Laurie Maier loves to wear the latest styles, like low-rider jeans, little tank tops and this season's super mini-skirts.
But hip clothes don't always fit into her law school budget. Unless she's shopping at H&M.
The Swedish clothing company known for its cheap yet trendy styles opened its second Maryland store in Owings Mills Mall yesterday, much to the delight of fashion-minded women like Maier.
"This is the only store where you can afford to be trendy, especially on a student's salary," said Maier, 24, who lives in Owings Mills.
Some people have dubbed the clothing retailer the IKEA of fashion, after the affordable Swedish furniture store.
Yesterday at H&M, a basic T-shirt sold for as little as $7 while a super-short corduroy mini skirt went for $14 and cargo pants sold for $19. On the higher end, a powder-blue suede jacket was on sale for just under $50.
The low prices and cutting-edge style have made H&M wildly popular in the United States, where it made its debut in 2000 with a store on Fifth Avenue in New York. That store is known for packed crowds and long waits for dressing rooms. And popular sizes run out quickly.
"It's a riot," said New York retail consultant Howard Davidowitz, who lives a few blocks from the Fifth Avenue store. "People are constantly pouring into the store every day."
The 875-store chain, undergoing a rapid expansion, has 59 stores in the United States and plans to open 10 more this fall, including one in Chicago next week. The company opened its first Maryland outpost at Arundel Mills in February.
But you won't find the exact same styles at Owings Mills as in New York. H&M, short for Hennes & Mauritz, tailors its clothing selections to the demographics of the area.
At Arundel Mills, the clothes are geared to a more conservative suburban style. In New York, the styles are more urban. Its Georgetown store is one of the chain's trendiest and carries fashions are popular with teen-agers.
"We did that in Georgetown because it's in a young, trendy area and it's a huge shopping area," said H&M spokeswoman Karen Belva.
The Owings Mills store targets a wider age range, from 18 to 45 years. While it has some clothing for the Generation Y crowd, it also has pin-striped pants and suits for the more mature shopper.
"A lot of times in malls, it's ... women pushing strollers that are doing the shopping," said Belva.
Adlate Anyadike, 38, headed to the dressing room at the Owings Mills store yesterday, her hands full of dress pants she could wear to work. She couldn't wait to tell her daughter about the store, too.
"She's 15 and I see a lot of stuff in here she would like," said Anyadike, who lives in Randallstown.
The 9,500-square-foot Owings Mills store is small compared to the average 25,000-square-foot H&M store. It carries women's and men's clothes, but not children's and maternity styles like a typical full-service store. Arundel Mills is 20,000 square feet.
H&M is able to keep on the fashion forefront because it has a staff of 95 in-house designers who track trends and can quickly produce designer knockoffs, analysts said.
"The point is it's cool," Davidowitz said. "If you look at all the chains that are going down, they're not cool anymore. H&M changes the mix. There is new stuff in the store constantly, so when somebody comes back they don't see the same thing."
The Owings Mills Mall, which lost department store anchor Lord & Taylor last year, expects to attract large crowds to the popular tenant. About 60 waited in line for the noon grand opening yesterday.
"H&M is probably one of the trendier merchants in the industry right now," said Charles Crerand, the mall's vice president and general manager.
H&M isn't yet as popular in the United States as it is in Europe, mainly because there are more competitors in the States. But the chain has attracted a large following.
Pamela Dayan got her first experience with H&M at a Paris store five years ago and has been a fan ever since. She had been waiting for the Owings Mills grand opening and didn't take long to try on eight outfits.
"I've found so much, this is so exciting," said the Owings Mills housewife as she emerged from the dressing room 15 minutes later to look for more clothes to add to her pile. "You can get all of the newest styles without spending too much."