I am standing in line at H&M at Berlin Alexanderplatz once again. It’s not 7am, when H&M started handing out bands and time slots, but a very reasonable 10am, the best a mom can do after bringing the kid to kindergarten. Apparently, in China, there were people standing in line since Monday. Let me spell that out: people were waiting in line for 3 days for this “event,” let’s call it, the chance to own a piece of French couture, what the Guardian calls the “Instagram brand” Balmain, what the H&M campaign on Twitter calls belonging to a bizarre collective known as BalmainNation and the Balmain Army. Fashion victims no more, we’re aggressors now.

The men’s collection sold out within an hour. There were no barriers or bands handed out to the men. At 8am, the men’s racks were already empty. Empty!

All the woman I know, and many of those I interviewed in line were originally uninterested in the Balmain for H&M collection. ‘Nice, but not my style’ was the gist of what I heard, but everyone had picked out one piece and put it on their shopping list that made standing in line worthwhile, be it a high-waist choker belt, a pair of earrings, or in my case an overweight cocktail ring. Sounds reasonable. But to be bonded by rope embellished tops and dresses, or wearing shoulder pads that would make even Alexa of Dynasty drip with envy, this was out of the question. Even Balmain’s sadistic stiletto heels were indications of bondage: the Balmain army was one of willing bonded slaves. Ok, I get the game here, and I’m all for the Unsullied or, better yet, looking like a member of Srg. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club. As for the coveted pearl and rhinestone beaded dresses and blazers, they are sure to light up many a dark crowded closet. Where are you going to wear these things? New Years was the answer I heard again and again. Ok, so 400 euro on a blazer to be worn once in a lifetime. Sure. The fashion economy is good. It must be.

One never wants to miss a chance at a bargain, and comparison shopping revealed that nearly everything on offer at H&M could be found elsewhere (net-a-porter, mytheresa, etc.) for nearly ten times the price. Olivier Rousteing, the younger than Jesus designer who heads the house since 2010, had indeed designed for H&M the very same pieces he’d done for this season’s “real” Balmain. Wowsa. That jacket I wasn’t interested in suddenly looked good. Really good, actually. I had to have it. If I didn’t get it at H&M now for 300, I’d never be getting it later for 3000. Never in my life would I ever own a piece of Balmain if I did not get it today. Holy stress.

One gets hot—even if you have to inform yourself a little to make yourself hot. The heat comes from the heater and not from an internal jog. No where is it more apparent what slaves we have become to marketing campaigns—an army of willing slaves, yes—than by these designer collaborations with H&M.And that’s the way (hyper)capitalism works, right? Supply and demand?

That’s old school ideology. Demand is another way of saying desire, and desires are there, sure: we all have our ‘gut’ wants, and we believe that they come from a true yearning within ourselves. They tell us that this collection is H&M’s most successful collaboration ever, and we read again and again that it’s due to Rousteing’s clever use of social media. Really? I don’t think so. I’ve never used Instagram because I am mentally incapable of updating to OS whatever, I’ve never Twittered in my life and can barely navigate Facebook. But if these designer collaborations at H&M tell us anything, it’s that for the most part desires are generated: the demand is created to create a need for supply. The greater later realization being, of course, is that desires are completely created. None of these wishes come from within. And they certainly are not created by social media.

That doesn’t mean that even if something you didn’t want before you might not covet later. For eternity!

Four years ago at the Lanvin for H&M debut, after waiting in line at 7am to receive my armband which permitted me to enter the store at 10, I purchased 1850 euro worth of merchandise within my 15 minute-allotted slot, after originally planning on a simple pair of black leather gloves for 50.

But today, those Lanvin pieces are still with me, and I love each and every one of them. One of them is an unworn grey tulle dress which makes me look like wedding cake decoration. The event will come, I am still sure, that I can actually wear it to. (How we rue the day Alber Elbaz, the man of sophisticated ruffles, leaves the helm of that house!)

Desires are created, yes. But they sure do feel good, long after the fact, even if they’re artificially made. Couture for the masses feels quite lovely indeed. My cocktail ring is heavy!

Three days later, I am standing at the counter of H&M now, and I see only the unwanteds of the Balmain collection. Boob-tube tops galore. Someone out there has been sensible. Someone was able to resist. The tiniest version of a crop top out there, yes, we don’t need that. Yet. At least not an anonymous version by Balmain, a sale clerk tells me by way of explanation. The Balmain Nation, the Balmain Army, for now, is keeping their midriffs under cover and undercover.

Author: April von Stauffenberg    Website: ELIZABETH GREY BOONE-BROODTHAERS  Facebook:April Elizabeth Lamm

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