Guest Columns

Denver’s H&M clearly beats the store in New York!


Frankly, I was skeptical. The last time I had been in an H&M was the one on Fifth Avenue in New York. It was new and its reputation of fast fashion at low prices had spread across the country faster than a Lindsay Lohan visit to a jewelry store. However, the wait for a dressing room and cashier was so long that I had practically finished reading War and Peace for my book club. Actually the store resembled a war with frenzied customers practically grabbing clothing out of my hands. Did I really need these cheap yellow corduroy jeans, I thought, as I realized I had memorized every Russian name in the novel. Nyet.

Lisa Manglass shows off her purchases: one skirt, three sweaters and tights in a variety of colors. “Everything is fashion forward, nothing is expensive so you can buy something without feeling super guilty,” Manglass said.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

So, when I heard Denver was getting its first H&M, I grumbled, not again. Wasn’t it enough that we have fast fashion stores like Forever 21, Love Culture, and Hot Topic popping up in the best malls to service our youth? Where are the stores for the grown-ups? (Insert a whine here.) Many of us are still mourning the loss of our Saks Fifth Avenue. (Insert another whine.) H&M was salt in the wound.

Boy, was I wrong.

The men behind the success of the H&M opening: Dalton Davis, architect at Semple Brown Design, the firm that designed the space; Matt Trasen, Gart Properties project manager; and Mark Sidell, president of Gart Properties.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

The H&M at the Denver Pavilions on the 16th Mall is bright, slick, modern and loaded with beautiful clothing at unbelievably rock bottom prices. The company has added more sales staff, cash registers and dressing rooms. And there is a seven-piece limit on what customers can try on at one time. At 21,000 square feet, our H&M is comparable to the larger flagship stores around the country. And why did we get such a big one? “Social media,” explained H&M spokeswoman Pansy Tolou. “There was lots of internet chatter as to why Denver didn’t yet have an H&M.” The company was planning a westward expansion, so why not add Denver to the mix?

Jenny Herren and friend Tina Martinez celebrated at the VIP party while at the same snapping up some H&M merch. Herren holds onto the hot pink ombre pleated skirt which was a hot seller that night.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

H&M has over 2,300 stores in 41 countries and as of 2011, employs around 87,000 people. In Croatia, Turkey or Romania with lost luggage? You’re in luck. H&M’s have just opened.

Founded in Sweden in 1947, H&M (which stands for Hennes & Mauritz; Hennes is Swedish for “hers”) built its success on fast-fashion clothing for women, men, teenagers and children. (It even sells maternity clothing.)

Gart Properties president Mark Sidell with Tracy Huggins, executive director of Denver Urban Renewal Authority, at the pre-opening preview party on Nov. 9.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

What is fast fashion? It’s the speed in which designs move from the catwalk to the store shelf in the fastest possible time to capitalize on customer interest as quickly as possible. H&M is the undisputed leader in fast fashion combined with a marketing philosophy of creating clothing at the best quality and price. For example, trench coats are hot right now. H&M designers have created a stunning faux cashmere trench for $49.95 that looks like the real thing. Tolou promised me that the clothing is tested for durability and that every item is machine washable.

Customer Amanda Neal looks on with satisfaction at the pair of $24.95 gold pumps she is trying on.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

As good a world citizen as H&M tries to be, unflattering rumors do occasionally spring up. In 2010 the company found itself in hot water over accusations that it slashed, cut and dumped unsold and unworn garments in New York while the city’s homeless endured sub-zero temperatures. The Telegraph newspaper claimed fingers were cut off gloves and men’s jackets were slashed apart so that insulating fiber spilled out. Company spokespersons responded by promising to stop mutilating new clothes and instead donate the items to charity.

Two young passerbys study manikins dressed in the H&M Versace collection due to hit stores in the next few weeks.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Kudos to Mark Sidell, president of Gart Properties, who helped sealed the deal, and Dalton Davis, the architect at Semple Brown. They have delivered a retail product that will reinvigorate the whole downtown shopping scene. Foot traffic has already increased, and restaurants and surrounding businesses should soon see a boost, temporary though it might be. H&M is planning to open at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center in 2012.

Excited customers study the H&M window displays while waiting for the doors to open.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Fashionistas in the know are anxiously awaiting the Nov. 19 launch of the limited edition H&M Versace line. According to insiders, the clothes will live up to the hype frequently asssociated with Versace’s glitzy and glamorous fashions. Tropical floral patterns, tight leggings, tunic tops, and heart-print dresses with beaded fringe will be a large part of the line. Expecting a record response, customers will be handed wristbands and allowed to see the collection in groups of 20 for ten minutes at a time with a two item purchase limit. Store management is planning to add more staff to handle the Versace event in addition to the 50 already employed. They’ll need it judging by the huge crowds flooding the store the first day. Me? I’ll be the one standing in line reading Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest.

Jed Rosenberg, a freelance marketing consultant, thought the selection was good “for a normal American person.” His shopping buddy, Wendy Littlepage, works at a nonprofit and doesn’t make a lot of money, “but I still have to look professional,” she said. Littlepage bought a winter coat with a faux fur collar and said the prices were good.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman

Judie Schwartz is the co-author of two best-selling books on the best places to shop in Colorado. Called “A Fashion-Lover’s Guide to the Best Shopping in Denver and Beyond,” the books are available at stylematters.us. Schwartz presents image seminars to corporations on the importance of a business casual wardrobe and entertains conventioneers with talks on how to look great on a budget. She is also a wardrobe consultant. Schwartz has one husband, three children, no pets and small closets. She can be reached at stylematters@coloradostatesman.com or www.stylematters.us

H&M has a business casual department for the working woman. Note the micro ruffled jackets with matching slacks, perfect for the office.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman
Necklaces, such as this black and white bead choker, are priced at $12.95.
Photo by Marie Griffin Dennis/The Colorado Statesman