Will it be a long line? We’re not joining one to find out
At the Hennes & Mauritz store in ION Orchard, the line to cop the retailer’s collaboration with Giambattista Valli started to form up only after 9.30pm. Two girls, seated on the floor and appeared to be doing school work, were all to what was expected to be an astonishing row of determined acquisitors. When we passed the H&M outlet earlier, on our way to dinner, the stanchions and the red tape between them constrained no one into an orderly formation of patient waiting. Was it that early for shoppers to reserve a nice spot?
Years ago, with other collaborations, the queue—especially at the Grange Road flagship—would have been visible from space as early as 1pm on the day before the launch. But in recent years, collaboration fans started to prepare to camp out after sundown. According to one staff member at the Erdem collab launch in 2017, more bargain hunters were clicking “add to cart” at the strike of midnight, rather than starting to queue before that—after lunch—to beat everyone else, but not the heat. It might be the same again.
H&M communication material possibly depicting a queue. Photo: H&M
But the slow-to-snake-around-the-block line may perhaps be due to collaboration fatigue, a real lassitude that is felt across many high/low partnerships. Sure, it’s still desirable to own something from a name such as Giambattista Valli, whose clothes (and ruffles) are mostly beyond the reach of those willing to look homeless outside an H&M store, but does the ownership of these unnaturally limited clothes mean anything anymore? Would you need a one-occasion-use party dress when you spend most of your life in T-shirts and tattered shorts?
There are also the prices, which are no longer as temptingly attractive as it once was once. From the latest collab, the long red dress of multi-layered tulle from ‘Valli Girls’ (a play on Valley Girls?), thought to be most desirable, is S$549, half of the average McDonald’s Service Crew’s monthly salary. If you have ‘Valli Girls’, you have ‘Valli Boys’—here, an embroidered denim shirt is S$159, which is three times the price of a regular H&M denim top. Not exactly a tiny sum to spend on clothes that, after Christmas, may be relegated to an overstuffed card box in a corner of the musky storeroom.
Update: 7 November 2019, 4.30pm
By Mao Shan Wang
I kept hearing women asking the door security/usher/watchman if what’s on the racks were all of the H&M X Giambasttista Valli collection left. It was four in the afternoon and surprising it was that shoppers were still hoping to find whatever it was they were seeking. A woman, already with the pink shopping bag issued for this launch event, told a friend that “even this morning, most of the dresses were sold out”. Another, visibly irritated, asked aloud, “Huh? Not one dress left? H&M don’t have enough stock? Who will believe?”
A friend of mind had earlier—before 9am—reported that all the dresses that were the objects of those in line’s desire (and the store’s exceptionally early opening hour—eight, I believe) were gone. “There are stuff, but not those fantastical pieces,” I was told. “Only left with loads of T-shirts and those animal-prints coats, and small leather bags, socks, and scarves.”
Screen grab of Felicia Chin in a ‘Valli Boys’ sweater, as seen on Channel 8’s Hello Singapore
According to talk among members of the media, some (or many?) socialites, as well as Mediacorp actresses were invited to the media preview organised by Mercury PR, and attendees were allowed to buy ahead of the launch. Dismay among the excluded was understandably rife. One influencer told me, “Why should they be given the privilege when they can buy GBV at full price? And deprive others?” Valid questions to which, regrettably, I have no answers.
That socialites and stars have access to on-trend clothing before they hit the shelves is hardly surprising or unusual. To be the first is of the essence among those for whom being ahead is seen as either very fashionable or a hit with brands. In fact, one of those who had advance pick of the H&M X Giambattista Valli pieces is Felicia Chin (陈凤玲). For the past week, in the trailer of the Channel 8 current affairs program Hello Singapore (狮城有约), to be broadcast tonight, Ms Chin was seen wearing a floral sweater that was very similar to one from ‘Valli Boys’ during a rehearsal of the Chinese musical Infinite Island: A Theatre in Concert (华乐戏剧: 通天大埠). She could not have bought the top this morning.
Screen grab of H&M e-store
Online, it wasn’t better—the store’s shopping bag was apparently not accepting merchandise. This could be due to the time difference, if, assuming, they availed the collab for purchase during European daylight hours. One magazine editor was trying repeatedly since midnight. When she clicked again around 5pm, many items were marked “out of stock”. Some pieces showed the message “this product could not be added right now”. Elsewhere, specifically E-Bay, many of the coveted dresses are up for grabs!
On my part, I had no intention of going to H&M, but since I was on the way to Takashimaya SC, I thought, why not check it out. The store was surprisingly quiet at that hour. The women—about six—were taking their time with the merchandise, which by then was reduced to five or so rows on sad-looking racks in the front part of the store that was not specially marked out for the well-hyped release. No guy was spotted, perhaps uninterested in the many (leftover) coats, tees, sweaters, and pullovers in leopard spots. Pretty, once again, sold; not wild.
Photos: Zhao Xiangji (except indicated)