By Guest-Writer Kenneth Law
While people elsewhere in colder, frostier, less outdoor-inclined regions were probably lining up to purchase World of Warcraft’s expansion pack, young fashion-savvy consumers in downtown Vancouver lined up on Thursday November 13th to H&M’s release of their collaboration with Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons. Available at only a few stores (only a half-dozen out of the hundreds of H&M locations in the States, and only three in Canada), Vancouver was blessed with the opportunity to host this event.
Or, as the more cynical would say, cursed. The morning lineup was reportedly a public relations disaster, with people pushing and shoving to get the last Small or Medium. It was quite obvious that many people came with the intention of buying a one-off collection to resell on eBay for profit, given how many people tried to break the “2 item limit” rule through several dubious methods. By 9:05 the scarves were gone. By 9:30 everything with a polka dot was out of the store. Upon my arrival at 11AM, there were a few pieces of outerwear left and a cartload of generic, off-white button up shirts that you can obtain at the GAP for $19.99, and likely at a better quality.
Comme des Garçons has been around for roughly 30 years and has been known to create extremely avant-garde fashion; pieces you can barely wear, much less justify the purchase for the average consumer. Jackets easily run upwards of 4 digits, and their wallets, lovely as they are, start at the 200-300 level. At their level of design, their pieces should be treated more as an art piece than as everyday wear that you can take to the office or the street.
Perhaps this is why their collaboration with H&M is such a shock – an avant garde Japanese design house with a fast-fashion mass producer that steals virtually everything on the runways do not match. The result is a highly watered down version of CDG’s main line, built for the masses, priced for the masses, and the quality of the material obviously reflects these changes. This is also why I cannot forsee Rei Kawakubo ever collaborating like this again; it severely dilutes and compromises the brand equity.
As an inexpensive way to own CDG-designed items however, this is an excellent opportunity for buyers and fans of the brand. Although I find much of the line to be generic and even tasteless, there are a few pieces that are strikingly good and have been the quickest sales in the store; these include their suits, men’s trenchcoats and accessories. Their fedora is I believe made in Italy contrary to a number of other pieces. Even compared to other mass market chain retailers such as Club Monaco and Banana Republic, the items here are not expensive. $250 for the suit, $29 for a hat, $69 for a cardigan and $199 for a trench coat are very reasonable prices.
I doubt that there will be anything by the end of today at Vancouver’s H&M. Most of the reason for going is to be with the fanfare, a much diminished version of what New York and Tokyo experienced with this launch. Which, given how fashion-conscious they are may be a bit of a surprise, as those with a critical eye can instantly see through the designer name. While I am very happy with the trench coat that I managed to pick up, I am more than satisfied that I didn’t spend money on anything else…or worse yet, buy the marked up items that will soon lose their luster on eBay.