French author Francois Rabelais wrote: “We always long for the forbidden things, and desire what is denied us.” Desire depends on obstacles and I think this is exactly the reason why exclusivity plays such an important role in a world in which you potentially can get anything. Basically, everything is reproducible, which is why our longing for the original grows. Coco Chanel said that “hard times arouse an instinctive desire for authenticity.” And what is more exclusive and authentic than designer clothes?
Yet, the assumption that designer clothes are hard to get and expensive to buy was challenged in 2004 when German designer Karl Lagerfeld cooperated with the Swedish fashion company H&M. I was 16 years old and desired nothing more than being like Carrie Bradshaw. I still remember how excited I was about this announcement and naturally I went there to shop. It was like entering an undiscovered country. Although it was the familiar H&M store, everything was different that day. All the other clothes seemed bleak and boring, while the allure of Karl’s collection was irresistible. That day, I bought 2 tops, a skirt and a silk nightgown… and my addiction kicked in.
I know that many people are sceptic about the regular H&M designer collaborations but I love them. I am aware that it is not about the clothes themselves which frequently seem to be designed to be different, but not beautiful. The clothes often range from normal printed shirts (of course, the designer’s name is prominently featured in the print) to clothes that seem to be either eccentric or straightforward ugly. To me it is more about the event of shopping itself. Depending on the popularity of the designer, you might spend hours waiting in front of an H&M store in order to get into the designer area first. If you are not one of the lucky ones who may pass the security staff and enter the designer area first, you need to stand outside and watch the others shop. You are forced to watch the ones who got there earlier grab all those pieces that you wanted to buy and there is nothing left for you to hope that when you finally get in your must-haves are still available in your size. You become a hunter for fashion.
The most popular collaboration to date was the one with shoe designer Jimmy Choo. Again, the Carrie-Fan in me broke through: Carrie has Jimmy Choos, so I need Jimmy Choos! Lady Di was walking the red carpets in Buckingham Palace in those shoes! Although I went there really early, I was desperate when I didn’t get one of the bracelets. The colour of the bracelets determined at which time you were allowed to go hunting for a pair of Choos… and I didn’t get one. So there was nothing left for me to do than to wait 4 hours at the fence and watch other women grab shoe after shoe… It was torture! When I finally got in after listening to the male security guards about craziness of women and shoes at 12 o’clock and although there were shoes left in my sizes, they weren’t the ones I wanted. Well… I took them anyway. But the goddess of shopping was showing some sympathy and on my way to the pay desk I witnessed a girl trying on my shoes. She was eyeing them skeptically and – the fashion hunter that I am – I decided to lie in ambush pretending to show interest in the normal H&M clothes. After a few minutes, the girl actually left… without the shoes. I stormed forward snatching them. I did it. I brought down my prey. The Choos were mine.
Although I know that most pieces will show up on the internet and will even be available on sale at H&M’s official website some time, I still go hunting for clothes and gather the pieces of Lagerfeld, Sonia Rykiel, Stella McCartney, Matthew Williamson, Marni, and of course Jimmy Choo.
It is ironic that the pieces of H&M designer clothes which I wear most frequently are the ones that I got accidentally when I stumbled across them when they were on sale because no one else wanted them. But the pieces I really cherish are still the ones that cost me some nerves and scratches.
And here’s a little video for all of you who think I am exaggerating in my description of the fight for fashion: