Balmain fanatics drop sleep to drop cash, resellers win out

lines at H&M
The line outside of H&M stretched almost a block during the Balmain x collection launch. (Sarah Very/Medill)

By Sarah Very

Lines of sleep deprived consumers wrapped around H&M stores across the country Thursday morning, waiting to snag pieces of the highly anticipated celebrity Balmain x collection — but many left empty-handed.

Jordan Houston planned to arrive at the State Street H&M in Chicago at 6:00 a.m. to get her hands on a white and gold Balmain shirt, designed by the 30-year-old French creative director Olivier Rousteing.

“I waited for hours,” Houston shouted. “They have stuff left, but it’s stuff nobody wants. Kylie Jenner’s custom blazer is in there. It’s like thousands of dollars.” 

Another young girl interrupted. “Do they have this shirt?” she asked in anguish as she pulled out her cell phone. A mob of girls formed, angry that the entire collection had sold out early in the morning.

Why did the collection sell out so quickly? For the same reason the police had to be called to intervene outside a London H&M store. Strategic buyers had camped out overnight, raided the store within the first few minutes of its opening, and purchased thousands of dollars of merchandise to resell online at double the in-store price.

“There’s a man in there,” Houston continued. He and his friend are selling a dress they got for $149… and they’re selling it for $500 right in the store!”

She and her friends chatted angrily as they walked away from the store, without any of the fast-fashion beaded blazers, sequenced cocktail gowns, or leather biker jackets.

The resellers are capitalizing on the trend towards technological convenience and online shopping for millennial smartphone owners. Two women stood on State Street, with more than ten filled shopping bags placed on the ground between them.

resellers at H&M
Two resellers stand outside of H&M, surrounded by $10,000 worth of merchandise. (Sarah Very/Medill)

Xu Xu and her colleague arrived at the store at 8 p.m. Wednesday. “I don’t sleep, I drink three cups of coffee,” Xu said. “They let me in the store at 8:25 a.m. I bought $10,000 worth of stuff.”

She said she will sell her merchandise on WeChat, a social media connecting app used largely in Asia.

H&M reseller
Dennis Austin plans to put his $6,200 worth of merchandise on eBay as soon as he gets home. (Sarah Very/Medill)

Dennis Austin arrived at 5:30 a.m. He said somebody sold him a spot in line for $200. “We bought everything we could carry,” Austin said. “Spent like $6,200. They made us stand outside here. I’ll probably put it all on eBay as soon as I get home, and return it if it doesn’t sell.”

H&M has done similar limited-time offerings in the past with designers such as Alexander Wang. These short term offerings enable fashion-forward designers like Rousteing — whose designs are most often sported by Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, and Rihanna — to expand their market to the more typical shopper, while maintaining exclusivity in brevity.

Though H&M does not reveal the sales results of these offerings, the public relations and word-of-mouth benefits are notable. In fact, so much buzz has been created around the Balmain x collection that Rousteing is said to have created a “Balmain Nation.”

On the other hand, many shoppers, dedicated to the Balmain line, were frustrated by the resellers and took their concerns to H&M’s Facebook page. The global frenzy and reseller domination had reached an unprecedented level for H&M, giving the company name a more negative aura.

Photo at top: The line outside of H&M stretched almost a block during the Balmain x collection launch. (Sarah Very/Medill)