“Three days after crashing the Oscars red carpet by dressing Helen Hunt in a strapless gown, H&M, the Swedish fast fashion retailer, crashed Paris Fashion Week.
It has been eight years since H&M presented a runway show for its signature label, not counting its big promotions with Donatella Versace and Maison Martin Margiela, so executives at the company evidently decided it was time to pull out all the stops with an elaborate show on the grounds of the Musée Rodin. H&M’s previous show, by the way, was held in the Central Park Zoo. So it has come a long way.
It says a lot about the state of fashion shows, which are increasingly becoming entertainment vehicles designed for the public as opposed to events for industry insiders, that H&M chose Paris, the city of haute couture, for this one. Previous designers to have shown their collections in the gardens behind the museum include Dior, during the late John Galliano years, and Tom Ford before that, when he was at Yves Saint Laurent. And yet H&M’s production seemed even more over the top, and the audience appeared at least as wowed.
Guests entering the show Wednesday night walked along a candle-lit pathway to an enormous tent that had been decorated like a fantasy apartment, with more than 15 small rooms where editors were seated on couches, beds, marble slabs and at gilded wicker seats around a dining table. Each room was decorated in a different style, including a Moroccan lounge, an Art Deco sitting room, a marble bathroom and a kids’ bedroom with an outer space motif. Finding your assigned seat through the winding rooms was like walking through Ikea, only with better furniture.
I wound up next to the kitchen, or the faux kitchen anyway, with pictures of food on the wall behind a counter, where several Russian magazine editors were perched uncomfortably on stools. At the dining table, with silver place settings and empty crystal goblets, were the elites: Hamish Bowles of Vogue, the stylist Catherine Baba and Emmanuelle Alt of French Vogue, who was seated next to Emmanuelle Seigner, who was wearing a tiny black motorcycle jacket. Four male editors from W magazine were seated on a couch, which looked comfortable until a fifth man joined them and they all became knotted together. Ashley Olsen and Emma Roberts were hiding in one of the rooms.
The scene was so completely ridiculous that people openly wondered how much money was involved, and the numbers bouncing around quickly escalated from 1 million euros to 4 million euros. It was also curious that H&M showed a fall collection, when the retailer is known for adapting trends from the runways so quickly that you can often find hints of them in its stores before they get to the designer boutiques. These clothes may seem stale to anyone watching at home by the time they get to H&M.
Oh, you must be wondering by now about those clothes.
They were not bad, but the runway, frankly, seemed more of an afterthought to the setting. The collection, under the head designer Ann-Sofie Johansson, was largely black and white, with trendy items like an oversize black shearling vest, fuzzy mohair sweaters, passementerie-trimmed capes, a black velvet minidress worn with a cute belt with dangling fringe, and a sheer navy dress sprinkled with silver sequins, but not enough sequins to cover the undergarments beneath. That last look was worn by Cara Delevingne, who flirted with audience members as she made her way from room to room, to the delight of the photographers.
But the show did underscore H&M’s incredible speed at getting fashion trends to retail. In fact, some of the clothes looked like things we’ve seen at this Fashion Week. As a jacket went by covered in thousands of tiny feathers, you might have wondered, didn’t we just see those feathers at Dries Van Noten this afternoon?”