Saturday, November 19, 2011

I Survived the H&M x Versace Launch, Montreal Chapter

Where to even start with the 8 hour adventure that was the H&M x Versace marathon? I suppose with my departure from home around 3:00 am. I left my house wearing 5 layers of shirts, 3 layers of pants, 2 layers of socks, gloves, a bear face hat, and a pair of fuzzy boots. I made sure not to drink anything for the two hours leading up to my departure, so I would be able to stand my ground in line all night without the uncomfortable urge to pee. I caught a cab, told the driver "St. Catherine and Peel," to which he probably wondered "why is this nomad going down to St. Catherine (aka Montreal's clubbing and party street) at 3 am?" Regardless, I made it there in about 15 minutes, was relieved to see a mid-size line stretched around the building (I wasn't about to go this alone) threw down my piece of cardboard, and planted my booty next to H&M. There were also a couple of security guards there, which I really appreciated, who would periodically walk down the line asking if everyone was okay. Before fully committing to my sleepover on the street, I asked the one of them how many people were in line so far, "oh, I don't know," he responded "more than 280?" I asked hopefully, "definitely not, probably about 80 right now." The first part of the hurdle was over, I was not only in the top 280, but probably in the first 100!

The street view to my left and right around 6:00 am:

I have to say that without the chick flicks I rented and uploaded onto my iPod, that 5 hour wait would have been near unbearable; so a special shout out to the films "Something Borrowed" and "Water for Elephants," for getting me through a sleepless night in below freezing weather on the streets on Montreal. Around 5:00 am my feet really started going numb, so I got up every half hour or so, did a little run-in-place dance to get the blood flowing, and then curled back into a ball of white puffy Northface warmth. 

As it was a Saturday night, a few groups of drunk people stumbled by slurring comments like "you all are crazy! Versace is amazing, but you're crazy!" and as a group, we were probably asked "what is going on here? why are you all waiting in line?" at least six times. One kid got so fed up with the constant drunken question, that he finally just responded, "free clothes. They're giving out free clothes," this appeased the tipsy passerbys, and sent them on their drunken stumble home. Most people were in groups of two to seven people and stayed huddled under blankets together, clutching onto Starbucks cups, which was for some reason open at this odd hour. I powered through without coffee though, and let the adrenaline do the work for me. That last hour stretch was really the worst, but I just kept telling myself, once you get through this movie, the store opening will be just 45 minutes away!

Around 7:00 am everyone jumped up off of their makeshift campsite, and anxiously tried to see over the heads of the crowd. H&M staff had arrived and was handing out fliers specifying the rules of shopping to everyone in line, it really wasn't anything we didn't know, but it gave me a jolt of energy to know that things were finally getting started. 

The bilingual flyer they handed out: 

After about 15 more minutes of waiting, the staff returned, dressed in loud, colorful leopard print shirts with "Versace for H&M" embellished onto them in gold stitching, and handed out cards asking for our email addresses (hey, they gotta do some promotional work) in exchange for a 20% discount (which I could kick myself for forgetting to use!!) Finally, they returned again at about 7:30, with the highly coveted bracelets. I got a magenta colored one, with a time hand-written onto it; 9:20-9:35. I quickly texted my mom with the new developments "So let's do the math" she responded quickly. After some rough calculations, we decided that 15 minutes of shopping with a 5 minute break in between each group put me at about the fifth group.

The spoils of my labor: 

 Some people left the line once they got their bracelets, but I had been waiting too long to give up my spot now. It was worth staying there, because around 7:50 they opened the doors to the store, and let everyone in. I rushed in frantically just to feel heat, and upon entering, realized I had never looked so disheveled and homeless inside of a clothing store.

Blurry shot of the store front window before they opened the doors: 

Most people bolted upstairs to the men's section (where rules didn't apply). I didn't actually want anything from the menswear, but I decided to mosey up there just to see what it was like. The Versace women's section was in a somewhat closed off area on the 1st floor, but security guards politely told people not to loiter around it until their allotted time. 

The men's section, on the other hand, was utter chaos, at one point I heard someone yell "grab whatever you can!" I was shoved around a little bit, and within the blink of an eye, the section was practically bare, including the poor mannequins who had been stripped of their clothing and dignity. 

