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July 20, 2017

16 Expert Tips For How To Shop Erdem x H&M

When it comes to fast fashion collaborations, I had always hoped that Erdem Moralioglu, one of my all-time favorite fashion designers, would partner with the likes of H&M. With the July 13th announcement of #ErdemxHM, all of my floral fashion dreams will come true on November 2, 2017. Of all of the high-low fashion capsule collections that I have shopped in the past decade, I am most excited about this one. Why? Erdem's beautiful blooms melt my heart, and I'm looking forward to snagging some of his signature florals for less for my fall/winter wardrobe. I'm daydreaming about his ultra glamorous gowns as I type this, and I imagine many others around the world are as well.

Erdem x HM lookbook floral print sneak preview

Quick shopping story. In the fall of 2016, I was shopping at the Saks outlet, and a beautiful floral print caught my eye on the clearance racks. I picked it up, and checked the tag. It was Erdem! It was also my size! How could I be so lucky? The price was deeply discounted, and fortunately, I had a gift card that I'd been saving. After a trip to the fitting room, I took home the 'Logan' dress from the resort 2015 collection for next to nothing. #LuckyDay

Guys, take note! Erdem's collection will include something he hasn't done before - menswear. According to H&M, Erdem will "reflect and reinterpret the design themes from some of his most celebrated collections, playing with the prints, textiles and delicate craftsmanship that have made his name." While there are limited details about the collection, Erdem cites the Bruce Weber-directed Pet Shop Boys video 'Being Boring' as an inspiration. For a first look at the line, H&M has teamed up with Baz Luhrmann for this short film. The visually rich sneak preview shows models running through a scenic English countryside estate wearing a printed pajama style men's look, a (red capet-worthy) dramatic dark floral gown, a leopard coat with ribbons, a men's overcoat, a men's grey suit, a sleeveless sequin floral column dress, and a sleeveless pleated floral top. 

Erdem for H&M lookbook, Erdem H&M floral print

As the big day nears, you're going to want to have your shopping plan ready. Having shopped many of H&M's designer collections over the years, I've learned a few lessons. I'm sharing my shopping tips for how to score your Erdem x H&M must-haves both online and in stores.  Mark your calendars and set your reminders for November 2. 

The Online Strategy

1. Learn the lookbook. Study the lookbook carefully to select your favorites, get outfit inspiration, research the sizing, choose colorways, and check the prices. 

2. Play favorites. Make a list or collage of your favorites to help you stick to your budget and prioritize your potential purchases.

3. Know when and how to shop. In the U.S., these collections launch online in the morning at a set time specified by H&M. In the U.S., they usually launch online at 8am EST. Unfortunately, the website has crashed in the past. Be extra prepared by using more than one web browser, mobile device, etc. Refresh your browser often and have patience. Expect some glitches and be persistent. Remember that patience is key. (If I was forced to choose between shopping online and in store, I'd shop in store. This allows you to try things on, see the sizing, and not have to deal with website glitches.) 

4. Save your info. As the time to shop online approaches, log onto hm.com and have your checkout and payment details saved ahead of time. Clear your cart of any items in order to streamline the checkout process. This reduces the chances of having your cart emptied of any out-of-stock items before you can click the "complete order" button.

5. Click quickly. Shop your top pick(s) first and submit your order right after placing in your cart. Do not shop and fill up your cart. Why? Once an item is in your cart, it's not reserved for you. In order to avoid an item being removed from your cart because it's sold out, you need to click quickly and complete your order! That's why I create a prioritized wish list and try to buy my top picks first. Online purchases are limited to one piece per style per person.

6. Stay social. Use social media channels such as Twitter and Instagram using #ErdemxHM for up-to-the-moment shopping updates, product info, and to connect with other shoppers. Find me on Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @thekeytochic for shopping photos, sizing info, and more. 

Erdem for H&M floral lookbook print sneak peek

H&M store

The In-Store Strategy

1. Know where to go. 
Plan your shopping well in advance. I've overheard people calling in sick to work just so they could get in line and shop. Be ready to stand in line on Wedneday night or early Thursday morning (see just how early in #3.) Once it's published, use the H&M store locator to find the H&M stores near you that'll stock the #ErdemxHM collection.

2. Phone it in. Be extra prepared by calling your local store the week before the launch to confirm if they'll carry the collection and ask them exactly where you should line up to shop.

