Okay, despite my enthusiasm for Lanvin Loves H&M, at 3am this morning the temptation to pull a sicky was extremely great. Especially since I'd spent so much energy concentrating on trying to get to sleep I'd actually managed to keep myself up until 1am. Two hours sleep and I was going to drive 40 miles for some dresses? The reflection in the mirror said I was mad, it took me a good 30 seconds to realise the reflection was in fact me and I needed COFFEE.
However I'd talked the talk about this collection and now I was going to have to walk the walk. Here it is, as it happened, with some top notch photography courtesy of my Blackberry:
3.00am - Alarm goes off. From the other side of the room. Cursing my smart thinking from the previous night of putting it out of reach, I got out of bed and fetched it from the top of the wardrobe. Went into the bathroom and tried to remove the slept in mascara from under my eyes. Oh it's not actually mascara but dark circles that appear to be part of my skin. Note to self; use lots of Touche Eclat.
3.30am - Staggering into the kitchen I prevent myself from just eating the coffee granules and instead tip half a jar into a mug. The drink both looks and tastes like tar. Result.
3.50am - Get into car, along with a haul of equipment I'd acquired the night before from my dad. Fold out stool, flask, blanket, it was frighteningly like going camping. I knew I'd put my Girl Guide skills to good use someday.
4.10am - What are the chances?! NO ONE ELSE ON THE ROAD. It was like being in 28 Days Later but without Cillian Murphy as eye candy. Oh and no rage filled zombies, apart from the one I keep glimpsing in the rear view mirror. I'd also just like to point out it's extremely difficult to drive when you've swaddled yourself tighter than Baby Jesus in that manger. I'm rocking two pairs of tights, two pairs of socks, jeggings, leg warmers, Ugg boots, three tops, a jumper, a fur coat, a scarf (leopard print *obvs*), a hat and ear muffs. No room for any cold to sneak in.
4.45am - Arrive at 24 hour car park in Manchester, congratulating myself on not getting hopelessly lost. Make my way through a deserted city centre clutching a camping stool and feeling a bit loopy. Start to panic no one else will be there...
4.50am - Oh. It seems other people have had the same idea. Nearly 50 people are already outside the doors of H&M, some are watching films on laptops, others playing cards. Someone has actually erected a two man tent. I'm glad there are shoppers more unhinged than me. Start chatting to the queue near to me, there are two fashion students and a girl who has come with her boyfriend. Everyone seems lovely, one of the students is called Stephanie and is also writing about the experience for a blog. Spooky.
5.10am - The scousers arrive. Three girls pitch up and immediately become the focus of everyone's attention by gossiping loudly. They've all done this before and start talking about what happened at the Jimmy Choo x H&M launch the previous year. It puts the fear of God into me, am I really waiting for 4 hours in the cold to end up in a punch up at the tills?
5.30am - We start discussing "The Rules". Most of us are of the opinion that different coloured wristbands are handed out in groups of 30, allocating dedicated 15 minute shopping times. One of the scousers thinks it's only the first 50 who get priority wristbands and then it's one in, one out. Suddenly everyone starts doing headcounts of the queue in front, we're in the first 50, just. Phew.
6.00am - Ooooh, the queue at the front seems to have grown? It appears some scumbags are pushing in which in turn would put us outside of the first 50. THIS WILL NOT DO. The bolshiest of the scousers goes and tells them to do one. When they don't, she bangs on the store doors and demands to speak to the manager.
6.15am - People keep stopping and asking us what we're waiting for. We all just point at the window display and go "Lanvin". They don't know what Lanvin is, soon it becomes clear that they're confusing us with another queue at the other end of Market Street, filled with people camping out to meet JLS. I weigh up whether to change queues, I really like the little one who does back flips. Decide against it. It's very cold and I need to conserve my energy.
6.30am - After the protestions of the scouse girl, security arrive. We all whinge to them about the people pushing in and they go and have a word. Then they check the CCTV and chuck a load of them to the back of the queue. Well done security men! Some people have no respect for the very English tradition of patiently waiting in a line.
6.50am - My dad rings me, he's got two laptops set up and is anxiously refreshing the H&M website to try and get the dresses I want online, in case I don't manage to get any. Bless him.
