8 November 2015

fashun's golden gates

E V E N T || hmxbalmaination

5th November 2015, 06:30, I found myself queuing [yes, queuing like a true Brit] outside H&M's flagship store on Regent Street. Yep, for-one-morning-only I was one of those people. "Don't these people have jobs to go to?" I heard several times as commuters walked past [apparently the concept of taking annual leave isn't acceptable]. Ironically, I was and probably still am one of these judge-y passerbys. At one point, I did start to wonder why I wasn't in the comfort of my flat "queuing" online - or is that worse?! Who knows. All I know is if you're a fashun-bunny, this once-a-year date marked a pretty significant day in the calendar - a fashion house bringing out great quality design at high street prices. Too good to be true and why wouldn't we all try to get our hands on it? Sadly for us, the queuing was in vain because due to extremely poor organisation and hangry [hungry/angry] consumers, the Gold Gates of Fashun would not open for us this particular time.

Read on for my experience and what I would have hunted for [i.e. what all the fuss was about.]

why on earth. //

A question that kept popping up in my head and apparently all passerbys minds. Pal Lara and her mum have been coming to H&M designer collaborations for the last seven years. When I asked why they did it, there were two clear answers - 1] the clothes are beautiful, of great quality and at affordable prices - you get the designer experience without having to sell your house to get it. & 2] it can be a great money maker - selling off some of the goods online afterwards can generate money-money. To do this, you'd just have to sacrifice some sleep, annual leave and a morning to queue and grab.

how it works. //

Queue & Grab is the best description I have of it. We arrived around 6/6.30am but in H&M collaboration standards that's actually not that hardcore. I heard that some people had been there since 3pm the day before, sitting, sleeping, eating outside the entrance to the store. I can't describe the smell that hit me as I walked past the "front" of the queue - there was rubbish everywhere, you'd have hardly guessed that these people were queuing for designer goods.

In past years, Lara explained that you would queue and then depending on how organised the H&M team at that particular store was, you would get given wristbands with a designated time slot when you could shop the collection. There were 14 time slots from 9am, each lasting 10 mins with 5 mins to pay for goods, and each slot can only host 20 people. That's a total of 280 people allowed to Q&G before it becomes a free-for-all [what you avoid to the hills because hilariously no one's got time for that]. On previously well organised days, these wristbands would have been given out at 7am [along with hot chocolate and coffee as you wait] and off you went to grab some breakfast, wait, watch others shop the collection until it was your turn. That's for the ladies. For the men's collection, it's a free-for-all at 9am [which I found really odd and caused most of the trouble].

On this occasion, we didn't even see any staff or security people until 8.30am. They picked up the rubbish surrounding the store [including chairs, sleeping bags and tents], tried to control the ever growing crowd and then… were stuck. With the lack of security early on in the morning, there were fights breaking out near the entrance ["out! out! out!" chanted to those pushing in] and general blocking of the door [so they couldn't be opened] with people refusing to back off. At 9.30am, the police vans arrived, a few people were removed but it had clearly gotten OTT too much. At 11am I had pretty much resigned - it was a good experience but no longer worth my time [the excitement had worn off, it was now more boring than anything]. I left [yep, I know what you're thinking but it seriously was not worth anymore of my time and I had to get to work for the afternoon]. Just before 1pm, I received a text from Lara saying they had announced they would not be opening the store all day due to the number of people pushing at the door. Excellent.

What it worth it? Yes, but H&M need to get their organisational act together or find a better system like a raffle with access to the collection as the prize. Most people in the queue were there because they were passionate about fashion and the buzz is genuinely exciting. Others had clearly only come to swipe and sell the goods [major hustling]. I also wanted to attend at least once so I knew what it was like and also as a thank you to Lara and her mum who'd always pick something up for me in previous collaborations. The only two things I didn't enjoy was 1] the number of photographers and videos capturing the queues as if we were animals in some kind of weird zoo & 2] the mess of those who'd stayed overnight had left. The final painful point was watching those who'd queued at other H&M stores walking past with their swag!

on the hunt for. //

So what was all the fuss about? Of all the collaborations H&M have done, this particular collection stood out - pulled together by the young and extremely talented French fashion designer Olivier Rousteing, the current Creative Director at Balmain. What is Balmain? I hear you ask. Well that's exactly the point, Balmain is a pretty established French couture house which most people have probably never heard of… until the appointment of Olivier. His fresh take on fashion has completely revived the brand and it is now one of the hottest design houses of the #fashun world. Getting a piece of Rousteing's creations is a bit like owning a piece of gold in the world of fashion, and that's why I decided to brace the above.

To bring you a bit closer to my craziness, below was my hitlist / wishlist.

is it really for the customer? // 

On the face of it, it would seem collaborations are for the everyday customer - bringing designer to the high street. However, for me it brings up questions about how customer-centric these offerings really are and who actually benefits from the frenzy. Why do we queue for launches [H&M, Apple, etc.]? What does the customer gain from the experience? How does the frenzy benefit the brands involved? After a lengthy discussion with Diane about it, I've decided that our consumerist society not only feeds our want for goods, but also the media's want for great stories and the brand involved's want for visibility. I came away from this experience time wasted and no goods to show for it. The media came away with a crazy story about fashion obsessed people fighting over each other. And the brand, well, as the old saying goes any publicity is good publicity because now at least one more person knows about Balmain. Two out of three ain't bad though right?!

Would you ever join the fashion frenzy? Were you there? How did you find the experience?


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