3. Be an early bird. You know what they say about the early bird. Stores open at 8am (instead of 10am) on launch days. I've found in the past that if I arrive by 4am or earlier, then I'm able to get into the first or second shopper group. For example: for Lanvin, I arrived in line around 3am and I was #65 in line. For Marni, I arrived around 2am and was #27 in line (after several friends of shoppers arrived and took cuts in front of me.) For Isabel Marant, I arrived before 4am and lucky for me, I was in the first shopper group. For Margiela and Balmain, I was lucky enough to able to shop the fashion editor preview parties the night before the launch. For Kenzo, I shopped online with relative ease.

4. Play the waiting game and respect the line. For people wanting to shop the Women's merchandise, H&M reps will pass out color-coded wristbands to the first 420 people in line. They do this several hours before the store opens, with each shopper group consisting of 30 people. Each group of 30 shoppers is allowed fifteen minutes in which to shop the collection in a secure and sectioned-off area of the store. They are strict, and with good reason. The fifteen minute time slot goes by really fast, with employees calling out the time at five minute intervals. It's hectic, crazy, and dizzying. This poses a dilemma if you want to shop both Women's and Men's first thing because the Men's area is open to all shoppers at 8am. Note that all people can enter the store at 8am. In between shopper groups, employees rapidly replenish the merchandise in five-minute intervals. Oh, in case you're not awake yet, there's thumping loud music via a live DJ. Expect long lines at the fitting rooms and people hoarding whole racks of clothes in piles on the floor.

5. Preparation is key (but first, coffee). I bring a blanket/pillow, cozy jacket, phone charger, water, and plenty of healthy snacks to stay energized and comfortable while in line. Bring coffee if needed. I have seen people camp out overnight in tents to be first in line for these collabs. Crazy, yes, and dedicated! For people who live in large cities, I'd recommend going several hours before the store opens if you're really motivated to shop. It really depends on your schedule and how much sleep you're willing to sacrifice. In my experience, stock varies widely from store to store, with flagships in metropolitan areas carrying the best selection.

6. Bring a buddy. A family member, friend, or significant other might be able to help you get the pieces you want and help you make purchasing decisions. "Divide and conquer" should be your strategy! Arrange to meet in line at the same time or go to the store together so you're not cutting in line and you can be in the same shopper group for maximum teamwork. The Lanvin for H&M faux fur coat and embellished tee would not be mine if not for a dedicated shopping partner. The same goes for the Isabel Marant pour H&M fringe boots, and I feel very grateful.

7. Check for go-backs and barter. If your favorite pieces disappear from the racks in a flash, be courteous, be patient, and don't be afraid to chat with H&M employees and other shoppers to politely trade to get what you want! Just respect the rules that they have in store.

8. Know your limits. There are quantity limits per person on these collections (it's 2 items per style in stores and 1 item per style online) to prevent buying in bulk, and the return policy time frame is shorter (as little as 6 days for purchases made in stores). Be aware of these restrictions in order to prevent any buyer's remorse. 

9. Persistence pays off. H&M does not restock these collections, but you can still score your favorites. If you don't find what you want after the launch, check back for returns in the coming days, as many shoppers take items back to the store. Accessories can't be returned for hygiene reasons, so select them carefully. How about that buyer's remorse? Don't forget to check the customer service desk and clearance racks for returns in early and mid November as well. Call your local stores to ask what they have in stock and use #ErdemxHM on social media to buy/trade with others.

10. Consider main line Erdem instead. With inflated resale prices on eBay and other platforms after the launch, you can likely buy main line Erdem and Erdem on sale for less than the marked up resale prices. Consider shopping the real deal (especially on sale at the outnet) or the alternatives below if you aren't able to get your #ErdemxHM wish list items.

HampM wristband

Get inspired by Erdem:

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May 23, 2017

Fashion and Beauty Travel Essentials and Packing Tips

With the start of the summer travel season just days away, I've got travel on my mind. I like to think of each trip I take as a learning lesson in how I can pack more efficiently. There's always room for improvement! From the very first time I traveled abroad in 1999 (and arrived at my destination with shampoo all over everything), to the trip I took to Eastern Europe earlier this month, I'm always trying to improve the way I pack by bringing only the essential beauty and fashion items that I need.

