The scene at H&M's Oxford Circus flagship in London this morning was exactly what you'd expect from one of the chain's diffusion-line launches. A throng of shoppers gathered outside the store well in advance of the opening, eager to snatch up affordable pieces by Matthew Williamson, clutching hot beverages and huddling together to collect body heat. When doors were flung open, they were off, making a frenzied dash for the racks of peacock dresses and studded waist belts. Floral prints flew into the air! Pieces sold out within half an hour! Yet, dozens remained lined up outside, hopes dimming that they'd just be able to catch a glimpse of that leather jacket everyone wanted. But in Japan it was a different story. In Tokyo, no one was lined up outside an hour before the opening. Fifteen minutes prior to the opening, people sort of clumped up at the door and funneled in easily when the store opened at 9 a.m. The line never returned. The scene at H&M's Beijing store, however, was crazy, despite cold weather and persistent drizzle. But the launch of Matthew Williamson's line coincides with the grand opening of that store, Beijing's first H&M.
Here in New York items sold out within minutes at the H&M on 51st and Fifth (check back later for a detailed report), but the world's collective response proves Williamson's isn't the most hotly anticipated designer collaboration in H&M's history. The British designer is quite popular in London, but not as widely known as past H&M collaborators Comme des Garçons or Karl Lagerfeld, for example. This line ought to raise his profile. But in the meantime, the world is better off — if less interesting — with a few fewer cat fights. Here's hoping the men make up for that when Williamson's collection of bright-green suits and floral things for dudes hits H&M floors May 14.