I’m sure I don’t need to introduce the blouse I’m wearing in any way. By now you’ll be more than familiar with the Harry blouse, the clear favourite from the Archive by Alexa range at Marks and Spencer, and will no doubt have already spotted it on a plethora of bloggers much more stylish than myself. It’s likely you even have one (or two) hanging in your wardrobe by now. Because let’s face it, this has been one of the biggest and most successful celebrity/brand collaborations in years. I’d go as far to say it might even have outranked Beyonce’s Ivy Park range (at least in the UK).
When I caved in to the media pressure, jumped on the style bandwagon, fell for the hype of this collection, I was under no illusion that in doing so I wouldn’t be the first, let alone the last person to be seen in this top. This isn’t a hidden gem of a fashion item that I’ve uncovered in a charity shop (even if it may look like it) and I bought it fully expecting to walk down the street twinning with every second female, and join the growing pack of bloggers posting an Instagram shot of themselves under the cherry blossom in an Alexa classic.
And honestly, even though I was in full control of my own free will, the fact that I’ve bought into something so hyped, so popular, and no doubt so short lived, does kind of frustrate me a little. I read Catherine’s post about her struggle with not wanting to wear something that every other blogger has worn/will wear and I feel exactly the same way.
I have to ask myself the question; if this top had just been hanging idly on a rail in Marks and Spencer, if I hadn’t seen Alexa wearing it, if I hadn’t spotted it in every magazine and on every blog in the land, and if I was somehow immune to all marketing persuasion, would I still have wanted to buy it?
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The power of marketing is a funny thing isn’t it? I worked in PR long enough to know how it all works – a series of subliminal (and not so subliminal) messages slowly working their way into our subconscious often without us even realising. Apparently three is the prime number – you see/hear something three times or more and it’s officially engrained in your brain. So first we see Alexa donning the Harry blouse in the campaign shots months before the collection launched, then we read all of the magazines championing this key piece, before ogling our favourite bloggers wearing it just a day ahead of the launch.
By the time a sea of pretty faces appear on Instagram using the tag #ArchivebyAlexa to show they were one of the first to bag one – we’re sold. But most of the time we’re all fully aware that the hype generated is all fake, man made, created in order to ensure we buy the collection regardless of quality or price or style. The Archive by Alexa collection hasn’t sold out, it’s been popular sure, but it’s still being re-stocked. There is enough available that we don’t all need to lose our shit and buy one of everything the second it launches, just in case, and then try to sell the pieces on to our friends when they don’t fit. We know that Alexa got paid a lot of money to ‘design’ this collection, we know that the magazines are simply supporting an advertiser when they champion the product, we know that a lot of bloggers have sussed that this collection might give them good affiliate link analytics this month, and we know that Instagram has the power to make anything look pretty. We know all of this, and yet we still fall for it. Why?
More Archive by Alexa
Well there’s definitely something innate that makes us all desire something when everyone else desires it. I can remember years ago bidding ridiculous amounts on Ebay for a gold sequinned Primark dress that probably cost £12 to begin with, just because Sienna Miller had been spotted in it and everyone was going crazy to make that dress their party piece that season.
And still, despite high street collaborations losing their shine a little these days, the lure of buying into a designer label or a celebrity lifestyle at a fraction of the cost, is appealing. Alexa Chung is a style icon for many and this is the first time she’s done a true high street range. Her AG jeans collection was very popular but still fairly pricey and for most, in that unattainable designer price bracket. M&S is accessible, your Mum shops there, you can buy your lunch there at the same time, there’s nothing pretentious or upmarket about M&S.
But for me, I’m hoping in this instance that it wasn’t any of the above that led me to buy into this range. As I’ve got older that idea of wanting something everyone else has, has dissipated slightly. While I was in line with the best of them for the very first Karl Lagerfeld x H&M collection, I can’t remember the last time I even bothered with a collaboration. I learnt the hard way that they are often bad quality, don’t last the distance and you get bored with them easily. I passed without a second thought on the Ivy Park range – as much as I love Beyonce, I can remember how disappointing her swimwear range for H&M was and to me this was simply sportswear with a garish logo on the front, not something I needed in my wardrobe. And in the same way, I was all but ready to pass on Alexa’s collection too. I wasn’t craving the pieces for months, I wasn’t eagerly awaiting their launch, I didn’t get up at the crack of dawn to buy them in fear of missing out.
In this case, I think I simply liked this top. Sure, I was probably enabled by all of my favourite bloggers looking fab in it, but ultimately regardless of the furore that surrounds something, you still have to like the pieces in order to buy them and if this top hadn’t of looked good in real life, hadn’t of fitted me or suited my personal style, I think I would have happily walked away and not been too upset about it. I waited a good week after the launch madness had died down, walked into my nearest M&S on my lunch break one day and had a browse on the off chance that they might have it.
They did. They had a whole rail of them in fact – not what I was expecting from this crazily hyped collection. It was also in line with Marks and Spencer’s usual prices and a reasonable £35. They hadn’t bumped up the price-tag just because they knew everyone would want the top Alexa had worn. It fitted me and it seemed like a good quality material with attention to detail. It was the type of blouse I could imagine myself wearing both for work and for the weekend. It was pretty, pink, frilly and a little retro – it was my kind of thing.
I wore it yesterday to meet my Mum and Dad while they were stopping off in London for a couple of days before their holiday, and immediately my Mum admired my choice of attire, commenting that she had a top just like it when she was young. I told her that was probably because it’s Archive by Alexa and she just looked at me blankly. I realised that maybe I only feel the disappointment of buying into the hype because I am so aware of it. Because I work in an industry where what everyone is wearing, when they are wearing it and how they are wearing it, is so important. To my Mum, and probably to a lot of other people, I’m just wearing a pretty pink blouse and it needs no more analysis than that.
So if I ask myself that same question again; if this top had just been hanging idly on a rail in Marks and Spencer, if I hadn’t seen Alexa wearing it, if I hadn’t spotted it in every magazine and on every blog in the land, and if I was somehow immune to all marketing persuasion, would I still have wanted to buy it?
The answer is; possibly not. But maybe only because I wouldn’t even be aware it was hanging idly on a rail in Marks and Spencer. Because I do definitely like it. I might even say I love it, and after buying the pink I did indeed succumb and buy a second in the white. And frankly as soon as I’d styled it up with a pair of polkadot trousers and a pink coat I was no longer questioning my decision (although GB definitely was when he had to spend nearly 30 minutes trying to fasten those Victorian style buttons – be sure to always have a button fastener friend on hand with this one).
What are your thoughts on the Archive by Alexa collection? Have you bought into it or do you prefer to stay away from clothes that everyone will be wearing?