Big Retailers Discover Haute Couture


It's beginning to look like the holiday shopping season, but given the economic turmoil, you may think haute couture in big, gift-wrapped boxes is a thing of the past.

Luckily, some of America's biggest retailers like Target, H&M and Wal-Mart are debuting designer collections by some of the world's top fashion houses including Comme des Garcons, Thom Browne and Anya Hindmach. From London to L.A., here are the best designer collections of the season and a few can't-miss items that won't break your gift-buying budget.

We'll thank Target for its original collection of Michael Graves spatulas and toilet brushes that gave birth to America's demand for big, flashy names at Main Street discount stores. For winter 2008, the retailer is unveiling a high-fashion shoe collection by Sigerson Morrison. The limited-edition collection is available through mid-December, offering a sexy selection of studded and jeweled footwear including booties, pumps and flats from $29.99 to $39.99. Considering their high-end collection retails between $350 and $595, the shoes are a steal. They come in black, cobalt blue, silver and metallic shades.

Target is partnering with fashion it-girl Anya Hindmarch for a collection of limited-edition handbags. "Anya was able to create such a luxurious collection while staying true to her keen sense of craftsmanship," says Trish Adams, senior vice president of Target.

The collection includes a variety of oversize satchels, shoulder and baguette-size bags outfitted with French bindings in playful textures and colors of chocolate, gold and black patent finishes. To top off the hot, new bag and shoes, jewelry designer Dean Harris has been plucked for a chic holiday line of earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces using sterling silver and semi-precious stones priced from $19.99 to $249.99.

Perhaps the biggest fashion coup of the season is the debut of Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons at your local H&M. The once-in-a-lifetime collection includes a deconstructed line of skirts and jackets for women with intricate seams in materials like boiled wool and gabardine. In time for winter, coats play a big role in the collection, with a long trench coat, oversize blazer and pea coat in abstract dimensions. More conventional cotton shirts offer a muted canvas for the designer's polka dot short sets and asymmetrical cardigans. Men's suits include classic tailored pieces as well as a belted trench coat offset by a casual selection of weekend bags, slip-on canvas shoes, wool hat and a new version of Comme des Garçons' wallet.

While some might say the fabrics and material of many budget designer lines are simply not on par with their high-end counterparts, Thome Browne at Brooks Brothers is the exception. Known as Black Fleece, the designer creates yet another winter collection of preppy and upscale classics that are by far the priciest pieces you'll ever find at your local mall.

For women, Browne evokes images of '20s Park Avenue with a selection of knee-length pencil skirts in navy and black, sleeveless cape dress in charcoal wool and camelhair morning coat atop an argyle vest. For men, Browne creates a grown-up "Gossip Girl" look with navy-and-white plaid blazers, ankle-length camelhair coat and black herringbone jacket with tuxedo shirt and wingtip shoe. The collection ranges between $300 and $3,500.

Wal-Mart is arriving to the designer fray a bit late, preferring in past years to take on celebrity designers like Mary-Kate and Ashley than more-studied fashion names. For the 2008-09 winter season, look for Norma Kamali at select Wal-Mart stores with women's wear, children's clothing, accessories and home furnishings.

First to hit stores is the women's collection that includes career wear of print jersey, tank and wrap dresses in bold red and black colors. Prices are staggeringly low, between $15 and $20, and even available online so you don't even have to actually enter a Wal-Mart. More casual pieces include a chic batwing cardigan and patent satchel bag with matching slingback pumps.

If you're heading over the pond during any part of the holiday season, two women are making headlines in High Street store windows. First is supermodel Kate Moss looking to duplicate her magical fashion formula at Top Shop. The all-new Christmas Collection launches on Oct. 28 and includes vintage-inspired blouses, brocade trousers and floor-length sequin dresses designed by the supermodel herself.

Not to be left out of the fray, Marks & Spencer teams up with "Sex and the City" designer Patricia Field for her "Destination Style" collection. Think sexy Samantha dresses inspired by city living with full-skirted trench coats, metallic baby doll dresses and a footwear collection of metallic heels and pumps to make you the eggnog queen of any holiday party.

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