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Inside Matthew Williamson’s H&M Launch: Shoppers Blow Unemployment Checks Amid Mild Frenzy

At 7 a.m., anxious shoppers had already formed a modest line down Fifth Avenue at 51st Street outside of H&M, eager to snatch up the Matthew Williamson collection that hit stores today. The troupe eventually wrapped the corner at 9 a.m., though just barely. First in line were two blonde dance teachers with matching polka-dotted scarves from the Commes des Garçons H&M line around their necks. They lined up at 10 p.m. yesterday and stayed up chatting through the night. Though starting to fatigue by morning, one was determined to meet her $800 budget (the other told us, “The sky’s the limit”). Next to them was a young woman who was studying for the G.R.E. while waiting, and informed us she planned to come in late to work. Priorities, people. And then there was a 24-year-old funemployed gal who planned to spend her unemployment check on the $79.90 peacock dress Katy Perry recently wore to an H&M-sponsored party. For most of these women, though, the radiant $129 blue blazer was the holy grail. One 23-year-old creative assistant told us she had been permitted to skip work, so long as she brought that blazer back for her boss.

Once the doors opened, the line disappeared in a single swoop, and the red carpet was left with nothing more than a few scraps of litter. They ran through the doors to find an assortment that screamed spring — light-pink cardigans, yellow blouses, and colorful leather clutches remained on the racks when we left the store at around 10:30. But the more unique pieces inspired by Williamson’s past runway collections quickly sold out. The $249 short-sleeved sequin multicolored dress was the first to go. Fifteen minutes in, the blue blazer was nowhere to be found, either, though some straggling matching pants ($59.90) remained. The $350 floor-length, ruffled silk dress — only available at the 51st Street H&M — was gone within the hour. Savvy shoppers were spotted buying an item, trying it on in-store, and then returning it, so sold-out items like the dress may reappear at some point. A whole wall had been switched to non–Matthew Williamson H&M stuff within an hour of the doors opening, and some of the dress-hoarding got ugly. But diffusion-line-launch veterans noted that, compared to the mannequin-shoving, rack-shaking clamor at Topshop’s grand opening, this launch was merely “buzzing.”

Oh look — a small stimulus package.Photo: Melissa Hom

If you didn’t schedule an “eye-doctor appointment” this morning so you could shop the Williamson merchandise fresh, you have another chance on May 14, when the second shipment of the Williamson line hits stores, including his debut men’s line inspired by Williamson’s personal style. Ladies can also buy bikinis and sunglasses. Daria Werbowy’s posing skills not included.

Inside Matthew Williamson’s H&M Launch: Shoppers Blow Unemployment Checks Amid Mild Frenzy