The Swedish fast fashion giant H&M finally opened its doors to Chennai yesterday after a year and a half of having a presence in India, and a few months after it opened in Mumbai. If you’re from here, you’d that this is astonishingly quick. We’re still waiting for Forever21 to start shop, and for Zara to stop selling fur lined jackets during Chennai summers. I had no plans of going on opening day for the same reason I avoid zoos during school holidays, but after swiping through the barrage of posts on my instagram that morning, it became increasingly difficult to resist, and I caved in at around 4 pm. My sister, who has as many opinions as she has clothes, came with me.
Out, Damned Spot!
The store covers two floors, with one floor (ground) stocking women’s clothes and accessories, and the one on top for men’s and kids. We entered through the ground floor, and the first set of clothes we saw were from their Autumn Winter ’16 collection. Think sateen bomber jackets with patches on, short, sparkly lurex skirts and jumpsuits, sheer blouses and other clothes that are categorized under party/festive. I personally categorize them as ‘clothes I’m too old for’. My sister picked up a beautiful, slinky emerald dress from their conscious collection but closer inspection revealed a medium sized, murky stain. There was only one more piece in her size (small), and unfortunately, even that had a stain. My sister loved the dress so much that she tried scratching at the stain in the hope that it would go away, but it didn’t. Later, when we explained the situation at the billing counter, the sales assistant had a go at scratching it as well, and then put it away. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. In hindsight, we could’ve just asked for a discount.
Such Fashion Much Wow
What really surprised me about the H&M store was the crowd there.We knew we’d encounter groups of squealy girls (who were squealing about finding clothes in extra small sizes), but we had no idea that everyone there would be so…well dressed. Like I don’t think I’ve ever encountered so many well dressed people from Chennai per square foot until that day, and it didn’t help that my sister and I were in old kurtas and pants because well, it was H&M. Who dresses up for going to a shop that’s renowned for selling cheap, trendy clothing?
Clothes in, Clothes out
Between my sister and myself, we got a dress, a pair of pants, three tops, and a pair of earrings, all from their conscious collection . It’s also worth noting that they have their conscious bins in the store. If you bring in a bag of old clothing (brand no bar), they will recycle it for you and give you a 15% discount on your bill. So if you’ve a lot of stuff that you want to get rid of, I’d recommend this approach! I’d also recommend you read about the dangers of the fast fashion industry, minimalism, and the growing tribe of women who are adopting the capsule wardrobe approach. I’m personally a huge fan of a particular sustainable shopping method called ‘steal from your sister’. It really works.
A Small Sizing Problem
The store stocks an impressive collection of basic dresses, tops and tees in their trademark you-can-see-my-bra-in-this-right jersey and nasty-but-will-last-a-long-time polyester blend materials, and clothes from their sporty/nautical LOGG brand. There was also a nice denim section, a compact plus-size section, and a lingerie department which we couldn’t see much of because the massive queue for the few trial rooms had invariably spilled over there. We did see some cute swimsuits, though. I hope they plan to restock them more often, and that it wasn’t an opening day thing where they never restock and the stray bottoms that don’t sell just wilt on the hangers for years to come. The store has a decent selection of work wear, active wear and maternity clothes as well, but it must be said that the smaller sizes are fewer in number (we feel you, squealy girls), although I’m not sure if it was because the morning crowds snapped them all up.
Now, do they have the full collection from their catalogue? No. If you look at the website, you’ll know that only 40% is in store. Like, their shoe selection was bleak – apart from a few basic pumps, the only other option was shearling booties, which make zero sense unless you’re a trendy sherpa taking a break in Chennai. Still, it’s not entirely hopeless, and knowing this city’s luck with fashion, that’s as good a start as any.