I discovered H&M (H for Hennes,the clothing store that means “hers” in Swedish, and M for Mauritz Widforss, a hunting-supply store acquired by Hennes) on a trip to Zurich while I was a teenager living in Iran. Since then I have made my way into the London, New York, Toronto and San Francisco stores. But last week, as I was walking home from a nice dinner with my mother in Pasadena, I was sucked into the grand-opening madness of H&M’s first L.A.-area store. The line of goth teens and young punks in tapered jeans and Mohawks stretched for a block, and I felt too cheap and too old to be standing with them. But with Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and now Viktor & Rolf as designers; Madonna as the campaign face; and Depeche Mode on the DJ’s turntable, why can’t the rest of us join H&M’s undefeatable team?
Beyond the velvet rope and suited bouncers, the Pasadena space seemed smaller than the rest of the stores in the chain. The merchandise was arranged haphazardly, the lights were too bright, the styles seemed a bit outdatedand, sorry dudes, no love for you this time: There was no men’s department to be found. That didn’t stop the many metrosexuals who made their way to Old Town from all over L.A. so they could proudly dig through the women’s sweaters, jackets and shirts and try on their favorites in front of the large, slimming mirrors. I felt that it was my duty to ask the skinny punk-rocker sales guy to explain why the men’s department was missing. He threw his shoulders back and said, “Lack of space, I guess.”
But even with these flaws, the atmosphere is perfect for power shopping. Making a huge mess on shirt tables is practically encouraged. And in a city where Fred Segal and the boutiques of Robertson Boulevard rule the style and gossip pages, buying lots of clothes with little longevity or craftsmanship seems almost revolutionary.
At heart, I will always be the girl who prefers the local men and women clothiers, who sew to fit my body and my taste — the ones I can have a conversation with and whose names I’ll remember the next time I visit their stores — but I left with a bag full of black clothes anyway. And with H&M producing inexpensive versions of the latest runway fashions before the designers with a capital D get the funds to create their ready-to-wear lines, there just might be hope for the young and the hip to push forward through the fashion wilderness without an Amex Black Card.