Remember the time machine? Oh, yeah. It exists.
Little did I know that my parents’ terrifying stories of having to stand in line with a crowd of angry countrymen for whatever the stores had to offer are a recurring nightmare. The Dior exhibition in Moscow, the sacred Christian relics brought to the country’s main cathedral and now this, the Versace for H&M collection. One of the most famous Italian fashion names, a living image of lustful splendor, narcotic radiance and lavish decoration decided to work together with the Swedish mass-market brand propagating reasonably-priced good looks – a doctrine many of us gladly follow.
This is hardly the first time H&M is bringing in a revered fashion brand to come up with a “capsule collection” for them. Their not so distant past has seen top players like Jimmy Choo, Comme des Garcons, Karl Lagerfeld and Lanvin. I probably still have no definite feeling about this sort of collaboration: is it a high-brow attitude of the real couture to us regular mass-market people or is it in a way an attempt to bring everyone in the loop out of good intentions.
Having decided to worry about the moral side of things later, I put on my shopping shoes, stretched my calves and hit the store a minute before the opening. The sheer number of people crowding the mall in waiting unrest did remind me of the Perestroyka and the hungry 1990s. To my surprise, so did the clothing items offered by the big-name Italian brand inside the store. It’s almost as if the models offered were specifically designed for Russians longing for bright colors, giving a new definition to flashy and taking kitsch out into the open. Prints included bright green palm trees over neon pink sunsets, electric turquoise cheetah and monochrome triangles laid out in twirling circles.
These gave off a distinct scent of “new money”, you could almost see that the iron curtain had just fallen and the boundless world of color, patterns and accessories is out there waiting. As a 21st century shopper I came prepared having studied the entire collection online and with a goal to hunt a couple pieces down. Alas! No good plan ever goes smoothly irrespective of the effort you put into it: the cerise pink jacket was not available in my size, the accessories were available to those few who spent the night camping in front of the store and whatever else caught my eye was snatched away from me by fierce shoppers.
If you rise above the havoc of pushing, yelling at the shop assistants and being ready to fight other fashion victims (“I was here FIRST!”) there are a few good things about the collection. First, the fabrics and the quality are of course top notch. The long ago disillusioned ones among us who have low expectations for quality at H&M would be pleasantly surprised with how well cut and well made the Versace pieces are. Second, even those few pieces presented had potential for mixing and matching both with each other and different items in your own wardrobe. However, the strong kitsch aftertaste and the irritating 90s nostalgia and the fetish leather-pieces did not strike me as the collection’s strongest point.
On a brighter note, it was by far the best deal I have ever gotten on a nice tuxedo and it came with a free case (as if they knew I was going to wear it on very very rare occasions) plus the turquoise pants of my dream to wear in the summer with a white polo-shirt. This is how a union of Italian chic and Swedish pragmatism made one flamboyant Russian quite happy.