H&M takes Manhattan--Thousands poured into the Swedish discount designer's first U.S. store

By Lori L. Tharps
April 21, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

What the Swedes did for cheap, trendy furniture (think Ikea), they’re now doing for clothing. Heralded by slick ads featuring Chloe Sevigny and Benicio Del Toro, the European retail giant H&M (Hennes & Mauritz) opened a New York City outpost on March 31 that has become a Manhattan fashion mecca. On opening day, more than 2,000 people flooded the retail wonderland in just 13 minutes. (Having taken Manhattan, H&M eventually plans to open more stores up and down the East Coast.) Among the items picked up by bargain-hunting fashion fans: hot pink halter tops for $3.50, red checkered gingham skirts for a paltry $5, and tubs of lemongrass body souffle (a.k.a. lotion) for $4.50. ”It’s so cheap you can make an impulsive buy and not regret it later,” says NBC style commentator Lloyd Boston, who was impressed by H&M’s Club Monaco looks and Target prices. While the clothing is definitely disposable — trendiness takes precedence over craftsmanship — U.S. consumers just might eat it up. And H&M has already made accommodations for our national, er, girth: The store’s plus-size line will offer its own chic designs. ”That concept is going to do extra well, especially in the malls,” predicts Par Darj, H&M’s U.S. operations manager. Looks like you can have your Swedish meatballs and look good, too.