Monday 27 January 2020

Playing high stakes game in arena of high fashion

Sophie White didn't know what she was capable of until a Maison Martin Margiela collection hit town

The countdown to Christmas is well under way – the decorations in town are up, mince pies are being proffered and just a few days ago I saw that iconic heralder of the festive season, the Coca-Cola ad. For me this year Christmas really came last Thursday in the shape of the Maison Martin Margiela collaboration with H&M and its arrival in the King St store.

For the last few years the high street brand H&M has worked with big name designers such as Stella McCartney and Comme des Garcons to produce capsule collections at more affordable prices. This year it was the turn of the edgy Belgian design company Maison Martin Margiela to come up with a collection and it was full of gems, typical of the legendary design house.

The night before I could barely sleep with excitement. I tossed and turned while visions of candy-wrapper tote bags and oversized peacoats danced in my head.

I pictured myself strolling about the store idly weighing up the pros of the navy oversized polo neck versus the trompe l'oeil body suit and making rational, considered decisions about my purchases. The reality was closer to Noel's House Party when the cash is released into the transparent cylinder. Luckily a wise friend convinced me just in time that a bit of strategising and early queueing was essential.

I arrived at the store a full hour before the doors were scheduled to open where I was greeted by a man with a clipboard. He gave me a colour coded wristband with an allotted shopping time of 09.25-09.35 printed on it. A mere 10 minutes of shopping time allowed per person.

When I asked if I could have a wristband for my mother who was on her way, he guffawed in response and turned away to deal with the pack of women waiting for their wristbands, one of whom I swear bared her teeth at me.

It was dawning on me that I was wildly unprepared. I went for a coffee and a protein bar while I tried to focus my thoughts. I even briefly considered removing all my body hair for more fluid and streamlined trying-on action.

I arrived back at the holding area early and was told that the previous group of shoppers had not been admitted yet but I was free to watch from the barrier. Barriers had been erected around the Margiela collection some 20 metres from the holding area. On being released from the holding area some 29 woman ran full tilt across the shop and set upon the clothes like a pack of rabid dogs. I was terrified.

Moments later I was herded into the holding pen myself where I immediately began sizing up the competition. Literally. One of the rules of the H&M collaborations is that you only have 10 minutes with the clothes, in which time you grab as many items as you can in your size before heading to the fitting room.

Once you go to the changing room you are not allowed to re-enter the clothes area and you are only permitted to try on one size of each item. This leads to a lot of panicked guesswork about what size to go with and bartering of sizes in the fitting rooms. For this reason I had cleverly befriended two women in the holding area, one slightly smaller than me and one slightly bigger hoping that some kind of mutual back scratching might eventually take place, which indeed it did.

But before we even got that far, we waited like greyhounds, in the holding pen. It was tense but we we joked about the savages in the first group and were all in agreement that we would be much more civilised when our time came.

And were we? Well, I am now the proud owner of some stunning new clothes by Maison Martin Margiela for H&M, a few chipped nails and a bald patch over my right eye. But more than that I learned something in that holding pen about myself and what I'm capable of when high fashion is available at affordable prices.

Sunday Independent

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