The Height of Fashion Marketing

Last night at a glamorous event for fashion press and insiders, Kate Moss launched her first 90-piece fashion collection, Kate Moss Top Shop, at Barneys in New York. The collection went on sale to the public this morning.

The hype had been building all week after the launch of Kate Moss Top Shop in London last Monday night drew thousands to the Oxford Street flagship store.

Kate Moss Top Shop, a multimillion-dollar fashion brand designed by Kate Moss for the London high street chain, is a collaboration between Sir Phillip Green, the fifth richest man in Britain, and Moss, the world's most famous supermodel and style icon.

Green, the owner of the Arcadia Group, the parent company of Top Shop, and other high-street chains including Topman, Burton, Wallis, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins, calls his new partnership with Moss "the best signing on the planet."

Last year Moss earned a reported $10 million for her role as supermodel spokesperson for the world's top fashion houses including Burberry, Longchamp, Stella McCartney and Calvin Klein. Now, with a royalty agreement in place, she'll concentrate on marketing her own line too.

"Masstige is a $660 billion industry in the U.S. alone with a 10 percent growth rate year on year," Michael J. Silverstein, a Chicago-based senior partner with the Boston Consulting Group told ABC News.

Silverstein, the author of "Trading Up: Why Consumers Want New Luxury Goods—and How Companies Create Them" and "Treasure Hunt: Inside the Mind of the New Consumer," explained "masstige" as "goods that occupy a sweet spot between mass and class." They appeal most "to middle-market consumers (those earning $50,000 and above in annual income) who are trading up to higher levels of quality and taste."

Why Masstige Is the New Black

In fashion industry terms, masstige had a slow beginning. The first sign of a high-low collaboration, as they are also called, was Halston's partnership with JC Penny in 1982. It took another 21 years before Isaac Mizrahi launched his range for Target in August 2003.

Things speeded up in 2005 when H&M partnered with Karl Lagerfeld to design an enormously successful one-off capsule collection and quickly followed it with a collection by Stella McCartney.

Not surprisingly, Target expanded its existing fashion offering in the first quarter of 2006 with the GO program of limited-edition collections by internationally renowned "guest" designers, beginning with British designer Luella Bartley.

"While we don't share sales forecasts or specific numbers, this program has far exceeded our expectations," said Amy von Walter, a Target spokesperson.

Target also sets up Pop Up stores in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Paris so that fashionable consumers can have easier access to the capsule collections. "At Collette in Paris, Proenza Schouler for Target sold 1,000 pieces on the first day," said von Walter.

The benefits for both consumers and fashion designers are obvious. Currently in store at Target is a collection by American designer Patrick Robinson, priced between $14.99 and $44.99.

"Having access to [Target's] production methods helps generate awareness with even more women nationwide in the U.S., which is key for any designer," said Robinson.

Democratic Design Goes Global

More recently, the Gap and Uniqlo have launched their own high-low collaborations too.

Currently in store at the Gap are the limited edition white shirt designs of the Vogue/CFDA fashion finalists Thakoon, Rodarte and Doo.Ri -- all emerging American designers. Priced between $68 and $88, they're available in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Japan.

Uniqlo, which will collaborate with eight designers, began with New York-based Alice Roi on May 3 at their flagship store in Soho. Roi's range, priced between $49.50 and $69.50, sold out of four styles almost immediately. Roi's range is also available at 900 doors in Asia.

"We can't disclose figures, but these collaborations are very lucrative for the designers," Marc Beckman, CEO of Designers Management Agency (DMA), who represents his wife Roi, told ABC News. "Designers get a creative fee, they make royalties from sales, a personal appearance fee and they get usage rights."

Silverstein estimates that "the royalty payment is usually between 2-6 percent, the gross profitability 65-75 percent, and the operating profit is in the high teens."

Moss has been paid an estimated $6 million up front for her first collection, an amount that Green told the U.K. Daily Mail newspaper is "merely the tip of the iceberg." It is rumored that, after royalties, she could take home well over $20 million.

The Kate Factor

In the United States, the success of celebrity-led fashion brands like Jennifer Lopez's J.Lo brand and P.Diddy's Sean John range is not news.

At H&M, the retailer raised the bar with a collection designed by Madonna and reportedly saw its March sales climb 17 percent. H&M will follow the success of that collection with one by Kylie Minogue.

"With Madonna, H&M has been able to raise its game in the United States as a much hotter brand. Kate Moss could do the same thing for Top Shop," Bernstein Research's Luca Solca told Reuters.

Green has told the U.K. press that his partnership with Moss is about a building a multimillion dollar brand with longevity and not just a one-off collection.

Celebrities vs. Designers

Of course, Madonna, Minogue and Moss are not trained fashion designers. But do consumers really care?

Beckman said, "If it's designed well and it's doing more than just making some noise then it's wonderful."

However, in the United States, the press remained unconvinced. New York magazine wrote that the clothes look like they've been designed for "the hungry and the sullen." blogger Lauren Goldstein Crowe described them as "pretty average, verging on ugly at times." The supermodel has also been criticized for only catering to sizes 0-6.

"We have a rule of thumb at BCG which we call the 10:300 rule," said Silverstein. "If you satisfy a consumer, she'll tell 10 of her friends. If you disappoint her, she'll tell 300. She's retaliative in some ways. If the item is below quality, the consumer will take it out on you."

'The Human Condition'

Is this a passing trend?

"Masstige is a 10-year movement that still has wind behind its back," Silverstein said. "There's been a huge sociological change in the U.S. over the past decade. Women are doing 85 percent of the spending."

Target's Walter said it is difficult to predict industry trends. GO will be evaluated based on how well it continues to resonate.

DMA's Beckman, however, said that this is no passing trend. "It's the human condition. We want what's best. And now that consumers have been given a taste of luxury, of great design at the mass level, why would they allow for anything but that?"

One thing's for sure, there's no end to the trend at Top Shop.

According to the London Paper, Top Shop is already talking of diversifying Kate Moss Top Shop.

"We're looking at luggage and other products such as vanity cases and a special edition for Christmas," said a spokesperson.