As we get ready to celebrate the 21st anniversary of Designers at Debenhams – the first collaboration began in autumn 1993 – we got to thinking about what makes our designer collaborations so unique. Is it simply high-end quality at high-street prices, or is there more to it? (There’s more to it.) Read on to discover how our designer collaborations have changed an important fashion industry dynamic, and get a sneak peak into our limited-edition capsule collection.
“The woman who wears my clothes is fearless, and wants to put a piece of clothing on and feel amazing” muses designer Todd Lynn. “They [designer and high street shoppers] may have different budgets, but I think of them on an aesthetic level. Aesthetically they like the same things,” he says.
This insightful statement made by Lynn really brings home why we do Designers at Debenhams, and why we’re celebrating a success of 21 years of designer collaborations that may surprise some naysayers who still believe in a high street/designer divide. In truth, our portfolio has truly come of age, today boasting a list of esteemed designers including Ben de Lisi, John Rocha, Jasper Conran, Julien Macdonald, Henry Holland, Betty Jackson, Matthew Williamson and Patrick Grant. In addition, we have our EDITION collective that aims to establish a constantly evolving ‘hot bed’ of creative talent. Notable designers include Preen and Jonathan Saunders, with Roksanda Ilincic and Marios Schwab part of the alumni.
The concept has allowed all fashion lovers to engage with these brands by owning aspirational pieces – but it’s not just about designer fashion at high-street prices. One thing that’s changed in the past few decades is that there is no such thing as a ‘designer shopper’ any longer. People are happy to mix-and-match designer and high street, and Ben de Lisi believes that Debenhams actually helped bring about that change in shopping behaviour. Current trend-setters such as Alexa Chung and Olivia Palermo who are proud to mix high and low brands in their outfits have, of course, also helped.
So while offering clothes with quality, luxury and attention to detail at a diffusion level, another thing we’re passionate about is enabling people to engage with each brand’s unique DNA. Much like Ben de Lisi says, it’s about getting the brand’s message out there and connecting with a wider audience. Lynn, for example, is known for edgy tailoring favoured by people with major star power such as Bono, Mick Jagger and Janet Jackson. Our collaborations allow you to explore whether you are the cool, irreverent Lynn girl or more Preen’s prim-yet-secretly edgy social bee. Julien Macdonald’s über-glamorous power player or Jasper Conran’s gallery-hopping dame? Go forth and trial.
Debenhams has always had a ‘fashion heart’, with collections throughout our 200 year history fully securing our place at the forefront of women’s style (note the impossibly chic LBD from a 1958 ad, far left). Our first designer collaborations began in autumn 1993 with the launches of a Philip Treacy hat collection and BDL by Ben De Lisi evening wear. In autumn 1996 the first major women’s collection was launched by J by Jasper Conran, featuring suiting and smart daywear. Fast forward to today and we have an impressive roster of designers who are launching strong, directional collections at Debenhams for this exciting AW fashion season. In fact, Sunday Times Style included a a special feature profiling Designers at Debenhams in their September 7 issue (see far right).
Covetable Capsule Collection
To celebrate, we’re launching a collection of limited-edition collector’s pieces created for the occasion by a number of our key designers. To capture the mood of this fashion milestone, Julien Macdonald, Matthew Williamson and more have designed one-of-a-kind, timeless pieces that represent their brand’s aesthetic, as well as the fashion-forward spirit of Debenhams. To own one of these pieces, keep an eye out during the end of September when the collection launches – we’ll keep you posted.
Whether you’re a devoted convert and already love our designer collections, or have yet to try a piece on, there’s never been a better time to own a stylish token of our one-of-a-kind, undivided, British fashion history.