Inside the Balmain for H&M Launch Party

The retailer hosted a bash in New York that included a two-story runway, a surprise performance by the Backstreet Boys, and subway-inspired decor.

By Jim Shi November 5, 2015, 8:00 AM EST

Photo: Matteo Prandoni/ of H&M

Balmain for H&M Collection Launch
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The launches for H&M designer collaborations, with each successive year, managed to outdo each other with one elaborate celebration after another. For the debut of the Balmain for H&M line, the Swedish fast-fashion giant ventured down to the financial district for a club rager under the direction of Balmain artistic director Olivier Rousteing.

Six to eight months in the planning, the October 20 affair at 23 Wall Street—directly across from the New York Stock Exchange, itself a hubbub of activity thanks to a planned Ferrari I.P.O. the next morning—featured the typical rundown of events: cocktail party, fashion show, some form of entertainment, and, of course, the obligatory shopping. Held in the same raw space where both Proenza Schouler and Hood by Air have staged fashion shows, the 70,000 square feet of available space became both a blessing and a curse. There was plenty of seating to go around and very little crowding but, according to Noah Loschy, senior production director at KCD, challenges there were plenty. “You name it, this one had them all,” he said. “Productions of this scale, scope, and complexity are always significantly challenging on all fronts.”

The venue, which attracted H&M executives for its “uniqueness,” had to be completely customized with a build out and staging. The choice of a bilevel fashion show translated to a long runway and double (or perhaps triple) the number of steps to walk for models. “The aim was to create an inclusive and immersive environment for all guests during the fashion show, dance, and musical performances,” said Loschy.

The location itself was one of the largest logistical challenges, Loschy added. “Being directly across from the New York Stock Exchange required us to have a dedicated canine unit to inspect all vehicles and trucking,” he said. “Also, all trucking was limited to a single vehicle at a time with all equipment being hand loaded through the corner entrance of 23 Wall Street.”

Hyped for weeks, if not months, with the #HMBalmaination hashtag by too many Kardashians/Jenners to count, the show began with a video featuring Kendall Jenner in a futuristic subway—the venue decor took its direct cues from said setup—to various sets of twins engaging in stylish dance-offs to double-jointed dancers that performed intermittently throughout the fashion show. All stages, staircases, cocktail decor, and masking utilized faux cast concrete finish inspired by the H&M for Balmain campaign film to create a subterranean effect.

All sets and campaign identity were devised by Sanberg & Timonen alongside set designer Dan Betteridge.

Following the runway show and before the lines formed for a night of shopping, the Backstreet Boys took to the stage—much to everyone’s surprise—and performed a three-song set that included “Everybody,” “Larger Than Life,” and “I Want It That Way.”

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