A $10 cat scarf was the first item to sell out at the Jason Wu for Target pop-up store in downtown Toronto Thursday as more than 1,500 shoppers snapped up high fashion at bargain prices.
The next two hottest items were a black cocktail dress with crinoline underlay for $35 and a trench coat for $45.
Target came up with the pop-up store concept to create hype ahead of the U.S. retailing giant opening 135 stores across Canada next year. All 2,500 pieces sold out in five hours, with the $60,000 in sales going to the United Way of Toronto.
Some came for a chance to shop at Target, while others were lured by the designs of Wu and still others because they wanted to dress like Michelle Obama, the wife of U.S. President Barack Obama.
The first 25 shoppers in line got a chance to meet haute couture designer Wu and get a photo with him as well as Bullseye, Target’s mascot.
"What a pleasure. You look more handsome in person," Debra Howley told Wu. Added her mother-in-law Dorothy Howley, "We think he’s wonderful. It’s great we can get designer pieces at such affordable prices and that’s what Target is going to do for Toronto."
Taiwan-born Wu, who now lives in New York, said he has fond memories of growing up in Vancouver. He got a huge boost after Michelle Obama wore one of his creations, a custom-made, off-the-shoulder white chiffon gown, to a presidential inaugural ball in 2009.
A $35 navy blue floral dress with yellow belt that Obama wore last week was among the items shoppers zeroed in on, including one woman who grabbed one without bothering to try it on.
"I can always sell it on eBay for double the price if it doesn’t fit," she said, walking to the cashier.
Shopper Margaret Lecuyer said she was inspired to come to the sale because of Obama.
"As an African-Canadian woman I’d like to look like the first lady if I can. She dresses very attractively," says Lecuyer, 41, a stay-at-home mom. "Definitely Michelle Obama right here," she said, holding up a canary yellow sleeveless top. She also got a pink paisley miniskirt and a black cocktail dress for a grand total of $75.
Shoppers were allowed to buy only three items each. "My husband’s going to be happy because of that limit, but I’m not," Lecuyer laughed.
It was controlled chaos inside the temporary store, on the corner of King Street West and Peter Street, as staff staggered the number of shoppers let in at one time.
There was the buzz of polite frenzy as women, who accounted for 99 per cent of shoppers, grabbed dresses, tops and skirts, but then amenably traded sizes and gave each other advice on what looked good.
As sizes ran out, people took clothes off the mannequins, prompting the store to post security guards to protect the statues. "It’s not even the size I want but I don’t care," said one woman who denuded a mannequin of the coveted black cocktail dress. Others, not wanting to wait in line for the dressing rooms, stripped down in a corner of the store, in full view of the glass windows where shoppers waited outside in line.
"I’ve been following Jason Wu for a long time, but he’s a high-end designer and impossible for me to afford so when I heard he’s coming to Target, I thought great," said student Hannah Siklos, 22.
Added Yvonne Yeung, "I love Target in the States. I’m so excited they’re coming to Canada."
There were a few brave men who had come to buy for girlfriends or wives who were at work, including tradesman Adam Powell, 35, who picked up a tote bag and a pearl-necked vintage style dress for his wife.
David Page was the first shopper to get in at noon after lining up since 7 a.m. to get a black trench coat for his wife, who was away on holiday. "She mentioned she likes Jason Wu so I thought I’d surprise her. It’s a pretty cool event."
Target spokesman Joshua Thomas, said the event was a resounding success as "Canada welcomed us with open arms."
But he was coy about whether more pop-up events are planned. "You never know what we have rolled up our sleeve."