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Madonna's H&M
apparel line gets mild welcome in NYC

Madonna's H&M
apparel line gets mild welcome in NYC

Madonna on Thursday joined the parade of celebrities with their own fashion lines, but the material girl who used to shock audiences with her outrageous outfits kept to a mainstream tune.

Madonna's much-anticipated clothing line, "M by Madonna," went on sale at the low-priced Swedish retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB's stores around the world on Thursday.

Excited shoppers in New York City, where Madonna began her career, queued up about 30 minutes before the H&M store on Manhattan's ritzy Fifth Avenue opened, in order to be among the first to see the diva's collection.

Within two hours some items, including belts and small purses, had sold out, said one sales associate.

Another hot seller was a white double-breasted trench coat, which Madonna, who codesigned the line for the Swedish company, wears in the campaign's advertisements.

"That white silky coat is gorgeous, I think my daughter, who is 19, would love it," said Mary Taylor, a public relations executive, who was among the curious.

But many shoppers were not as enthusiastic about the range of styles, expecting a clothing line designed by the singer, actress, and author to be more adventurous.

Madonna, who has been a taste-maker for more than two decades, has shocked audiences throughout her career with daring styles that have included lacy bras and crucifixes and a Jean Paul Gaultier-designed cone bustier.

"I was expecting the clothes to be a little more fashion-forward, I have to say, because she is such an icon and I heard it was based on her own closet," said Daniela Maron, a fashion publicist combing the Fifth Avenue store's racks for a cream-colored sequined mini dress donned by a mannequin.

That dress, one of the standout pieces in the mostly solid monochromatic collection, sold out early, according to a sales associate.

"A lot of people came in, but as for buying, it's been half-and-half," said Juan Tinch, an H&M sales associate. "There have been a lot of purchases but also a lot of returns."

Hennes & Mauritz, among the first retailers to bring trendy fashions to main street wallets, has had home-runs with its exclusive, limited lines by heavy-hitters Stella McCartney and Karl Lagerfeld and cult label Viktor & Rolf.

The Viktor & Rolf and McCartney launches were "totally chaotic," Tinch said. "This has been a little more calm and collected."

Lisa Sandberg, a U.S. spokeswoman for Hennes & Mauritz, whose chairman, Stefan Persson, is the 17th-richest person in the world, said the difference was because the collection is in all H&M stores that carry women's wear and not just a few.

"What this means is that although it's a one-off collection, more H&M customers will have the opportunity to find M by Madonna in their local H&M store and should also be able to purchase a piece without being the first shopper in line," Sandberg said in an e-mail.

But for Sara Axelsson, a New York-based lawyer who went to see Madonna's line, the collection was not unique enough to justify a purchase.

"The Stella McCartney line was much more different than the usual H&M stuff," Axelsson said.

Other clothing lines designed by fashionable celebrities, who are not themselves designers, include Sarah Jessica Parker's line at Steve & Barry's and model Kate Moss's line with the U.K. retailer Topshop.

"Obviously, [celebrities] help enormously, whether it be if they're fronting a product or have worn it, but of course it takes away from the cachet level," said Maron about the trend of low-priced retailers selling collections designed by icons.

"But I'm definitely buying something, even if I never wear it," Maron said. "Just to have it-anything for Madonna." (Martine Geller, Reuters)

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