By Andra Naylor
No, H&M doesn’t stand for Hard-to-Find and Mission Impossible. It stands for Hennes and Maurtiz, the purveyor of cheap and chic with stores in more than 22 countries, five of which are in the Chicagoland area. Much like their fellow Swedish countrymen, Ikea, H&M offers European design at affordable prices. And, much like Ikea, people are scared to shop there.
â€œThere’s too much stuff going on,â€? my sister tells me. â€œIf I want a black shirt I have to look in one million places.â€? I tell her to follow an inside/outside floor plan. Shop the inner-most racks (those that hug the escalators) and follow a circle. When complete, browse the racks in a circle pattern on the exterior. Separating the store into sections and attacking each individually will help you see everything efficiently.
â€œEverything is so close together it’s overwhelming,â€? my friend says. H&M’s are packed with stuff and more stuff. But so are grocery stores and we still shop there. If you don’t need cleaning supplies, you skip that aisle. Apply the same tactic at H&M. Enter the store knowing what you are looking for. My suggestions: anything black (the one color that almost never looks cheap no matter how cheap it is), skirts (you don’t have to worry about the fit as much as with pants) and trendy pieces (who cares if it will be out next season if it’s only $29.99?). Avoid patterns, sequins and leather. I know the price is right, but the quality isn’t.
â€œI can’t go in there! I’ll just buy everything!â€? my co-worker complains. Though it’s tempting to grab everything in sight (especially this fall’s decadent tweed blazers with faux fur collars) use my evaluation method to weed out what you really don’t need. While following the inside/outside floor plan, I allow myself to grab whatever I want. When standing in line for the dressing room (lines are always long) reevaluate your choices. Make yourself put at least one item down before even getting into a dressing room. And remember, sizes are cut a bit small at H&M; I normally always have to go up a size.
Perhaps the best tip to overcoming your fear is to face it in the eye. Go to H&M. Go often. H&M has one of the highest turnover rates of all clothing stores – a garment can move from design to hanger in just 20 days. That means there are new pieces every day. I’ve noticed that the stores tend to display only two of each size at a time so if they’re out of your size today, come back tomorrow and the racks will be re-stocked.
And don’t worry, if your paranoia kept you out of H&M when the Karl Lagerfeld collection debuted last year, Stella McCartney’s collection will be available November 10th. The collection is comprised of 40 womenswear pieces including coats, jeans, dresses and accessories. Items not to miss: a black military-inspired coat with belt and topped with a bow for $179.90 and her skinny jeans for $49.90. But beware neophytes – items from Karl Lagerfeld’s collection sold out within the first hour so expect a bit of chaos around the 10th.