It is one of the few things apart from Christmas sales to guarantee overnight queues on the high street, and H&M’s latest designer collaboration – this time with luxury French fashion house Mugler – had people lined up around the block.
Hundreds of people queued outside H&M’s flagship London store on Regent Street on Thursday, while some determined shoppers had waited overnight since Wednesday, in something of a high street renaissance.
Despite the Mugler H&M collection launching online (with additional exclusive pieces) at the same time that shop doors were set to open, many preferred to brave the overnight temperatures of about 9C (48.2F).
At the front of the queue was Roberto Escorcio, a 31-year-old freelance recruiter who has been at every H&M designer launch since 2004. He had waited outside since 3pm on Wednesday in order to guarantee his coveted place.
“I would never stay at home to shop online,” he said. “It’s not just about buying the clothes. I always meet incredible people. I’m getting married soon and 50% of the guests are friends I made from queuing in the past.”
The highly anticipated collection had a heavy security presence, which led to a calmer atmosphere than in previous years. In 2015 the Balmain collaboration drew such an unprecedented number of people that the police were called to maintain order after reports of fighting and pushing.
This time, shoppers were divided into groups and given wristbands with allocated 15-minute time slots running from 9am to 1.40pm. Each person was limited to buying one piece from each style and ordered to walk rather than run.
Mugler is known for its figure-hugging designs featuring nude illusion panels and spiral cutouts that have been worn by Beyoncé, Dua Lipa and Kylie Jenner. Price tags for its mainline collection usually hover around the £600 mark. For its collaboration with the fast-fashion retailer, a mesh corset top cost £79.99, while two-tone jeans were £149.
At 8.59am, staff wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with the launch date kickstarted a noisy countdown before letting in the first customers.
Naomi Luy, a 22-year-old retail worker from Birmingham, had travelled down the night before, joining the queue at 5.30am. She bought several pieces including the spiral denim jeans and matching jacket. “I got everything I wanted,” she said. “I spent £490. I think it’s good value as one pair of Mugler jeans usually costs £580.”
Fatima Hudick, a 24-year-old economics graduate, spent £1,500. “It’s more than I planned, but I really love Mugler. To me, this is the real deal. I don’t see any difference.”
Many, including a 25-year-old luxury retail consultant who did not want to be named, were simultaneously shopping online. “In store I got the grey hoodie and some T-shirts, and while waiting to pay, I got the denim jacket and jeans online. Overall I spent £1,000.”
Linda Cohen, a 52-year-old fashion designer from London, had queued since 7am on behalf of her daughter. “I managed to get a corset shirt and dress, a woollen jacket for my husband and two seamed dresses. Online I got the draped mini dress, which I feel really represents the Mugler brand.”
The collaborations are popular with fans of the brands, but also with those looking to turn a quick profit. Just 60 minutes after the collection launched, sold-out pieces began to appear on eBay, many listed for double or even triple the original price.
Some shoppers who queued with the idea of reselling carried large wheelie bags. “I despise them,” said Escorcio. “You always spot them in the queue. They ruin it for other people.”
“It’s not fair,” said Tanya Schwartz, a silversmith in her 50s who has queued for every collaboration for the past 17 years. “To queue and then walk to the nearest coffee shop to list it online, I think that’s wrong. We are passionate about what we want and how we are going to wear it. They just want to make a profit.”
Others felt differently. Adje Kem, a 25-year-old PR worker, spent £809 on six pieces, having joined the queue at 4am. “I spent more than I planned, so I’ll keep three pieces, then sell the rest. I’ll potentially double the value.”
Sia, a 25-year-old hair stylist who preferred not to use her surname, said she had managed to buy some extra pieces online to resell. “Mugler is such a big brand right now. There’s hype around it.”
The fanfare of the Mugler launch coincided with news this week of a £291m loss for Asos. The online retailer cited a “challenging trading backdrop”, blaming shoppers returning to high street stores.
Retailers have enjoyed a surge in footfall recently, with a reported 3.5% increase over the early May bank holiday weekend.
The West End of London is gearing up for a revival; Ikea is launching later this year in the former Topshop flagship site, while four years after closing, HMV is set to reopen its Oxford Street branch.