I arrived near the corner of 5th Avenue and 51st Street on the evening of Friday, November 18in quite the hurry. I knew that, having arrived later than I originally anticipated, I had already lost precious time. I pushed myself through a sea of spectators flocking in front of the large glass doors, not wanting to accept the guards’ refusal to let them through. Meanwhile, a line littered with folding chairs and blankets wrapped around the corner and down the side of the Midtown Manhattan block, in which hopeful souls would wait through the cold New York night. Arriving at the entrance, I proved my identity and breathed a sigh of relief as I was ushered into a world of colorful delights.
While this may sound like some futuristic action film, it was actually the scene at H&M’s launch party for the Very Best of Versace for H&M collection. The collection itself actually launched in the U.S. on Saturday, November 19th at 8am, but a very lucky few (myself included) got first dibs – all while sipping drinks and enjoying hors d’oeuvres at the retailer’s NYC flagship store. However, this was by no means a relaxed shopping environment; the already Versace-clad guests, paying homage to the fashion house visible directly across the street, were busy grabbing as much off the shelves as possible all to the banging beats of the DJ while maneuvering around limbo-poles dangling pretzels and waiters passing cocktails.
I had already earmarked pieces I liked online and made a beeline for those first. My plan was to make the most of this pre-launch shopping opportunity by purchasing as much as I possibly could; I could always return any unwanted items, although I’m sure there would be plenty of acquaintances ready to take any them off my hands. Scanning the racks I quickly realized that all of the leather was already gone, as were the fur vests and the pillows I had promised my mother. I grabbed about fifteen articles of clothes, a pair of shoes (no trying-on necessary) and filled a bag with accessories.
It’s no surprise that so many Versace fans were coveting this collection. While designer collections for franchise retailers are no new idea (most recently Missoni for Target, last year H&M featured Lanvin) this one was less about affordability and more about exclusivity. Unlike most, The Very Best of Versace for H&M would have a fixed inventory available only at certain locations and not for sale on the retailer’s website. And while not “cheap” – accessories started from approximately $29.99 for and went up to $500 for leather dresses – prices were only a fraction of what you would pay for Versace couture. Which is precisely why I was initially skeptical about what to expect. Although the brilliantly colored, trend-setting pieces could be browsed online before the actual launch, it all just sounded too good to be true. Surely there was a catch? The dresses would be ill fitting, the quality of the fabrics and materials would be cheap…it just wouldn’t be “Versace” enough. So many things could go wrong and such an exciting prospect would become a horrible disappointment.
But, much to my surprise, it was none of the above. I have always believed H&M to be a great go-to for seasonal necessities but in this case I was blown away. This collection is not only dripping with iconic Versace style, but it actually looks and feels expensive. While you may not find the hand-stitched Italian silk you would expect when paying nearly ten times the price, the fabrics are relatively high quality and feature intricate details. From the bright colors to the mod cuts to the metal studwork --The Very Best of Versace for H&M is truly Versace at its best.
If you’re still hoping to score some of these amazing pieces, however, think again. The collection reportedly sold-out within 30 minutes of its launch, and a repeat isn’t expected anytime soon.