Sunday, November 9, 2014

What I learned while lining up for an H&M designer collaboration

Even though H&M has been creating designer collaborations for 10 years now, I have never put forth the effort to actually shop them. The hype is always insane and from a distance, I always recall seeing reports of people camping in the street then proceeding to trample each other to grab at their most coveted pieces. Yeah, no thanks... But this collection was the exception. As soon as I had heard the announcement from Coachella that the next one would be Alexander Wang, I had to figure out how to prepare myself.

My friend Jeannie has been to nearly every previous collection release and so I looked to her for advice. I quickly read her post on what to expect and I'm so glad she prepared me for what was to come. I think I had a successful haul so I wanted to share my experience. Read on to see what I learned from my experience lining up to shop the collection:

Book time off
Book the day off of work as soon as you know the release date. You will be exhausted from pulling an all-nighter and then the rush of adrenaline from the urgent shopping.

What to bring
November in Toronto is cold. Make sure to dress in warm layers, lots of knits and winter accessories. All of the Toronto locations require you to wait outdoors and overnight temperature dips can make the wait feel endless.

- a friend: people in line are great about holding your spot if you need to go find a washroom at a nearby gas station, but it helps pass the time to have someone there to talk to and remind you why the hell you subjected yourself to this unnecessary feat. I was going to go alone until I found out the day before that our friend Grana of LeGrana was going as well. Thank god for that.
- a folding chair: make yourself comfortable with something to sit on. It seems embarrassing but I saw some dudes who brought mini ikea poang chairs and I was so jealous.
- a warm blanket: it saved my life.
- a good thermos: so you'll have a hot drink to sip at all night.
- snacks: it's an overnight outdoor slumber party! You might as well snack
- entertainment: cards, books, iPads. You'll need them.
- a charger or external battery: your phone will die. Back it up with an external charger.
- a car: if at all possible, bring a friend with a car. You can take shifts in the car and it gives you a place to store all of your chairs and blankets before you go in to shop.

When to line up

As I learned, the first ones in line had arrived at 8am which was a full 24 hours ahead of the release time. The advantage of being amongst the first 10 in line this time around was an exclusive free gift. The gift was a great backpack chair but... Probably not worth 24 hours of time. The photo above was taken at around 6pm-- about 20 people were already in line.
I went home after work to have dinner, pack my bag and prepare myself to arrive at the store for midnight. At midnight, which was 8 hours before the release time, I was 94th in line. This will obviously be different based on location and how many other people decide to show up early. If I were to do it again, I'd still aim to go for midnight. 👌

The wait
The location where I lined up was Yorkdale Mall in the North York part of Toronto. This H&M is located inside the mall but you're not allowed to line up within the mall overnight. The wait is entirely outdoors until 5am when the mall reopens and the entire line is ushered indoors for the final 3 hours of the wait. A lot of people showed up at this time to wait so that they didn't have to be outdoors. Totally makes sense.

The wristbands

Coloured wristbands are handed out to people and they are numbered and have times on them. People are divided into groups of 30 and each group has a designated 10 minute slot to shop. At #94 I was at the front of the 4th group to shop. By the time we were shopping, we heard that the majority of the menswear was gone and I also heard that the shelves were pretty empty by 10.

The 10 minutes of shopping

You're let into the "ring" in order of your wristband number and are constantly instructed not to push or run. 10 minutes doesn't seem like it's a very long time but if you've had months to see the collection online and then a full night to reevaluate your wish list, you're bound to be familiar with every product and price. The staff are there to help you with sizes and to keep things in order and they also continue to tell you how much time you have left. I grabbed everything on my list, Sam's list and then some and finished in 8 minutes with hangers laced on all my fingers and my hands filled with random objects.

Once you have your loot, you're welcome to go to the fitting rooms and take your time trying it all on. This is highly advised because if things don't fit, the staff will switch a size for you... Provided that there are sizes left in the "ring" which you are not allowed to re enter. If you decide to leave anything in the fitting room, it's instantly off limits to everyone and will be put back into the ring.


Personally, I tried to restrain myself and stick with buying only the items from a very short wish list that I had mulled over for months. I grabbed everything my friends had wanted too and overall I was really happy with how our position in line allowed us to get our pick of everything in the sizes we needed. Go crazy if you want because there's a 7 day return policy.

Check back soon to see how we styled our picks from the collection!

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