This is the moment that dedicated followers of Alexander Wang's fashion have been waiting for: the designer's collaboration with H&M hits South King Street in Dublin today.
It is one of some 250 stores globally that will carry the much anticipated line - and the only one in Ireland. H&M has declared the collection to be "an urban uniform" that is "to be worn on the street, in the gym and at the club." Certainly, it's a tantalising and highly wearable mix - albeit one that also unashamedly flaunts its designer credentials loud and proud.
Before doors open to the masses this morning, I was given an exclusive sneak peek of the collection. I found that leather, scuba and breathable fabrics dominate, while playful accessories inject a sense of fun. There are gentle nods to '90s trends - like the in-your-face Alexander Wang motif that features frequently. But the designer has created, with H&M, performance clothing that succeeds in being both functional and fashionable.
It's been a full 10 years since the Swedish brand revolutionised the way in which high-end designers "connect" with the ordinary person (see panel). Karl Lagerfeld was the first to jump on board. And when most of his collection was snapped up within hours (there was hardly a mismatched shoe or broken accessory left after 48 hours) the bar was well and truly set. Since then Versace, Roberto Cavalli and Matthew Williamson have all clambered to be a pair up with the high-street outlet. Today, Alexander Wang, the 29-year-old San Francisco native now based in New York, will most certainly continue the trend.
The hype surrounding this particular line has been substantial. It is arguably on a par with the excitement that Stella McCartney's range sparked when it was released in 2005, or the excitement generated by the Lanvin collection of 2010. And it's definitely up there with the best of those collaborations - indeed, I reckon this is one of H&M's most triumphal partnerships to date.
His athletic wear - and yes there's lots of it - is made up of gorgeous knitted tank tops (€29.99) and crop tops (€34.99) in pointelle patterns. There are also a handful of sports bras (€29.99 - €34.99) for those who insist on staying bang on trend from head-to-toe.
Even swimwear is sporty; a simple black strapless bikini (€49.99) is certainly more beach volleyball than beach bum, but it's also effortlessly trendy. Meanwhile, the over-the-knee socks (€14.99) are a bargain for those hitting the more fashionable European slopes this ski season.
But away from the gym, there's a standout scuba dress (€79.99) with cut-out waist detail for the body confident. Black leather track pants to take you into winter and through to spring are among the more expensive items at €249, but, if you have the money to invest, they will weather countless trends over the seasons. Shoe lovers will be bowled over by the hotly in-demand heeled footwear on offer (€149.99 - €199.99).
A black, windproof jacket with a tapered waist and moulded baseball cap-style hood seems particularly inexpensive at €149 - you'd pay the same for run-of-the-mill jackets in a dozen high- street stores that certainly can't lay claim to the same designer influence.
The beanies (€24.99) are similar to those championed by model Cara Delevingne (indeed, the €90-a-pop hats she released as part of her own DKNY collaboration last month are broadly in the same vein) and they'll appeal to those looking to pick up a highly wearable, everyday piece - albeit with a bit of character.
A leather backpack with hidden branded rain cover in reflective silver (€179) and a padded drawstring satchel in rubberised leather (€99) are practical without compromising on the wow factor we've come to expect of Alexander Wang.
The men's collection is also notable: a €199 parka is standout; as is a snug-looking down jacket in brilliant metallic (€349). The staples are bang-on trend too: branded T-shirts (€29.99) and leather shorts (€99) may seem simple, but they're well-made, well-cut and definitely look designer.
There are also yoga mats (€59.99), water bottles (€9.99), towels (€29.99), sunglasses (€29.99), and swimming goggles (€39.99). Boxing gloves are a steal at €49.99, especially when you consider that Karl Lagerfeld's recently released limited-edition boxing set - complete with a trunk, stand, mat and suitcase as well as a set of gloves - for Louis Vuitton costs an eye-watering €140,000.
Seeing the collection all together, side-by-side can be overwhelming. After all, it's unashamedly monochrome: black, white, grey, and absolutely nothing else. But then that's all very, well, Alexander Wang. It's heavy and brash; it's definitely in-your-face. It's part Rihanna (the singer was already pictured in some of the items two months ago) mixed in with Cara Delevingne; it has strands of actress Kristen Stewart and singer Amber Rose.
It's young, urban and undeniably cool, but for the savvy shopper of any age there's most certainly a few gems that are worth a look. The accessories are universal, the footwear versatile, and the jackets and parkas first-rate.
"I still wear sweatpants and track jackets basically all the time!" Alexander Wang revealed to a select group in Manhattan when the line got its first outing on the catwalk last month. Thankfully, however, this is a collaboration that caters for more diverse sartorial tastes. Yes, it's casual, but it's also head-turning.
Elbows at the ready...
The collection will be available exclusively in Dublin’s South King Street from 9.30am. A queue of sorts is likely, so if you have your heart set on a specific piece in a particular size, you’d be wise to arrive as early as you can. You probably have 48 hours before stock really begins to dwindle.
Do your research
Think about what you’re looking for and what your wardrobe needs. Unless you have a firm plan of action, being surrounded by gorgeous, cut-priced designer attire is liable to result in a mindless splurge.
Don’t panic if you miss out on your dream piece — and don’t resort to paying over the odds on eBay. Some investment buyers will emerge later today with armfuls of swag — only to then return the pieces that don’t fit or suit a week later. So keep your eyes peeled.
Consider the classics
The best buys are always the simple staples that serve you time and time again in the office, at a lunch meeting, on a dinner date or during a weekend away. H&M’s collaboration lines are brilliant opportunities to add quality key pieces to your wardrobe.
Look to 2015
If you miss out, or just don’t feel that this particular collection is for you — fear not! H&M has provided us with a decade of enticing designer lines; and there’s always next year to keep your fingers crossed for.