Balmain x H&M: I Lined Up (Too Late), I Bought Nothing and I Learned Something

I’ll be the first one to tell you that while I like and appreciate fashion, I’m usually one to hold out for deals and flash sales rather than spend money on pieces that I may wear religiously for a season and then drop them in the next; I struggle with justifying the expense (and yes, I know, quality over quantity, invest smartly, pick staples, etc) but I will occasionally indulge if I am really interested.

To be clear: I was fairly interested in the H&M x Balmain (a French designer house) collection. The world was also very interested in the H&M x Balmain collection, which launched today in-store at 8 a.m.

When I heard that some people lined up for the retail launch for more than forty-eight (48!) hours, I didn’t have high hopes, but I thought “Hey Mehek, lack of high hopes does not mean no hope!” and so I woke up at 4:30am, put on quasi-straight eyeliner and shimmied my way to Yorkdale Mall where I proceeded to stand in a line for four hours. That means compared to some of the more dedicated variety of fashion nerds, I was there for 1/12 of the time that they were.

H&M promised wristbands for advanced access to the H&M x Balmain collection to the first 420 people, who in groups of thirty people, would be let in for a total of ten minutes of shopping. I was in the 450s (and there must’ve been an additional 200 people behind me), so it should really come as no surprise to you that my hope dwindled, but was not completely blown away because the staff suggested that should there be enough product, they would provide additional wristbands to those beyond the initial 420.

Cool. I’ll hang out for another two hours as the exhaustion chills set in just to watch group by group exit Yorkdale with their chic Instagrammable-boasting shopping bags, look on as they casually stroll to their vehicles, champions in their own right, to open their car trunks and begin reselling their just-purchased items at triple the cost. This is an unfortunate part: we cannot really control what people do with their purchase after their transaction, and there will be buyers willing to dish out dollars for these pieces.

As you can imagine, many people who actually got in did not have any intention of buying anything in particular: they just bought whatever they could, because they could. They bought A LOT of it, so much so that menswear sold out within the 100-150, and the women’s stock began to run low by the mid 200s.

Least to say, the line up I was in dissolved pretty fast.

The sentiment of thousands across the world after the Balmain x H&M launch

The sentiment of thousands across the world after the Balmain x H&M launch

Balmain x H&M display at Yorkdale Mall

Balmain x H&M display at Yorkdale Mall

While I feel like all those arm stretches and lunges I did were completely unnecessary because I didn’t actually get to shop the collection (save for the one remaining bandeau I saw around noon, which I could not justify spending $30 on), I actually found this experience to be quite enlightening. For one, I can now confirm that those obsessed with fashion are just as passionate and dorky as the fans I’ve encountered at movie premieres, concerts and book launches. For another, I now know what the true price(s) of fashion is: your sanity. Sleep. For one individual, it was their jacket, which they left behind on their lawn chair.

Finally, I understand why every year people are so frustrated with the H&M collaboration shopping experiences. It’s not the polite staff or relatively seamless organization (at least, at my location.) It isn’t the price points. It’s the underlying unfairness in allowing unlimited purchases from anyone with a wristband.

I’m not speaking about myself because I was not in that initial pool of 420 people and thus my chances were inevitably slim. However, if a company promises wristbands and product access for those 420 people, then there should be something available for these people to actually purchase. A guy who lined up for seventeen hours should have a shot at purchasing something. Forecasting should be better. Items should be restocked. There should be a cap on items (and not this two pieces per clothing item rule that H&M implemented – a real, overall cap of how many items you can purchase in total.)

Jourdan Dunn, Olivier Rousteig and Kendall Jenner in Balmain x H&M via hm.com

It’s also important to note that this seems to be H&M’s most successful collaboration yet. With Kardashian Balmain endorsements overflowing from each sister’s Instagram accounts, lead designer Olivier Rousteig’s social media and social circle, superstar models and a heavy publicity cycle, the H&M x Balmain sale was poised for a higher turnout than previous years.  It is so well-recognized amongst younger markets with the disposable income and possibly the desire to be like their Kendall-Kylie counterparts.

If one of the strategic objectives of these collaborations is to make high fashion accessible, then it should also be available to those who are promised an opportunity to purchase it. I hope that at some point H&M will take this under review because if they continue to have smash collaborations like this with such a reach, they will need to reconsider their delivery strategy. It may also help to improve their online shopping as their servers were unable to handle all of the people.

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