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On Tuesday night at the corner of Beekman and Nassau Streets in Manhattan’s Financial District, a bearded and balding street busker warbled through a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” In the brick building above him, H&M was holding a launch party for its latest high-fashion collaboration, this year with Maison Martin Margiela. The more alert partygoers in the crowd might have noticed that the off-key street performance was being piped in through the sound system inside, a sly acknowledgement, it seemed, of Martin Margiela’s occasional inside-out design tendencies.

On Tuesday, the fast-fashion company’s event planners were left to reconstruct the cult brand’s tics throughout the nine floors of 5 Beekman Place. The Gilded Age building’s condition stands somewhere between a construction site and a historic landmark. VIP guests at the launch event, who included Helena Christensen, Julianne Moore, Sarah Jessica Parker and Chace Crawford, walked bare concrete instead of a red carpet. On the floors above, a range of sculptural installations by contemporary artists such as Daniel Arsham and Noemie Goudal displayed the official H&M with Maison Martin Margiela wares. Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and members of her troupe danced on sand-covered squares throughout the space, leaving a single garment behind on each. On the top floor, guests could shop the collection two weeks ahead of its general release. The line to gain entry to the pop-up occasionally snaked down to the floor below.

This story first appeared in the October 25, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

People love to shop,” said Renzo Rosso, founder of Margiela parent Only the Brave, as he stood outside the VIP area. “We just bring the best pieces from the last 20 years, and it’s very unique I think….”

Rosso arrived at roughly the same time as Kanye West. With one surprisingly catchy name-check on last year’s surprise megahit, “N—as in Paris,” the rapper likely raised the avant-garde house’s name recognition among the American listening public to previously unseen highs. West wore a lapel-less camel coat from the collection that retails for $199.

“Look at you,” Rosso exclaimed.

“I’m really happy about this coat,” West said as they made their way to a waiting elevator.

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