Comme des Garcons x H&M Hits the Stores

The crowds were not out in force but it was still a tidy hardcore fanbase that were mesmerised by Rei Kawakubo's vision as opposed to cheap clothes, who queued up for today's launch.

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It was never going to be easy to convince the hordes of shoppers seen at previous H&M designer collaborations to venture out to the launch of Comme des Garcons x H&M the range, what with the words “credit crunch” forcefully shoved down everyone’s throats from all avenues of mainstream medium. The fact that arguably this is probably H&M’s biggest coup, getting Rei Kawakubo to design a womens and menswear collection made up of signature Comme traits (polka dots, boiled wool, deconstruction, loose fits), it still took a hefty amount of aggressive advertising to drum up the hype. It was also going to be hard to live up to the feverish excitement the launch got in Tokyo last week where hardcore Comme fans queued for twelve hours.

Still, as I traipsed back and forth between the Oxford Street H&M store and the new Regent Street flagship, there were glimpses of quiet, civilised queuing, that felt very muted either by the blasé attitude towards the 1000th high street designer collaboration to happen in the UK or perhaps the possibility that watered down Comme des Garcons designs weren’t floating people’s boats. Haruke, 21, a student from Tokyo had been ardently camping outside of the Regent Street store since 12am midnight last night, probably watching the gaggles of celebrities and press quaffing champagne and canapés at the press launch last night. Unsurprisingly, both queues this morning were dominated with international students from Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, all pre-warned by YouTube videos of Tokyo madness and arriving between the hours of 5-6am to make sure they get their prime queue spot.  Some had set up a McDonalds breakfast party on the pavement, sitting on copies of the Metro, whilst simultaneously trying to conceal the fact that even fashion hardcorists like themselves needed to eat.

I suddenly rewound my brain back to the days when I too queued up for Karl Lagerfeld’s collection for H&M, the first of it kind and fondly remembered the camaraderie that can be had from queuing next to a bunch of people that are in essence just like you. Person next to me might cry if she doesn’t get a sequin blazer in a size 8 so it’s ok for me to cry too.  Likewise, bonding in the queue could be seen here with the people who had trickled out of bed for the launch, all united in their love of Comme des Garcons. More importantly, it was Kawakubo’s vision, that was the main draw as opposed to H&M’s involvement. Many chimed the same words about the designer; “visionary”, “unique”, “quirky”, “singular”, which might be soured somewhat when in a few hours, when eBay will be rampant with chiffon white blouses, wool tail coats and polka dot shirts, but nonetheless the determination to own a bit of affordable Comme was fired up by their adulation of the designer.  

As the doors opened, the helpful H&M staff kept it orderly and people walked in with specific intentions on pieces that they had their eyes on. For the guys, the suit was the hot buy and for the girls, the trench coat and a deconstructed asymmetric jacket were the focal points. A few of the more enthusiastic male shoppers swept through both womenswear and menswear departments leaving with three heaving bags and with the relaxed fits of the womenswear collection, essentially everything was fair game.  I tried to drum up the enthusiastic designer x high street shopper inside of me by grabbing a few things from the rails (one needs to physically grab in order to feel like they have accomplished something at these events) but could only muster up the energy (and cash) to buy a pair of dropped crotch trousers. I did feel happy for those that went for their Comme on the Cheap target so single-mindedly even if the enthusiasm was only concentrated in a relatively small group.
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