H&M and Sonia Rykiel Go OTT at the Grand Palais
"My favorite part was the geese." Nadja Auermann was trying to isolate the most memorable segment of H&M's jaw-droppingly spectacular celebration of its collaboration with Sonia Rykiel. "No, the girls on the swings." Geese? Swings? Honestly, where do you start? A misty fantasy of an entranceway lined with giant mushrooms, huge white rabbits, and balloon trees set the tone for the evening. Alice in Grace Slick's Wonderland was an appropriately disorienting introduction to a show that did indeed begin with a flock of geese parading jauntily down a facsimile of the Champs Élysées that had been re-created inside the Grand Palais. (A little artistic license on the part of set designer—and mad genius—Simon Costin also allowed for a light-bedecked Eiffel Tower, which reached into the shadowy recesses of the building's massive dome.)
And, yes, one of the floats that made up the subsequent triumphal procession did feature models on swings, wearing the lingerie that Rykiel has designed for H&M. There were other floats, where the models writhed on satin sheets or pedaled furiously on bicycles (previewing the knitwear that will be Rykiel's second offering for the retailer, in February), all to a soundtrack of the Swedish national anthem, a.k.a. ABBA's greatest hits. There was also a corps of baton-twirling majorettes, not to mention Lily Cole, in black satin bra and briefs, determinedly piloting a huge horse's head through a mock Arc de Triomphe, in a scenario that was irresistibly reminiscent of Cleopatra's entry into Rome atop a sphinx, as assayed by Elizabeth Taylor in the role she was born to play.
Like Cleopatra, Rykiel enjoys something of an imperial status in her area of expertise, and the scale of H&M's show, combined with a rumored budget of 6.5 million euros (almost $10 million!) was certainly fit for a queen. Le tout Paris, along with Auermann, Eva Herzigova, Zoe Cassavetes, Lou Doillon, Martine Sitbon, and a good number of H&M's home team from Sweden, could only watch in awe. "Sublime," gasped Jean Paul Gaultier. That surely stands as the perfect last word.