Balmain collection launch chaos sees H&M’s flagship stores mobbed

Chaoic scenes greeted the launch of the Balmain x H&M fashion collaboration around the world Thursday.

In London, both Oxford Street and Regent Street flagship stores were mobbed by thousands of shoppers hoping to be the first buy into the high profile collection.

Overnight, an estimate 500 of the eventual 3,000-strong crowds slept outside both Oxford Street and Regent Street stores despite heavy rain.

However, police were called to the Regent Street store after scuffles broke out. About two dozen men, reportedly part of a professional gang, swarmed to the front of the line, overwhelming security guards forcing the store to close.

A note on the store’s front door said: “Due to health & safety the store will now be closed until further notice.”

As 9am, the store doors stayed firmly closed. People used their smartphones to try to log on to the H&M website to try their luck there, only for it to crash.

The story was different at the Oxford Circus store where, despite the massed crowds, delighted fans were leaving, clutching enormous black-and-gold shopping bags.

The lines remained endless but orderly, and they depleted rapidly as wristbands with slots later in the day were handed out.

Similar scenes were chronicled on Twitter and Instagram from another H&M store in Sydney, Australia. At least 800 shoppers waited in the rain outside H&M’s Pitt Street store.

In Paris, the collection sold out in less than three hours; In New York, shoppers at the Herald Square store practically charged the doors when they opened. Scenes were described as “chaotic” as shoppers tried desperately to get their hands on items from the collection, some of whom had camp outside the store for more than 24 hours.

Staff at the store in Florence, Italy, faced a stampede when shoppers were allowed in.

Six days of camping out on the street ended in chaotic scenes as hundreds of shoppers poured into the four H&M stores in Seoul, South Korea. Sales began at 8am at H&M’s stores in Apgujeong, Lotte Jamsil, Myeongdong Noon Square and Shinsegae Centum City. In less than eight hours the stores were almost sold out, according to H&M Korea. Online sales were not available in Korea.

Pieces of the line by designer Olivier Rousteing had been making appearances at celebrity events since news of the collaboration broke in May. The new collection was unveiled two weeks ago at a flash catwalk show featuring models Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Jourdan Dunn.

With 1.6m followers on Instagram, Rousteing said of the collaboration: “I want to talk to my generation – this is my main aim as a designer.”

“H&M allows me the unique possibility of bringing everyone into the world of Balmain, getting a piece of the dream and creating a global #HMBalmaination: a movement of togetherness, fuelled on a hashtag.”

H&M spokeswoman Ann-Sofie Johansson said the collection was one of the most challenging for the company since it began collaborating with brands and designers such as Lanvin, Marni, Tom Ford and Givenchy in 2004. “Olivier is such an inspiring designer,” she said.

* A £349 beaded velvet dress within the Balmain x H&M range was listed on eBay for £6,000, attracting 19 bids by 4pm. More than 20 people bid for a £299 beaded velvet jacket listed for £3,100

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