Capsule Collection in Fashion

From Capsule Wardrobe to Capsule Collection

What is a Capsule Collection? According to Wikipedia, Capsule wardrobe is a term coined by Susie Faux, the owner of a London boutique called “Wardrobe” in the 1970s. According to Faux, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces. This idea was popularised by American designer Donna Karan, who, in 1985, released an influential capsule collection of seven interchangeable work-wear pieces.

Opening Ceremony and Vans


A capsule collection is a condensed version of a designer’s vision, often limited edition, which transcends seasons and trends by being functional — read commercial. They often focus on construction and delivering key looks, without the styling and theatrics of a show (Business of Fashion).

Why capsule collections?

H&M, in this case, as an example of mass-market/ fast-fashion company, is investing in brand positioning (fashionable collaborations) and top of mind awareness with the objective of increasing its customers shopping missions, or even, attract new customers looking for special, exclusive designs. Today, mass-market customers will queue for hours to purchase a limited edition of an item designed by an influential designer. H&M in this case will obtain more traffic, increase average ticket thru cross-sell and have better margins due to this capsule collection that have a higher retail price. As H&M is not yet able to compete in the fast-fashion league of Zara, capsule collection is used as a way to break the standard fashion lifecycle.

Fashion lifecyles

Fashion collaborations, capsule collections, are also used by fashion retailers to break seasonality (see chart above showing the fashion lifecycle). It´s an alternative or supplement to fast-fashion retailers. But brands should take care about their brand positioning when partnering with a celebrity, designer or another brand. For a luxury designer/brand, a collaboration with a fast-fashion retailer will provide easy cash. But what seems good for today might be wrong for tomorrow. Revenues are important, but positioning is the real sustainable variable. H&M is one of the mass-market global brand that is using capsule collections in a regular basis (every year). Using the case below, H&M fans will be happy to purchase a Karl Lagerfeld item, but Chanel´s fans probably won´t.

2004 – H&M x Karl Lagerfeld

HM by Karl Lagerfeld fashion retail

2016 – H&M x Kenzo

HM by Kenzo Fashion retail

But Collaboration is not a new thing, and innovation has been applying collaborations for many years. According to Alfons Cornella (founder of Infonomia), “the world and the markets, are too complex to try to settle them on our own. Irrespective of the economic sector, the complexity to create new worth for clients and consumers requires a combination of knowledge that goes beyond that of any one business or sector. For this reason, the business world is turning to Co-“.

Collaboration is becoming the smartest way to compete. The idea of the competitive advantage in business, which has been the predominant way of innovating for decades, needs a travel buddy: collaboration. Looking at the powerful yet simple idea of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”, the contributions of Nash, games theory and the Agency Dilemma, maybe we should see that collaboration should be the norm and that competition is just a particular case of collaboration”.

Adidas & Alexander Wang

Alexander Wang and Adidas cycling sportswear

Many companies would love to be like Google, Facebook, Apple or Tesla. Innovation it´s an attitude, a corporate culture and a series of process lead by people. It´s surprising to see how many companies have included the word “innovation” into their DNA or company´s core values as a marketing slogan. Some companies are wasting big amounts of money trying to develop internal innovation departments while a few are creating seed acceleretors or incubators. Others are using a mix of capabilities, shooting everywhere and thinking that probabilities to succeed will increase. In Fashion, like any other industry, innovation and collaboration should focus on adding value to the customer.

Adidas and Hender Scheme collaboration (aprox. Feb 2018)


Based out of Tokyo, Japan- Hender Scheme is a progressive purveyor of artisan footwear and leather goods. Designer and owner- Ryo Kashiwazaki, aims to create products with a balance between “modern” and “craft” (Havenshop). Hender Scheme have used a premium combination of goat and cow leather in beige to reconstruct the silhouette of  the adidas Micro Pacer.

Adidas by Pharrell Williams

Fashion collaboration Adidas by Pharrell Williams tennis pro Muguruza

The spanish tennis champion Garbine Muguruza will wear the new retro collection of Adidas during US Open 2017.

Supreme x Louis Vuitton FW17

Supreme Louis Vuitton

Collaboration is the easiest way for a boring brand to become cool. This is why so many companies that are selling products are creating capsules to sell fashion. Even luxury is embracing streetwear culture to appear as cool to Millennials.

Nike Air Presto x Virgil Abloh

Nike capsule with Virgil Abloh 2017


Theory tries out a collaborative design model

A new approach to fashion collaborations or capsules is brought by Theory. As they mention in their site, led by the next generation of creative leadership within our company, 2.0 is a multi-tiered program dedicated to brave initiatives in fashion and sustainability.


Theory (acquired by Fast Retailing in 2009) developed 2.0 to include a versatile, easy-to-wear capsule collection, plans for long-term sustainability practices, and a leadership series supporting women’s empowerment. It´s capsule features thirty-two pieces, each designed to look stylish and appropriate for work and everything else. It’s essential, considered, and smart.

Theory Capsule design collection fashion retail

See Theory´s Capsule Collection 2.0 here

Article Recommendation: Glossy post on the 18th July 2017.

Theory’s answer to mounting pressure on designers: Try a more collaborative, less hierarchical, approach.

Today, the contemporary luxury brand is launching the first capsule collection for Theory 2.0, an internal initiative to open up new opportunities for employees across the brand’s departments. Over the past 14 months, eight Theory team members from the merchandising, design, e-commerce, retail planning and IT departments worked together on the collection. In a typical process, a new collection starts with the brand’s svp of design and creative director Lisa Kulson, and moves through a linear, hierarchical string of departments before reaching the customer.

Read more about Theory´s collaborative design model at Glossy

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