By  on March 16, 2007

LONDON — This was no everyday clothing launch: There was thumping music, muscled male dancers and a great wall of paparazzi planted on the pavement outside the Langham Hotel. The event was the unveiling of M by Madonna for Hennes & Mauritz.

On Tuesday night, the pop star — clad in a white Forties-style jersey dress of her own design — laid out the theory behind her new collection for the Swedish fast-fashion retailer.

"I wanted something casual but naughty, sensible but sexy. That's me. That's how I am. I wanted the collection to be for a working girl," said Madonna in a not-so-quiet corner of the Artesian Bar at the hotel, near Oxford Circus.

"This is a combination of outfits I would love to wear. Bits and pieces have been inspired by the outfits in my own wardrobe, and also by what I love, like kimonos or my favorite Seventies vintage dress with the butterfly sleeves. I bought it in New York 10 years ago, and have worn it down to threads."

The collection, Madonna's second for H&M after her tracksuits launched last spring, features pieces in viscose jersey, silk rayon, cotton poplin, leather and Lycra.

The new M by Madonna line launches worldwide on March 22 and will be sold in 26 countries. An H&M spokeswoman said M by Madonna differs from the brand's other celebrity collaborations — with Karl Lagerfeld, Viktor & Rolf and Stella McCartney — in that it will be sold in every H&M store that carries women's wear, rather than in the flagships alone.

As reported in December, Steven Klein shot the campaign, which features Madonna modeling the clothes. The ads look eerily similar to the campaign with Madonna that Klein shot for Versace.

The one-off, capsule collection is filled with classics: Kimono-style dresses; tailored jackets and knee-length hipster shorts; pencil skirts paired with cummerbunds; belted trenchcoats; little leather jackets, and white cotton shirts. There's also a full accessories line, with sexy, lace-up boots, skinny leather belts, evening clutch bags and sunglasses.

Madonna said her inspirations come from everywhere. "I go out a lot, I read and go to the movies, and I always try to see and interpret what's around me. I'm a curious person."Clothing prices range from 14.90 euros, or $20, for a bodysuit to 249 euros, or $330, for a leather trench, while accessories range from 9.90 euros, or $13, for an M-print scarf to 99 euros, or $130, for a leather bag. All figures have been converted at current exchange.

Margareta van den Bosch, H&M's head of design, said Madonna was ever-present during the creative process. "She was involved in even the smallest details of every design. She has an impressive feel for fashion and trends," she said.

Guests, including McCartney, Matthew Williamson, Solange Azagury-Partridge, Freddie Windsor, Ella Windsor and Arki Busson, gathered at the Artesian Bar, which has just been redesigned by Madonna's pal David Collins, who was also a guest.

"I told her that scarf print looked a little Pucci to me," said a cheeky Williamson, referring to the bright, patterned scarves in the collection. "I also told her — 'Now you know how hard I f***ing work! You only have to do it once. I have to do this four times a year!' Seriously, though, the collection is just great — it's very her and it's gonna fly."

Azagury-Partridge, who designed a capsule collection of jewelry for H&M in fall 2005, said of the new collection, "I like it, it's quite 'me' actually. I especially like the pencil skirts and the big belts. I'm definitely going to be getting some."

Halfway through the evening, Madonna's male dancers hit the floor to perform for guests — although some friends had already slipped away to attend the joint birthday party for Elton John and Sam Taylor-Wood in east London.

During the evening, in between greeting guests and cheering on her dancers, Madonna talked about how she put the collection together.

"I think my biggest challenge was to make clothes that looked chic, sophisticated and expensive, but that weren't expensive. Going into this, I made a promise that I wouldn't design anything that I wouldn't wear myself," she said, adding that her white dress "flatters just about every figure I've seen it on."

She also admitted that her "at-home" uniform is an H&M tracksuit, and that she asks husband Guy Ritchie for advice on dressing. "I value his opinion very much. Before going out I always ask him what he thinks. If he doesn't like it, I don't wear it. But that doesn't happen very often," she said.She also said she hates shopping. "People come to me with collections and show them to me. That's not because I'm famous, and it's not because I can't walk into stores without being disturbed. I just hate shopping. I did it even before I was famous," she said.

As for her future as a fashion designer, that's still up in the air. Madonna may be famous for her stamina on stage, on a yoga mat, and in the public eye. But fashion design might just have pushed her over the edge.

"I must say, I really enjoyed doing this collection. But, honestly, I don't know how long I could sustain this for," she said.

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