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H&M x Balmain: What to Learn From the VIP Shopping Event

Notice those empty racks?
Notice those empty racks?

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Balmainia is upon us! The VIP pre-shopping event for the heralded H&M x Balmain collaboration just wound down at the brand's Fifth Avenue flagship, where hundreds of editors, fashion insiders, and generally well-known people — Lance Bass and Al Roker included — descended upon beaded dresses, velvet pants, and chunky accessories with a fervor we thought was only reserved for Alexander Wang.

With women grabbing dresses in clear plastic garment bags by the armful and one sighting of at least half a dozen shopping bags being loaded into an Uber just minutes after the doors opened, know that this is not your average shopping trip. In addition to this collab's basic logistics, we gleaned five tips from what we observed at the event to get you through November 5th with wardrobe upgrade and, hopefully, without disappointment.

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Sigh.

Get There Early — Like, Really Early

Arriving 20 minutes before the doors were scheduled to open this evening was not enough — we waited more than a half hour to get inside, after the first hundred or so customers ransacked the first round of stock. But that's nothing compared to the dozen-plus diehard non-VIP fans lined up with camping chairs and blankets, noses pressed against the glass to see what was being scooped up. They'll have been waiting for at least 14 hours by the time the doors officially open in the morning.

And while spending a night on New York City sidewalks might not be worth it for everyone, these customers are guaranteed to be saved from heartbreak, unlike some of the VIP shoppers who found that nearly everything had been cleared off the racks and shelves in just under an hour — despite diligent restocking by the staff. Everything that was beaded was out of sight, and what remained include clutches, jewelry, sunglasses, boots, black-and-white striped tops and pants, and some plain-looking solid-colored shirts for men. So with that in mind...

Have a Game Plan

Shoppers here knew what they were going for — we even spotted one woman with a checklist, complete with photos. Are you dying to get your hands on that pink dress, or maybe the jacket Kendall wore when the collaboration was first announced? Pick your absolute favorite item ahead of time — see them all here — and beeline for it as soon as you're able to shop, knowing that you might have to sacrifice other pieces to get it. Your fellow shoppers will appreciate those non-hoarding tendencies, too.

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Make Some Friends

"Get me the red jacket!" "That dress, I need it!" These were the exclamations that those further back in line were calling out to friends in the front as they made their way inside. If you hit snooze one too many times and find yourself with a less-than-desirable spot in line in the morning, it may be worthwhile to see if someone up front will snag your most desired item in your size (maybe invoke karma, too?).

Manage Your Expectations

Remember, it's not Balmain — it's H&M x Balmain, and those glossy advertisements on a futuristic subway can really entice you into lusting over an item that, in the end, just looks like it's from a fast-fashion retailer. "I thought it was going to be cool!" one shopper exclaimed of a gold choker in a display case. "It's not that cool." She balked at its $99 price tag, too.

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Can I have it? Can I?

Maybe Stick Around for Awhile

At the three-hour event, the first shoppers had the luxury of squirreling away bundles of clothing in secluded corners of the store and analyzing each piece for quality and fit before putting it back (or giving it away: "Anyone want boots? Boots?" was a cry we heard more than once). But with the 15-minute shopping windows that are being enforced in regular shopping hours, that means that a lot of what's grabbed off the racks in the first five minutes could be replaced in the last five — and some of it may be exactly what you're looking for. Don't leave in despair right away if everything's grabbed quickly, because that doesn't mean it's out of reach.

And remember, this collab has a much shorter return window — just three days — than in previous years. It's almost a certainty that plenty of items will be back on the shelves by Sunday evening, so you might want to make it a priority to head to your nearest H&M as soon as the doors open on Monday.

H&M

589 5th Ave, New York, NY 10017, USA