Peace, Love and Shopping: H&M Williamson Line Creates Buzz

Thursday's launch of Matthew Williamson for H&M had the hallmarks of the retailer's previous designer collaborations, albeit toned down a notch.

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A well-managed line outside London’s Regent Street H&M unit kept shoving to a minimum. Inside, the atmosphere was more buzzy than chaotic. “It’s so exciting, and the collection is very ‘this season,’ ” said a spokeswoman for Matthew Williamson, who was watching from the sidelines. A launch party on Wednesday evening that drew the likes of Sienna Miller and Mischa Barton may have heightened awareness and excitement. “I’ve bought four cardigans for my sister and me,” said Mary Carson, a fashion lecturer from Brighton, on England’s south coast. “I’m old enough to remember Kate Moss wearing [Williamson],” she said, referring to the designer’s first runway shows more than a decade ago.

In the Far East, no one was waiting outside H&M’s Harajuku store an hour before it was due to open. Clearly, Williamson doesn’t enjoy the name recognition in Japan as Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, whose collection drew hordes of consumers, many waiting overnight for a chance to buy her designs.

Fumio Sakano came away with a long chiffon dress and an olive-colored leather motorcycle jacket, which seemed to be one of the morning’s most popular styles. All three customers in line behind Fumio at the cash registers were holding one.

The launch of the collection also coincided with the opening of the first H&M store in Beijing, on Qianmen Street, a newly opened pedestrian shopping area located just south of Tiananmen Square. Susan Li and Yuna Song, both students, were first in line and had started queuing at 6 a.m. A gaggle of expats said they were more excited about having H&M in Beijing than Williamson’s collection. “We think it’s more exciting to see the opening,” said Bianca Dawidowsky.

After a 10-second countdown and ceremonial ribbon-cutting at 11 a.m., shoppers swooped into the three-story unit. One young man descended on a row of sequined dresses in the main display window and swept the entire lot into his arms. Nearby staff and outside onlookers cheered him on and gave a round of applause as the man explained the dresses were for his wife.

Women quickly grabbed dresses and peacock-print shirts, snatching them off the front racks as fast as staff could refill them. The wide-studded belts and clutch purses sold out in 10 minutes.


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