By and  on November 22, 2010

Just before 8 a.m. on Saturday, a black Town Car slid up to the curb across from the H&M flagship at 640 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Alber Elbaz was sitting in the back seat marveling at the line of customers who came for the launch his Lanvin (Hearts) H&M collection. “We stayed in New York one more night so we could see this,” said Elbaz. Surveying the scene, he said, “I don’t dare go in,” explaining that he didn’t want to cause a riot. “I can’t believe it. I was sure there would be no one. I was a bit panicked. This is a once in a lifetime experience.”

The launch of Lanvin (Hearts) H&M brought more than 300 customers to the store. Customers at the front of the line received gift bags consisting of an organic Lanvin (Hearts) H&M tote, a scarf and a lipstick.

Peter Park of Flushing, N.Y., waited 13 hours to get into the store.

The retailer used a system of colored bracelets. Rather than let customers rush into the store all at once, which has been a recipe for chaos at previous introductions, H&M allowed 16 groups of 20 people each, who entered the store in a block with the same bracelet color, to shop for women’s merchandise, which was blocked off, for 15 minutes. The store also limited purchases to two pieces per style. There were no restrictions for men’s wear.

Margareta van den Bosch, the former head of design for H&M and now a creative consultant, and her successor, Ann-Sofie Johansson, who are based in Sweden, were at the store sizing up the launch.

Daniel Kulle, president of H&M North America, was replenishing merchandise and assisting customers. “I’m restocking to get feedback,” he said. “We want them to have a good shopping experience. We’re keeping it in control so the rest of the store can work.” He predicted that the collection would “sell out today or tomorrow.’’ Jewelry and shoes went very quickly. I can’t find any.”

“Lanvin is my favorite designer partnership so far,” said Virgil Sparks, a freelance designer. “The only thing that was disappointing is that it’s all taken from what [Alber Elbaz] has done before. It’s not his vision of a lower price point of view.”


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