By  on November 10, 2006

Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren aren't exactly household names, but judging by the crowds that flocked to H&M stores on Thursday to buy pieces from their limited-edition, wedding-themed collection, they could well have been rock stars.

At H&M locations around the world, styles by the wildly inventive Dutch design duo set off a feeding frenzy. Shoppers grabbed clothing out of the hands of sales associates, pushed and jostled one another to get to racks and stalked customers holding clothes they coveted in the hope they would change their minds. The behavior was aggressive and at times indecorous, but for the most part, everybody kept their cool.

A spokeswoman for the chain in Sweden said early indications pointed to the overall operation being a "huge success," especially in Holland and Sweden.

"It can be compared to the levels of Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney," she said.

At the Fifth Avenue flagship in New York, about 200 people waited outside the store for its opening at 9 a.m., an hour earlier than usual, before rushing inside and grabbing whatever they could lay their hands on. The first shoppers on line said they had arrived at 2 a.m.

The Viktor & Rolf launch in Los Angeles coincided with the opening of the first H&M in the city, at the Beverly Center mall in West Hollywood, and drew a crowd of more than 200 shoppers. Rikki Alberto and his girlfriend, Zilba Zehdar, drove up from Long Beach and slept on the sidewalk outside the mall, leaning up against one another so they could be among the first people inside the store.

In London, a huge crowd gathered outside the store at Oxford Circus, while in Amsterdam, where Viktor & Rolf are local fashion deities, some 300 people lined up Thursday morning waiting for the chain's biggest store to open, an H&M spokeswoman there said. The scene was equally frenetic at locations in Paris and Milan.

"We're very happy and overwhelmed with the response," said an H&M spokeswoman, surveying the action at the Fifth Avenue store. "We've already exceeded our expectations."

H&M has mounted an aggressive advertising and marketing campaign to get the word out about Viktor & Rolf. One ad features the designers flanking a bride on a wedding cake topper. In another, they hold an oversized picture frame with a model peering out. "With our p.r. campaign, Viktor & Rolf has become a lot more well known," the spokeswoman in New York said. "The entire collection was featured on our Web site."

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