EVENT REPORT

See the Athletic-Inspired Alexander Wang for H&M Launch

The launch for the retailer's latest designer collaboration brought 1,000 guests to an indoor track and field center, where boxing bags, a parkour performance, and Astroturf set the scene.

By Jim Shi October 24, 2014, 4:33 PM EDT

The event's full-on energy was evident from the get-go. Acrobats-cum-free runners propelled down from the ceiling and out of the shadows for a parkour performance choreographed by AntiGravity's Christopher Harrison.

Photo: Joe Schildhorn/BFAnyc.com

Alexander Wang’s post-show bashes during New York Fashion Week have brought his guests to some unusual venues—a gas station, a parking lot, a shopping mall even—so to celebrate his athletically inclined collection for H&M, why not a futuristic gymnasium?

The October 16 event gathered more than 1,000 guests—including celebrities like Jessica Chastain, Justin Theroux, Mary J. Blige, and Eddie Redmayne—at Armory on Hudson in Washington Heights on the northern fringe of Manhattan. Setting the scene was event producer Prodject, which transformed the indoor gymnasium into a 40,000-square-foot acrobatic-meets-boxing-ring-meets-track-and-field fashion arena.

“Alexander Wang x H&M captures the speed of the city, mixing sports and performance for everyday life,” said Jennifer Ward, senior public relations director at H&M. “The fashion show was produced in a way that strongly enhances the theme of both the collaboration and collection.”

Prodject principal Keith Baptista, who’s worked on a number of large-scale H&M productions throughout the years, had never produced an event at the Armory—itself an active, athletic facility—which had never hosted a fashion event. “There is always a risk in bringing guests to an out-of-the-way location, but we felt like the venue was worth the extra travel time,” Baptista said.

What’s more, while practical lighting, confetti canons, and a full audio system needed to be brought in, and risers and a show set built, Baptista’s team was able to utilize the venue’s existing Jumbotron, exterior track, support facilities, and electricity. “It was important for H&M to be as sustainable as possible, to take advantage of the elements that were already there,” he said.

The curved track-like lines the runway show's models followed were scaled to suit the purposes of a fashion show, while grey Astroturf was laid down on top of the existing surface not only as a layer of protection, but also to contrast the largely black collection. “Alex is a black-and-white palette kind of guy, as was the basis of the collection,” Baptista said. The centerpiece of the runway was a set comprising a series of custom-built wooden structures designed by Stefan Beckman that featured white graphic lines and large white numbers from which free runners staged a parkour performance to open the show, playing off elements of the commercial H&M and Wang created.

As with past H&M designer collaboration launches, it was a multifaceted affair, with a men’s and women’s runway show, a pop-up shop, and a live performance by a major headliner. For the occasion, H&M and Wang, the first American to partner with the retailer, enlisted Missy Elliott, who made a rare public appearance after largely remaining out of the spotlight. While Diplo entertained the crowd during preshow cocktails, DJ Jesse Marco took over straight after Elliott’s show, as the catwalk turned into a dance floor.

In addition to live-streaming the show, both H&M and Wang also set aside a dedicated area in the venue to invite a set number of contest winners to attend the event.

Wang’s collection for H&M, debuting to the public on November 6, also marks the 10th anniversary of the retailer’s designer collaborations. In celebration, a hardcover commemorative book entitled The First Ten Years, featuring never-before-seen images from each of the previous design partners, will launch at H&M stores simultaneously with Wang’s collection. H&M will also mount a retrospective exhibit of its collaborations at its Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan debuting October 27.

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