Video: Isabel Marant for H&M Launch Party
 

For the past two months I’ve read breathless hype in the mainstream fashion press about the Isabelle Marant capsule collection for H&M. The Isabel Marant aesthetic can be best summed up as embodying that ‘cool downtown girl thing’. Nothing prissy, nothing frilly, no flowers. I like to think of her style as the Gallic Alexander Wang. Lots of black, lots of leather, and a few studs for good measure. The bottom line is – her stuff is edgy- but pricey!

On November 14, 2014, Isabel Marant’s capsule collection went on sale at select H&M stores. I have been opposed to attending these events after I saw violent footage on the news of shoppers beating one and other when the Karl Lagerfeld collection went on sale at H&M in 2004. In fact, Karl Lagerfeld went on the record and stated that he would NEVER again do another capsule collection with the Swedish retailer and accused them of ‘snobbery’ because they didn’t in his estimation make sufficient quantities of his products available.  Hence, pandemonium ensued within the stores. In effect, he accused the retailer of using the old ‘bait and switch’ technique to lure people into the inexpensive stores but not following through on fulfilling their promise to him and their loyal customers of democratizing access to his designs.

Fighting at H&M Karl Lagerfeld collection, 2004 [Image Source]

However, in the name of fashion journalism, I decided that I would bring my camera with me and take some photos of the people outside of the store as they lined up in the wee hours of the morning. I set my alarm clock for 6:00 am and was outside of the store by 7:00 am photographing a lineup that spanned nearly the entire block. 

Lineup outside of H&M, Pacific Centre (Vancouver), early morning Nov 14, 2013. METRO LIVING ZINE NEWS IMAGE CREDIT: Angela Krewenchuk

Again, in the name of research, I decided to jump in line and observe how exactly the retailer treated their very loyal clientele. At around 7:45 am someone came down the span of the line and gave people color coded wrist bands. Each colored wristband represented a 20 minute shopping time-frame allowing groups of 20 people in for each shopping window. In total there were 13 shopping time slots comprised of 20 people  – so, a total of 260 people had direct access to the Isabelle Marant shopping event.  My time frame was in the 6th slot so our group was pretty well dead center. After 11:45 am the store would open the collection up to anyone, wristband or no wristband.

 

Brooke Roth at Cochella with Kate Bonsworth
Brooke Roth in H&M

After I received my green wristband along with the 19 others in my time slot, we learned we could do as we please up until our 20 minute shopping time of 9:15-9:25 am as long as we reported to the shopping holding area at least 10 minutes in advance of our time slot.  In the name of journalism and camaraderie I asked some of my green time slot mates if they wanted to grab a coffee and discuss fashion and their past experiences with designer capsule collection events. So, off I ventured with my fabulous three new fashion friends comprising of a stunning red-headed dead ringer for Coco Rocha who is a SHY local hairdresser. The smoking hot Brooke Roth –  a globetrotting Lacoste sales rep pictured above at Cochella with Kate Bonsowrth and also in her Isabelle Marant for H&M clothing, and the ultra stylish local DJ Freaky P.  You can find him on Instagram under ‘THE FREAKSHOW’ and he spins at Shine every Friday and Club 560 on Saturdays.

 

Lineup for Philip Lim for Target [Image Source]  

Here is a list of some of their favorite shopping destinations. Coming out number 1, New York  more specifically Century 21, followed by Value Village, and then the personal shopping suite at the downtown Vancouver location of Topshop, the independent local boutiques on Main Street, American Apparel, NASTY Gal, and of course designer capsule collections. Dj Freaky P is a designer capsule collection veteran for both H&M and more recently Philip Lim at Target. To use his own words it was utter chaos at the Philip Lim event and he would not go again. He stated that there were insufficient quantities of merchandise. Therefore, some consumers resorted to violent shopping tactics and that the store staff did nothing to ensure a positive consumer experience.  More importantly DJ Freaky-P noted that the quality of the Philip Lim for Target capsule collection was well below expectation.

 Versace for H&M [Image Source]

We then went on to discuss their past experiences with H&M capsule collections. I told my new fashion friends that I had purposely boycotted the collections there after watching violent footage of aggressive shoppers when they launched the Karl Lagerfeld collection in 2004.  My companions nodded in unison and then systematically crushed my negative perceptions. A veteran of designer capsule collections who works in arguably one of the top three high end clothing salons in the city stated that she was a loyal H&M capsule collection client.  Her favorite collection thus far was Versace where she proudly told me she scored a “high quality”, black leather VERSACE for H&M miniskirt with gold studs spelling out VERSACE. She went on to add that every time she has attended an event they have gradually gotten better. In her estimation they have become more orderly and consumer friendly I must also add that this lady has a degree in business and has worked for years in high-end retail clothing sales. In effect, she went on to say that the company has learned from the mistakes they made in the past and applied sound practices to ameliorate consumer tension stemming from insufficient quantities. Time flew by discussing capsule collection shopping events with my new friends and the next thing you knew we needed to head back to H&M.

 

I bought this jacket for only $59! [Image Source]

We walked into Pacific Center and showed our color coded wristbands to security, who ushered us into the pre-shopping holding area where I was able to observe the groups slotted earlier than us shopping. Low and behold –  it was civilized, neat, and tidy. With nearly military precision staff were replenishing the floor with merchandise from both storage (I am guessing) and also back from the changing room. In an effort to prevent hoarding there was a strict policy enforced that you could only bring two sizes in each type of garment to the change-room and the same policy applied to purchases too.  You could however buy as many different garments from the collection as you wanted.  This well demonstrated corporate commitment to providing the consumer with a positive experience changed my opinion and ameliorated my cynicism regarding H&M capsule collections. There were tons of extra staff brought in that morning who were exceptionally helpful, gracious, and courteous and they were very, very, busy but still smiling, professional, and courteous (something that at the best of times does not always happen at high-end designer boutiques which I know all too well from the odd horrible experience with unimaginably rude staff / refer to April article about Paige denim jeans add link). 

Staff helped us transport our garments to the change-rooms, brought us racks to hang our clothing on while we waited in line for the change-room, assisted us with sizes and even made recommendations. In fact, one of the managers that day stated that the Isabelle Marant collection also had a lot of cute children’s clothing that was cut quite generously. Taking the hint I walked out of the store with an ADORABLE Isabel Marant for H&M girls 13Y denim jacket which cost me $59.00 and I have yet to see another single soul wearing it in the city I live in.  Now that’s a true fashion find dear reader – till we meet again!

[Isabel Marant website]

[H&M website]