H&M brings Jimmy Choo to the masses

High fashion brands and mass retail chains team up so often these days that there's usually not much new I or anyone else can say about them.

But today, H&M, one of the original innovators in collaborations, stepped up the game when it announced that stiletto virtuoso Jimmy Choo will produce a line of shoes for the store.

This is a major coup for H&M because, until now, the holy trinity of couture shoes -- Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin -- has stood impenetrable to the high-low trend. And to be honest, I assumed they'd always stay that way.

Unlike the nascent, edgy designers who usually accept a mass chain's invitation, these lines, which pride themselves on the bespoke nature of their handcrafted shoes and which price their products at $400 and up, have always seemed to lay beyond the realm of realistic partners. In other words, I always thought a collection like this was about as likely to occur as Prada for Wal-Mart.
But maybe things are changing for the holy trinity, all three of which were made famous by, yes, that inexhaustibly relevant cultural treasure, "Sex and the City." After all, when Choo, Blahnik and Louboutin rose to fame during the show's heyday, they benefited from a steady blossoming of consumer spending.

The recession, though, has probably been tougher on these three than on their counterparts in the ready-to-wear world (we can't know for sure -- they're private companies and don't make financial results public).

As renowned as they've become, they're still intimate in terms of operations -- it takes hours to build each shoe, and if the companies were to mark down their goods for the recession, customers would never tolerate them creeping back up when the economy rebounds.

Of course, that didn't stop Christian Louboutin from dipping its pedicured toe in the discounting waters -- earlier this spring, it marked down its shoes by up to 40% for just 10 hours on Bluefly.com.

The collaboration with H&M is a smarter idea -- it keeps the brand front-of-mind across the country in a time when it otherwise might fade to near obsolescence.

I'll just offer one piece of advice to Jimmy Choo president Tamara Mellon: make sure that H&M presents to you an airtight plan for neatly merchandising the Choo-branded footwear. That place's shoe department usually looks like the aftermath of a giant stripper brawl. Carrie Bradshaw would so not approve.
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