Stockholm-based fast-fashion brand H&M pulled out all the stops for the Los Angeles party celebrating its designer collaboration with Erdem on Wednesday, transforming the courtyard and hallways of the Wilshire Ebell Theatre into a maze-like English garden, tapping filmmaker Baz Luhrmann to create a short film, hiring Canadian avant-garde synth-pop singer Grimes to perform at the after-party and opening a one-night-only, on-site pop-up shop where pieces from the runway show could be snapped up by invited guests immediately — two weeks ahead of the collection’s official launch.
Launched in London in 2005 by designer Erdem Moralioglu and known for its feminine touches, focus on textiles and vibrant prints, the Erdem label has long been a darling of the fashion flock (in 2010, it took home the very first Vogue/British Fashion Council Designer Fashion Fund Award, one of many accolades earned over the last dozen years) and is usually found on the racks of high-end retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York, where silk blouses start in the $1,000-plus range, and a floral velvet dress is priced just shy of $4,000. By comparison, the H&M collaboration will range from $34.99 to $299 when it hits retail early next month.
The collection that came down the catwalk Oct. 18, which included the designer’s first-ever menswear offerings, definitely felt more high-end than that price point might suggest: skirts, dresses and gowns for women in various permutations of black lace and allover floral prints as well as trim-fitting suits, pants and blazers for men in traditional suiting grays, windowpane checks and Harris tweeds.
Thanks to the collection’s generous dash of androgyny, men and women hit the runway in knee-length animal-print coats, slouchy mohair sweaters, flower-print pajama-style tops and trousers and silky black suits (including a few with double-breasted jackets) festooned with flowers, and white shirts with high, ruffled collars that added an air of English aristocracy to the garden party.
One of the evening’s only-in-Hollywood moments came at the conclusion of the runway show when Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge,” “The Great Gatsby”) appeared at the top of the Ebell’s outdoor courtyard staircase to introduce a short film he’d created to showcase the collaboration and ended up pitching it (half jokingly and half not) as a teaser for something more.
“What we went on to make is not really a movie,” he told the crowd, “but kind of a poetic trailer of a movie that will never be made — you know, unless there’s a financier here tonight who might want to meet me in the pop-up shop later. It’s quite a good idea. I got really into this movie that’s not going to be made. But making the trailer was a great journey because we got to be with Erdem, find out where his inspiration comes from.”
Luhrmann also noted that the Erdem X H&M project presented an unusual challenge. “We had to come up with a narrative, a story, that had to grow from the clothes. Erdem had already made the clothes. They were the script,” he said. “That was the challenge. We’d never done anything like that before. So together we collaborated and made this world and this little story.”
Backstage after the show, the designer said Luhrmann’s involvement was one of the reasons why he and H&M decided to stage the collection’s big coming out party in L.A.
“L.A. worked out logistically,” Erdem Moralioglu explained. “I knew I really wanted to be in London the day the collection launched worldwide … And we always had this idea that we wanted to show [the collection] outside, so weather [was a factor] and we were working with Baz. And once the film was done, it strangely made sense to show a very tweedy English collection in the middle of Hollywood.”
Despite being a collection that will expose his work to everyday consumers around the world — many of whom likely have never heard of him before — Erdem said the collaboration came from a very personal place. “I loved the idea of [the band] Blur and [the] Britpop [movement],” he said. “I was thinking about being a high school student and an Anglophile [growing up] in the suburbs of Canada. I found myself thinking a lot about my upbringing the way my father used to dress. I have these pictures of him in the ’60s in these sort of nipped tweed suits. And the way my mom would dress. She had this fantastic sort of accordion[-like] constructed croc bag that I was looking at with these odd sort of jewels on it.”
“It was very interesting because I usually approach my collections with a different kind of narrative — more cause and effect — whereas here, I was thinking of more personal things like how my sister used to dress in high school; putting a boy’s blazer over a little chiffon dress. What is it about those proportions that feel modern?”
Besides Luhrmann and Grimes (who performed a rousing set during the event’s after party), notables in attendance for the “Secret Garden” party included Kate Mara, Zendaya, Kirsten Dunst, Kate Bosworth and Selma Blair.
The Erdem X H&M collection hits H&M’s website and select brick-and-mortar stores Nov. 2.