Worth the wait

Houston's first H&M store is a knockout: Exclusive sneak peek with Fashion Star's Nicole Christie

Houston's first H&M store is a knockout: Exclusive sneak peek with Fashion Star's Nicole Christie

It's been a long time coming. But the new H&M store in Baybook Mall is worth the wait.

CultureMap got a sneak preview of the glittering 20,000-square-foot store on Wednesday in advance of the Thursday opening with the chain's spokesperson Nicole Christie, who was one of the stars on NBC's Fashion Star.

The store, located between Macy's and JC Penney in the mammoth Friendswood mall, is bright and bold, with concrete floors, sayings on the wall like "Grab it now tomorrow it might be gone forever," trendy music, and a full range of fashionable styles in eye-popping colors. 

It's features separate "store-within-a-store" areas for women's, men's, and children's (from newborns up to age 8) clothing, as well as accessories, denim and lingerie. Also included is the recently relaunched H&M Plus Size line (sizes 14-24) and H&M Sport, workout wear for women.

 "We wanted to bring as much as possible, particularly since being the first (H&M store) in the market," Christie said. "There isn't anything that's in our New York store that isn't here." 

"We wanted to bring as much as possible, particularly since being the first (H&M store) in the market," Christie said. "There isn't anything that's in our New York store that isn't here."

And it's not expensive. Many shorts, tops and bikinis start at $4.95 and most items top out under $20. The priciest item we saw was a pale pink off-the-shoulder evening gown with floral applique at $59.95.

The chain, based in Sweden with 237 stores in the United States and 2,500 around the world, has been phenomenally successful in offering "fast fashion" — clothing designed by an in-house team that anticipates the latest styles. We noted Hermès-like scarves for $9.95 and Versace-like black stretch men's bathing suits for $12.95. Also on display are whimsical offerings like women's floral headbands, kids hoodies dotted with skulls and colorful men's jeans that are flying out of stores, Christie said.

Indeed, the first thing a shopper is likely to note is all the color, with shorts, jeans, tops and shirts in turquoise, canary yellow, bright red and other bold shades.

"Color is a huge trend," Christie said. "Neon colors are really big; also sorbet colors and color on menswear. We have colored shorts and really cute colored trousers for men that are really on trend. What's really fun is men are not afraid of color right now."

The Baybrook location for the first H&M, around 25 miles south of downtown Houston, was a eyebrow-raiser for Houston fashionistas, who are accustomed to shopping inside-the-loop. But Christie thinks it's an ideal spot for the first store.

"There's a lot of traffic, a lot of families, a lot of young people shopping. H&M really complements the other retailers here and makes it much more of a destination. Even from downtown. We've been told, 'I will drive to Friendswood because H&M is opening its first store in Houston.' It's fun to be able to bring high fashion at great prices to the suburbs."

 "It's fun to be able to bring high fashion at great prices to the suburbs."

 H&M will open a second Houston-area store in Willowbrook Mall later this summer. "We think there's so much potential in this market, why open just one store?," Christie said.

And then, who knows?

"We want to offer as much of our collections to customers as possible, so we need a certain amount of space," Christie said. "Since we opened our first (U.S.) store in 2000 in New York City, we always say that we'll wait for the best location, as long as it takes."

H&M opens at noon Thursday at Baybrook Mall.

H&M
H&M spokesperson Nicole Christie, right, with CultureMap editor-in-chief Clifford Pugh, is a Fashion Star. Photo by Joel Luks
H&M
There's lots of color in the H&M men's department. Photo by Joel Luks
H&M Store
The new H&M is located between Macy's and JC Penney in Baybrook Mall. Photo by Joel Luks
H&M
H&M
H&M Store