotto.

Previous capsule collections had intrigued me, but none really spoke to my tastes. When Neiman’s rolled in, I purchased the beautiful dessert plates as a gift. When Miami’s high-end haunt The Webster got their turn, the pastels and palm prints didn’t resonate with me. And I forgot to wake up for Missoni.

But Peter Pilotto was my moment. I loved the sharp lines and playful prints, my memory holding on tightly to a handful of lookbook images embedded in my brain. I got to Target at 8:09 AM.

Target’s cashiers—still visibly tired from what this collection put them through an overnight shift—were already ringing up customers. A particular customer had three FULL bags of clothing rung up while she was still in her pajamas. This checkout site nerved me, so I scurried towards what was now three-quarter empty racks. I immediately knew those items at checkout were heading to eBay.

‘You have got to be f**king kidding me?’ I grumbled.

Another girl, who looked as though she arrived about a minute before me, shook her head. She was petite, and though all the girls who traveled to and fro from the fitting room were not, all the smaller sizes were gone. She looked defeated. She was young, probably late teens or a college student, and mumbled that she had “saved her money for this.”

As for me, I managed the grab a sweater that I had actually forgotten about and a skirt a size up from my own before heading to the fitting room. On the way there, a girl who had already tried on some items offered me her leftovers.

Even the store felt the pressure. A fitting room employee who was receiving non-stop inquiry calls was told by her higher-up to tell everyone that called that the collection was sold out, even though it technically wasn’t.

Ultimately, I purchased the sweater and a blue-printed pencil skirt for about $35 each. But the experience left an imprint on me I didn’t expect. These collections are meant to be a bridge for Target’s middle class but trend-seeking shopper; those girls and women who say “I will never be able to afford these designers,” but embrace the inspiration.

But Target’s collabs have become something quite different. For one, they are physical bloodbath. They are also a let down for people like that teenage girl who waited and waited only to be snubbed by eBay opportunists exploiting the collection’s allure. These collections are no longer reaching Target’s consumers; they’re not reaching those who can’t go online and pay two or three times the retail price without blinking an eye. In many ways, Target is living off false advertising.

(You may recall when Philip Lim poofed into nonexistence at Target stores and online, only to expose that over 7,000 items had hit Ebay in the days following)

Yes, Target gets the glossy hype, a PR win, but if things continue to go this way, will this charade eventually hit the fan? How can this problem be solved?

Perhaps implementing an item limit will do it: Maybe one item per style or pre-ordering selections before pickup. Since my experience, I haven’t bothered with any collaborations that came after.