"LOOK at this suit!" said stylist Jessica Paster, holding up a double-breasted, summer-weight wool cream blazer and straight-legged trousers, a sample from the forthcoming M by Madonna collection for H&M. "Put it with a pair of Louboutins and a pair of yellow diamond earrings and who's gonna know if it's Dolce & Gabbana or not? No one."
It's an open secret of the celebrity styling biz: Even those who can afford D&G wear H&M. Since the Swedish cheap chic behemoth arrived in Southern California last fall, stylists such as Paster have tapped H&M to dress celebrity clients. Paster has pulled skull-print tees for Avril Lavigne's festival tour, and last week she was back, looking at ladylike silk blouses for actress Marley Shelton's "Grindhouse" press junkets.
So it was probably inevitable that H&M, a retailer known for its democratic approach to fashion, would up and go Hollywood. Indeed, a new position was quickly created in Los Angeles: West Coast PR coordinator, a.k.a. celebrity handler charged with catering to every whim. And Pansy Tolou, a former publicist for Charles David, was hired for the job.
"A celebrity is always going somewhere in this city," Tolou said, smiling, and adding that all the TV and film shoots here provide a vast market that even New York doesn't have.
For now, she works out of a corner of the Beverly Center store's stockroom — but in April, she'll move into a glamorous 3,000-square-foot Sunset Strip showroom above what will be a new H&M in West Hollywood, opening this summer.
So far, the lack of glitz hasn't been a problem. Tolou recalled a recent afternoon when she was getting ready to leave work at 5 — until "The OC's" Adam Brody showed up to browse. Pop singer Christina Milian arrived the moment he left, and then at 8, "I had my bag in my hand, and Tina Knowles walked into the store." That would be Beyonc's mom, pulling some clothes for her daughter's appearance on "The Tyra Banks Show."
Fergie, Tolou says, has requested the sequined micro-mini from the M by Madonna collection, which will go on sale Thursday. At $198, it's one of the priciest pieces, but the spangly dress is nothing if not "Fergalicious," although Madonna might beg to differ.
Working with H&M's head designer, Madonna created 30 pieces inspired by the greatest hits in her own closet. In a palette of black, white and cream, there are leather trenches and bomber jackets, low-cut silk kimono dresses, thin cashmere knits, sexy disco dresses, skinny jeans with ankle zippers, a cotton "naughty secretary" dress and the cream wool suit Paster deemed "divine."
Unlike the limited edition Viktor & Rolf line that sold out within hours, M by Madonna stock will be replenished throughout the month it's in stores. But as stylists and H&M fans already know, if it's not Madonna it's something else. An organic cotton line will appear in late March, Kylie Minogue will be modeling chic bathing suits this summer, and racks of new merchandise will continue to stream in every day.