Frenzy for Alexander Wang Proves H&M’s Mastery of Co-Branding

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The day has finally arrived: Alexander Wang’s collection for H&M is now in stores. Wang, creative director of Kering SA’s Balenciaga brand, is the first American to design a guest collection for H&M, and today’s debut marks 10 years of designer collaborations for the world’s second-biggest apparel retailer after Zara owner Inditex.

After an orchestrated series of sneak peeks—first on Instagram, followed by Rihanna at New York Fashion Week, and then a mention in Vogue Netherlands—as well as a striking video teaser (below) and a New York runway show—the collection has now hit 240 H&M stores worldwide and its network of websites, with select pieces also for sale on the official Alexander Wang website.

As we noted earlier, the collaboration not only crashed H&M’s local websites worldwide, but instantly hit eBay, with items priced up to $2,000.[more]

Fans began lining up before dawn for access to H&M’s Soho and Broadway stores in NYC, where the first 420 shoppers each received a colored bracelet—14 colors with one for each group of 30, granting each group 15 minutes to shop before doors opened to all at 8 AM. The first 10 customers in line received exclusive Alexander Wang backpack chairs to take the sting out of waiting for hours in the chilly November air.

By 8:15am, Racked New York reported, “There will be no restocking here—everything is out on the floor. If you’re looking for menswear, don’t come to 558 Broadway.” 

With fans complaining about website woes and in-store shortages, by 2:00pm H&M’s US Twitter feed steered fans to its Rockefeller Center location. 

Suffice to say, the scene was repeated all over the world.

“It’s been extremely popular among our customers, with many people queuing in all our markets,” H&M spokesman Hacan Andersson told Bloomberg, adding there was also a queue of 500 outside the retailer’s Sydney store. At least one fight reportedly broke out as anxious fans queued up at H&M stores.

The 98-item collection adds to H&M’s arsenal in the battle for the growing demand for fashion sportswear, set to eclipse the clothing industry as a whole and become a $356 billion industry by 2018, according to Euromonitor International.

The H&M campaign was shot by photographer Mikael Jansson who said, “We wanted to take certain elements of each sport and portray the ultimate warrior…the girls had to feel big and heroic,” according to WWD. The Wang line is sporty, and the pieces are modeled by celebs Joan Smalls, Raquel Zimmermann and Isabeli Fontana, joined by English Soccer player Andy Carroll and kickboxer Rivaldino dos Santos. Wang’s signature giant logo remains.

“WANG-emblazoned sweatshirts and pullovers, mesh-paneled leggings, cropped bralettes, and scuba dresses abound. But, you may not have expected that the materials were custom-blended in Italy—and actually count as performance wear, should you choose to wear ’em for a workout. (There’s even a T-shirt with a logo that only appears when you sweat),” Refinery29 explained in its review of the collection. “It’s just as cool, sporty, and boundary-pushing as anything we imagine would walk down Wang’s illustrious runway.”

Other accessories include beanies, duffels, knee-high tube socks—even water bottles. The collection, starts at $17.95 and goes up to $349. Purchases online and in-store are limited to two per style per customer—though eBay and other sites have been selling the items at astronomical mark-ups.

H&M’s global creative advisor, Margareta van den Bosch, isn’t thrilled with other websites piggybacking on—and undermining—their chosen e-commerce platforms.

“I don’t like the thing with eBay but I don’t think that you can do anything about it,” she told Vogue UK. “We want to give people value for money—if it then goes up in price on eBay it’s destroyed. We also don’t want to make big amounts of the collection because it should be exclusive.”

H&M’s 39-year-old CEO, meanwhile, appeared to take the mayhem in stride as he spoke at a financial conference in New York today.

“We want to offer low prices and good quality,” Karl-Johan Persson said, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, which added that “Conventional wisdom has been that it’s one or the other. H&M has settled on a different way: It’s not raising prices. It’s absorbing the costs of using organic cotton for some items, paying higher wages for some garment workers in places like Bangladesh, and ensuring that working conditions in factories are safe.”

Or as Persson told analysts today, “Not that many customers are willing to pay more, so our margins are being affected.” Although judging by the frenzy over Wang, fashionistas are clearly willing to pay more than even the CEO might expect.

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[Images via H&M]

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