H&M's new Columbus Circle branch will be opening with a bang today as it also helps to launch the chain's latest designer collaboration with Maison Martin Margiela. H&M gave the new store an extra PR push by moving last night's Press Pre-Shop to the brand new branch, giving everyone the opportunity to wait in line inside the comfort of Time Warner Center instead of on the sidewalk in front of the Fifth Avenue Flagship. Yes, even the press has queue up for these events, but at least we get to do it at a reasonable hour. Remembering what a madhouse the Marni collaboration pre-shop was earlier this year, The Shophound arrived a good 45 minutes early and scored a respectable spot somewhere near the first third of the line and promptly watched people quickly fall into place behind us until the doors opened at which point they were spilling beyond the red carpet and snaking their way through the mall's second floor. We have discovered that the pre-shop now seems more chaotic than the public openings for these events where shoppers are issued bracelets and instructed to return to shop at a specified time. For the preview crowd, it's still an old fashioned free-for-all, but with plentiful drinks and canapés. On top of everything, most of the shoppers last night had a couple of weeks to study the lookbooks and price lists so they knew exactly which items to focus in on —and woe to the person who comes between that shopper and the rack.
Luckily for us, the men's part of the collection was separated out on the store's second floor, sequestering it from the frenzy downstairs, which actually allowed us to peruse in relative peace, at least for a few moments. Actually, we weren't sure what, if anything, we really wanted from this particular team-up, but once we saw it in person, we could see that even though Margiela can be an esoteric, often inscrutable designer at times, the pieces chosen for this line had great appeal. Though we were tempted by the camel-colored coat with inverted lapels, we found ourselves checking out with the white trompe l'oeil high top sneakers, which we are betting will sell out fast, the tan cotton Trousers with jeans details (which were not included in the preview look book or price list) and the disgustingly titled "Mould effect belt" before we tore ourselves away. As reported earlier, this collection consists of items reproduced (quite impressively, by the way) from previous Margiela collections, and, following the designer's quirky style, each item has huge tags indicating the item's name and the collection in which it originally appeared. We wound up with items from 2004-2009, which proves that the brand that so many people still refer to as avant-garde turns out to be surprisingly timeless. Even showy signature pieces like the men's leather belt jacket proved to be popular with the men upstairs, and as we made our way back down to the main women's section, it seemed that every shopper had topped her armloads and bags full of stuff with the shiny, oversized Candy Wrapper clutch.
Again, we were struck by the high quality of the line, with many items looking nearly indistinguishable from the original Margiela pieces. Of course, the prices for H&M's collaborations seem to be inching up, with many pieces nearly hitting the $400 mark, but that doesn't seem to be detering anyone yet. Though there was no gift bag this time, we and the rest of the shoppers left with huge white shopping bags created just for the collaboration which will doubtlessly serve as free advertising on Manhattan's streets tomorrow. For eager shoppers today, we might suggest startng at the Columbus Circle store for the simple reason that many customers won't be aware that it is open yet. Get up early and good luck to you, and if you can't make it to the stores, it's already on eBay.
Maison Martin Margiela with H&M available today at select H&M stores