Written by Sanjana Kucheria
When the Balmain–H&M partnership was initially announced earlier this year, fashionistas of the world went wild. Balmain, the coveted haute couture French brand, would finally be accessible to the mass market through the Swedish-based multinational retail giant.
Finally, on Nov. 5, the sequin embroidered green dress worn by Kendall Jenner on Instagram and the cerise silk blouse-red silk skirt combo Gigi Hadid promoted in a campaign poster) could be grabbed up by thousands of women. “The head designer of Balmain, Olivier Rousteing, is very good friends with the Kardashians – their Instagram is filled with his chic clothes, and I’m so excited I finally got my hands on them!” said Maria Xing, a recent Stern graduate.
A similar wave of excitement could be felt down that day on Fifth Avenue as eager shoppers impatiently waited at the entrance of H&M’s U.S. flagship store at 48th Street. The line snaked around the block. Elsewhere around the world, hopeful shoppers began lining up at least 12 hours before the collection was released.
For H&M, Balmain was only the latest of its drool-worthy collaborations with esteemed designers and couture brands. Each November since 2004, the company has launched an exclusive designer collection, partnering with industry icons from Karl Lagerfield to Jimmy Choo.
While this year’s elite collection was pricier than H&M’s previous collaborations, many customers found that fairly reasonable for the caliber and quality of the brand. Clothes ranged from $60-$550, and accessories ranged from $18-$350.
One shopper, Brittany Rougier, Stern ’16, describes her experience as fairly seamless and surprisingly easy: “It wasn’t crazy crowded but there was still a good amount of people [when I got] there! I was able to pick up a pair of silk and velvet pants in green and a silk blouse”.
Xing also didn’t encounter problems. At a different H&M location, 5th Avenue and 18th Street, Xing stood in line 30 minutes before doors opened and was given a wristband before she entered for access to the Balmain section.
“We had 15 minutes in the Balmain section to pick out whatever we wanted before they ushered us out of the area and into the dressing rooms where we had unlimited time to try on the clothes. I bought two black dresses,” Xing explained.
The appeal of these designer collaboration seems to stem from celebrities and their couture being much more accessible to the fashion-forward today. Social media is peppered with ‘Instagram-famous’ icons known for their sense of style, like Olivia Palermo. The release of these designer collaborations means the outfits that we see Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Rihanna, and Beyonce wearing on Instagram have finally made their way into our closets.