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On Thursday, H&M brought a hearty helping of French savoir faire to Manhattan, courtesy of Lanvin creative director Alber Elbaz, whose new line of playful clothing marks the Swedish fashion giant’s ninth designer collaboration. Elbaz staged a fashion show for about 300 editors, friends, and celebrity fans, including Sofia Coppola, Andie MacDowell, Emma Roberts, and Alexander Wang. Held at the Pierre, where the hotel's opulent decor and trompe l'oeil murals provided an appropriately European backdrop, the event was followed by an exclusive pre-shop opportunity at a pop-up created inside the Upper East Side property.
With Elbaz involved, the event was no run-of-the-mill catwalk presentation explained producer and frequent H&M collaborator Alex de Betak, owner of Bureau Betak. “Alber’s idea was to bring to New York a true haute couture show,” said de Betak. As Elbaz said himself, “It’s about a runway-as-theater feeling.”
“We always love to surprise our customers and switch it up for each designer. For each launch we create an event that reflects the collection,” said H&M spokeswoman Jennifer Ward. “This collection was not about the dress for less, but rather, it was about bringing luxury and the dream of Lanvin to our customers. To host a couture runway show is a great way to visualize the collection to media and our customers.”
Indeed, the setup incorporated many trademarks of an old-world classic couture show in Paris—a smaller venue, elevated runway, gold hotel ballroom chairs, and raised platform seating on either side—not to mention 20 chandeliers erected for the occasion and an illuminated arch comprised of hundreds of fresh roses and peonies, courtesy of Raúl Àvila. The entire project took only six weeks to plan, according to de Betak. “The challenge was in the setup time, as we could only get into the venue at 10 p.m. the night before, which meant only 20 hours of setup in the particularly hard conditions of the Pierre,” he noted.
Before the show, the Pierre’s rotunda served as a reception space, remade to look like a 1920s club replete with giant palm fronds and caged parakeets. Male waitstaff dressed in Lanvin for H&M suits, and female attendants in French chambermaid costumes passed trays of hors d’oeuvres, including macaroons, blinis, fruit tarts, éclairs, and English tea-inspired sandwiches. As guests made their way into the Cotillion Room for the show, Cuban-style band Grupo Irék played tunes to set the mood.
Following the 25-look fashion show, an online auction allowed guests to bid on one-off customized pieces from the Lanvin for H&M collection, the proceeds from which benefited Unicef H&M's “All for Children” project. And using color-coded cards received on arrival, attendees then made their way into the Wedgewood Room, where they could shop the pop-up during their designated time slot.