NEW YORK — There’s a surprising calm at the studio H&M has commandeered in the Meatpacking District. Surprising because the Swedish retail giant is about to throw one helluva bash in the middle of Central Park. Tonight, Hennes & Mauritz will unveil its fall collection with considerable fanfare. Expect an hour of cocktails, a 150-model runway show (100 women, 50 men), a sit-down picnic-style dinner for 750 guests (in assigned seats, no less) and live performances by Kanye West, John Legend and Miri Ben-Ari.
You might expect that, on the eve of such a fete, tempers would be frayed and diva behavior on display. Not so. With Zen-like calm, head designer Margareta van den Bosch surveys the studio, from the tables laden with accessories and piles of yet-to-be-opened boxes sent from Sweden to the countless racks — all bursting with clothes ready to be styled, steamed or hemmed. Models quietly stream into a side room to be fitted by stylists Lori Goldstein and Bill Mullen. The only noise, really, comes from the low, steady hum of sewing machines manned by a team of seamstresses happily sustained by the early afternoon sun and the well-stocked catering tables. This is clearly a drama-free, streamlined Scandinavian operation. (It helps that Bosch and her crew can afford to keep the focus on fashion, since the behemoth event setup is in the hands of the serious party-planners at KCD, who started brainstorming for H&M a year-and-a-half ago.)
H&M insiders are not just keeping their pregame cool, though. They’re keeping mum on the details of tonight’s event, too. Company execs promise surprises, but won’t divulge too much, hoping to build suspense. Anyone passing Central Park’s Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street entrance, however, can see the giant tent that’s been erected in Rumsey Playfield — it’s 20,000-square-feet and four stories tall. The entrance will be swathed in a 16-by-12-foot curtain made from fresh orchids. Beyond that? It’s a mystery.
Less of a mystery, though, will be the clothes. Bosch gave WWD a preview, and the fall collection promises to be exactly what H&M’s global fan base wants — fun fashion at a fun price. Bosch, who’s general to an army of more than 100 designers, split the season into three easy-to-understand trends: rustic, minimal and “Barrococo,” a mix of the Baroque and Rococo periods. “Rustic has different influences,” she says. “It could be European folkloristic or American handcrafted looks.” She focused on tweeds, coarse cottons and heavy knits, all in color and most with prints and embroidery. There’s also a bevy of chic knitted accoutrements — hats, scarves, socks, mittens and shrugs. Think Galliano.
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"