7.20am - Dad rings again, website is down. He has items in the basket but it keeps crashing on him. Everyone around me is getting similar reports phoned through. Sounds like H&M need to invest in a better server.
7.30am - The "rules" are unveiled in the window, confirming that it is groups of 30 in 15 minute time slots. Then a lady with a clipboard and some wristbands turn up. We all get yellow ones which put us in the 2nd shopping group of 9.25am. We get fully briefed on what to expect and how to behave, no duplicate items, only one size in each, no running, wait for your timeslot. It's a very organised operation.
7.45am - Now we've got our wristbands we don't have to wait outside anymore until it's our shopping time. Lots of people choose to stay there, I decide to go and dump all my camping stuff in the car to free me up for kicking ass later. This is serious business.
8.20am - Arrive back at the shop just in time for my mate Dan to cycle up with a cup of tea for me. I drink the tea and fill him in on all the goings on that have happened thus far. He looks at me like I'm completely mental.
8.30am - The lady with the clipboard is back, giving us insider information on what they've received stock of. It has to be said, all of the H&M staff are thoroughly lovely and helpful which considering they're dealing with a hoard of tired and anxious consumers is very admirable.
8.45am - GOODY BAGS! This is one of the perks of going to wait outside the store, we're given a lovely Lanvin tote with a signature corsage on it and a Lanvin pashmina inside it. 100% wool, niiiice. Double whammy of good news as my dad rings to say he's managed to get one dress online. Slightly reassured by this, at least I'll end up with something out of this debacle.
9.00am - The doors are just about to open and everyone is crammed in the doorway. It's not that comfortable and despite being told to move back by the security guards, no one seems to be paying attention. Oh dear...
9.05am - Doors open! Those with blue bands (9.05 shopping time) go through to the penned off shopping area, others are allowed to browse the rest of the store or can head straight for the Men's collection which doesn't have the regimented rules of Ladieswear. Everyone heads for the statement sunglasses which vanish in seconds. Gutted.
9.10am - Those of us with yellow bands are now stood looking at the blue wristbanded people ransack the shopping area. It's a very odd sensation and the only really horrible part of the experience so far. The girls I've been waiting with are worried the dress they've been coveting wont be there by the time they make it through. It's quite strange watching as people are rushing about with arms of clothing, the H&M staff are doing a brilliant job of making sure no one is taking duplicate items to the changing room and are restocking the rails constantly. I can't wait to get in there now, I'm tired and I can see the items on my wishlist.
9.25am - AND WE'RE IN! Once inside the pen (literally a penned off area of the store just for Lanvin Ladieswear) it's actually quite easy to get everything I want. I get all of the dresses I had my eye on, plus a couple that look beautiful in the flesh. Some tshirts, a pair of shoes and earrings later we're given our 4 minute warning and troop off to the changing room. Time for the moment of truth..
9.40am - Errrmmm the prom dress that looked amazing in the magazines is the most voluminous thing I've ever worn. It's disturbingly big and looks more like fancy dress. The rest of the outfits are fantastic though, well made with gorgeous fabrics, I finally get to see why Alber Elbaz is so heralded, it might be H&M on the label but it's not like anything else I've ever bought from here. These are proper classics, well structured dresses that make you look fabulous despite having spent 5 hours in the cold. I grin at the girl in the mirror with the dark circles under her eyes.
9.50am - Time to pay and even this is a joy. Nothing is being shoved into plastic bags, the dresses are put in special Lanvin dustbags and the carrier are thick cream cardboard with satin handles. It's posh check out scenes and again the assistants behind the tills are helpful and friendly. Out of the corner of my eye I spy a box which turns out to be a pair of the elusive sunglasses, meaning I get to leave with everything I went in for. As I walk out of the store I have a quick look at the shopping area which by now is extremely depleted, I doubt there will be much left for people in later time slots.
Overall, I'm glad I did it. Getting up at 3am and waiting in the cold to buy dresses does sound absurd but now I have them, I'm completely chuffed. These are the kind of clothes I can wear for years to come, the Lanvin look at a fraction of the price. But first I need to get some sleep...