Mayhem on the men's floor: 


I got over hanging out in that section pretty quickly and made my way downstairs. The elevators offered a perfect areal view into the small Versace section, and I decided to get off on the 2nd floor so I could watch the first few groups go through, and get an idea of where the pieces I wanted were set up. I met two nice girls there who I passed the time with, talking about the cold night we had gone through, what we were hoping to get during our time in the section, and pining over what people were already piling in their arms. The selection looked limited which made me nervous at first, and I texted one of my most fashion-forward friends, Emely, asking her whether or not they would restock between groups. Her reply made me nervous; "I don't know, my guess is no," but moments later she added "or maybe they do bc I'm sure they know ppl go crazy and don't want an outrage." Her second statement was substantiated, as I watched the staff restock during the 5 minute break between groups, while dancing around and singing to bumping dance tunes. They really made the best of what could've been a rather hellish experience for them, I give them so much credit for staying so positive and having so much fun.

Bird's eye view of the Versace section:


Finally, my time slot started to creep up and I knew I should head downstairs. "Sending you happy thoughts!!" Emely texted. "Good luck, I hope you get everything you want!" the two girls I had been talking to said supportively. The general good vibes and respect going around was really nice to see, as I had heard so many horror stories of cat fights, women snatching clothes from each others hands and general nastiness. I'm sure the story was completely different for those poor souls brave enough to storm the store for the free-for-all that started at 12.

I lined up right outside the fenced off area that was full of people from the time slot before mine. They were waiting anxiously for the group ahead of them to finish shopping, and for the security guard to pull the white gate aside. Finally, they did, and my magenta group got let into the fenced off area. "15 mins omg I'm gonna faint for u" my mom's texting doubled during the time right before I was allowed into the Versace area, "Do people in your group look friendly?" I glanced around and was really surprised at the range of ages surrounding me, no one appeared to be below the age of about 18, but women up to the age of 60 or 70 waited next to me in line, along with some guys who were there to help out their girlfriends. One girl asked where the leather jackets were, to which the security guard replied "leather is all sold out," good thing I didn't want any.

Right before being let into the closed off Versace area:

My mom started a virtual countdown, and my heart started beating faster and faster, this is it, what I had been waiting for for almost half a day now. "I feel like I'm about to run a marathon," I texted my mom, she responded "good thing it's a short one, breath, it's only clothes." One minute to, and the staff was still frantically restocking, while managing to dance around and blurt out random lyrics to the pop song "Hello." The security guard propped herself up on the fence and what seemed like half-jokingly implored "remember, when I open the gate, don't push." My anxiety spiked as I realized I was finally about to reach the climax of this whole experience (my mom had compared it to climbing Everest). Thirty seconds later she pulled the gate aside and I rushed to the palm leggings. The staff was extremely helpful, "what size are you looking for?" a woman asked me. Remembering that Versace would definitely run smaller rather than bigger, "an 8 and a 10" I blurted out. I then rushed around looking for the various things I had pre-picked online, and grabbed a pair of leggings my mom had asked for. Fifteen minutes was more than enough time, and within seven I had already scoured the small area and grabbed everything I wanted. Knowing that I was delusional from the night spent without sleep, I forced myself to circle through the area a few more times. Once I felt satisfied with my selections, I then went to exit the area, and a woman checked my pickings to make sure that I hadn't taken more than two of each item. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I could now go to the dressing room to try everything on. 

That was where it hit me. I put on a black, gold sparkled dress, looked in the mirror and thought, "Oh my God, I'm wearing Versace." After my cathartic moment of knowing I was at the end, I left the dressing room with a handful of clothing, and was bombarded by ladies asking me to give them what I didn't want. "I'm sorry, I can't," I replied, "they'll think I stole things,"  I replied, showing them the plastic "7" sign that the staff had given me.

Finally, I made it to the cash register, checked out, and was handed a giant colorful bag, that seemed to embody Miami beach, and left H&M with a big smile on my face. I caught a cab home, dished the whole story to my mother, got home, and crashed in bed from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm (I feel hungover right now). 

The experience was literally like running a marathon for 8 hours, but it was so worth it. It was my first, and probably last time doing something this crazy, but it's an experience I'm so glad I got to have. So, now the exciting part, here's what I got out of my night/day of utter exhaustion, and of course, I have to start with the item I wouldn't shut up about: 

The garment bags were complementary and feel like silk! Well, what an experience that turned out to be. Do you have a crazy collaboration launch story you'd like to share? Have you heard anything about how the launch went in your city? Share your thoughts! Tomorrow, I promise I will finally talk about Versace's history, but for now I'm just going to enjoy this post-shopping high. 

Ciao for now xx

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