By  on November 9, 2007

Celebrity worship combined with opportunism Thursday at the launch of the Roberto Cavalli at H&M collection.

A crowd gathered outside the retailer's Fifth Avenue and 51st Street flagship, where the designer exited from a black town car at about 9:15 a.m. "I got Roberto's cigar!" shouted a young woman who had been waiting on line since 7 p.m. Wednesday. "It fell down when he stood here. I waited until he walked away then picked it up and put it in a plastic ziplock bag. I'm going to sell it on eBay. It's open to all bidders."

Indeed, it seemed consumers couldn't get enough of Cavalli — be it his collection or his cigar remnant.

Cavalli's line was distributed to 200 H&M stores worldwide, compared with 250 for the retailer's collaboration with Viktor & Rolf, 400 for Stella McCartney and 800 for Karl Lagerfeld, H&M's first designer foray. The line is in 10 U.S. stores.

"It's been four years since we started the collaborations" with designers, H&M spokeswoman Lisa Sandberg said. "We've really taken the time to learn into what stores to put the collection."

When the designer entered the store he seemed surprised by the thunderous applause from sales associates assembled on the second-level mezzanine overlooking the main floor.

H&M estimated that 250 people waited to enter the Fifth Avenue flagship when it opened at 10 a.m. Shoppers ran to the racks, pushing, shoving and jostling anyone and anything that stood between them and their animal-print quarry.

Cavalli surveyed the mayhem from a safe distance on an escalator above the main floor. "I feel like a rock star," he said.

"We love him," said Frances Stewart, who with her mother, Rachel Baldwin, had been waiting for 14 hours at the New York flagship when Cavalli appeared. "Tell me what time you were here since?" the designer demanded. "Tell me how much you love me."

The crowd obediently responded, "We love you." Cavalli returned the affection. "I love you, too. You're the best."

Cavalli said he wondered at the beginning of the design process "what the young people want from me." He concluded that they "expect to have the Cavalli style. Shoppers know already what they want to buy. They know fashion."

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