Hysteria & Mayhem greets Lagerfeld line

At 9.59 on Friday morning, thousands of Swedes, their elbows sharpened and wallets drawn, forced themselves into the baying (well, all right, murmuring) crowds gathering outside the 40 Hennes & Mauritz stores carrying the new line of clothes by German designer Karl Lagerfeld.

Marketing professionals everywhere should take note: in terms of understanding your customers, this will take some beating. And for style-obsessed, bargain-hungry Swedes this was not an opportunity to be missed.

At 10.00 on the dot the doors opened – and it was each shopper for herself. Think running with the bulls in Pamplona, or the great herds of wildebeest thundering across African plains – and then multiply it by the factor of retail.

Dagens Industri was on the scene at Stockholm’s Hamngatan store – let into the shop “via a back door” – to witness the insanity:

“People snatched garments off the racks and in five minutes all the clothes were gone. New racks were brought up from the store room and when the elevator came up, customers stormed H&M staff at the doors.”

As well as designing more than 50 styles for men and women, Lagerfeld – the fashion Kaiser behind the exclusive houses of Chanel and Fendi – was the star of an intense and costly advertising campaign ahead of Friday’s launch.

Apparently the campaign worked. By 10.30 all the clothes in the Hamngatan store room had gone too.

“People swore and up in the women’s department there were reports of several fistfights breaking out. A mannequin was destroyed when people stripped the last clothes off it,” said DI’s war correspondent.

Håcan Andersson, H&M’s head of information, told the paper that the response had exceeded the store’s expectations.

“I have spoken with store managers out in the suburbs, in Malmö and Gothenburg,” he said. “It’s the same there – all sold out.”

It’s the first time H&M has combined chic with cheap, using a high profile designer among its famously low cost attire.

“Style shouldn’t cost a ridiculous amount of money, H&M’s head of marketing Jörgen Andersson told Wednesday’s Dagens Nyheter. But Andersson wasn’t willing to disclose how big a dent the widespread publicity has left in the company’s marketing budget.

The roadshow began when style gurus gathered for a sneak preview of the collection in September amid much pomp in Paris. The verdict from the Swedish press was mixed.

The prices were praised all round, but, said DN, “A T-shirt with Lagerfeld’s face on it was more doubtful. Who wants to go around wearing that?” Meanwhile Aftonbladet advised its readers to “think 1970’s St Tropez dandy meets 80’s style yuppie.”

Herr Lagerfeld calls the collection “an expression of our time.” He added, “I worked on this collection with the same intensity that I bring to Chanel. Fashion is versatile and so am I.” Quite.

If you didn’t make it to the stores on Friday morning, you may still have time.

“If everything sells out, we’ll make sufficient quantities to last a few more days but the line must remain a special product,” said Jörgen Andersson.

But one man who won’t be fretting over selling out is H&M’s owner, Stefan Persson. According to DN he stood in the midst of the melee smiling broadly as a colleague passed him, whispering “Now the share price is going up!”

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Aftonbladet, Dagens Industri