Full disclosure: I never enjoy packing for overseas trips because it means I have to narrow down all of my fashion and beauty possessions into a small selection of must-haves, and pack them into a 25" suitcase, all the while minding the weight limit imposed by most airlines. My weakness is over-thinking what I'm packing and agonizing over small decisions such as whether to pack a specific pair of ankle boots versus wedge sandals. At the last minute, I second guess myself and take a few things out of my suitcase. The upside is that it helps me keep my luggage under 40 lbs. and leave room for vacation purchases. I know that I spend way too much energy thinking about what's in my suitcase, but I have learned some lessons! #BabySteps

Travel Tips:

1. Before traveling, go to Sephora and request samples of your favorite perfumes. Their mini vials are perfect for short trips, and it saves you the effort of bringing large perfume bottles or putting your perfume into small containers.

2. Use leak-proof (plastic) bags or makeup cases to store your toiletries and keep them in separate compartments from the rest of your packed luggage. In case something spills, you'll be able to contain the mess. Bring extra plastic bags to store beauty items in case of leaks. 

3. Pack your socks inside of your shoes to save space and help them (especially boots) their shape.

4. Select wrinkle-proof pieces (in fabrics like polyester) in order to minimize ironing.

5. Pack items that are versatile and can be worn multiple ways. For example, a black slip dress, a shirtdress, or a jacket with a detachable hood. Change your look while on vacation by re-wearing these basics with new accessories.

6. Don't pack your most valuable jewelry or apparel in case your luggage is lost or stolen. 

7. If you have a long journey, pack a change of clothes in your carry-on in case your luggage is delayed, lost or stolen.

8. As tempting as it is, avoid drinking coffee or alcohol on the plane. Instead, opt for lots of water to stay hydrated and ward off jet lag.

What I Pack:

When it comes to the fashion and beauty items that always make the cut, I've learned exactly what to prioritize. So I'm sharing the eleven items that I can't leave home without.

fashion and beauty travel essentials

1. Givenchy studded sunglasses, $495. A good pair of shades is essential for sunny destinations and for hiding tired eyes after your flight. This pair has small studs and cool mirrored lenses. 

2. Flight 001 red eye kit, $11.98. This travel set includes an eye mask, ear plugs, floss, and toothbrush - everything you need for a restful trip. I never get on a plane without earplugs.

3. Avène thermal spring water spray, $18.50. This is a French beauty favorite for fighting dry plane air and static-y hair.

4. MAC lipglass, $17. This lip gloss is long-lasting and doesn't dry your lips, plus the range of shades is endless. I've been a fan ever since I can remember.

5. Peter Thomas Roth mineral sunblock, $30. This is easy to apply over makeup, and perfect for oily skin. There's also a version in SPF 45 for non-oily skin.

6. Henri Bendel 'Jetsetter' convertible backpack, $278. You can wear it three different ways, plus the pockets make it super easy to stay organized. Simple but chic, right? I get compliments whenever I wear mine.

7. Chanel Ultrawear Flawless compact foundation, $60. Gives skin a natural, flawless finish with SPF 15. I carry mine everywhere for touch-ups and extra sun protection.

8. Ray-Ban 'Highstreet' sunglasses, $140. This style is lightweight, classic, and they pair well with everything.

9. Bioderma micellar water, $6.90. It removes the most stubborn makeup, and leaves skin feeling soft and clean.

10. Adidas Gazelles, $79.95. A bit more rugged than the Adidas Superstars, they are comfortable enough for walking around all day, dirt resistant, and are easy to style with both casual or more dressy looks. Mine served me well for walking on cobblestones, climbing steps, and light hiking.

11. Collection XIIX baseball hat, $20. Ideal for sunny days, rainy days, or post-flight hair days. 

See more travel essentials:

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May 20, 2017

Uniworld Delightful Danube Cruise Review

I just completed my second European river cruise with Uniworldand I must admit that I'm having withdrawals from their abundant breakfast and lunch buffets, the twice daily housekeeping service, and the surreal beauty of the German and Austrian countryside. They indulged our every need!

You may recall my first Uniworld cruise to Venice in summer 2015 aboard the River Countess. This time, I sailed on the River Beatrice from Prague to Budapest, with stops in Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau, Spitz, Vienna, and Budapest. Highlights of my trip include a a few surreal bucket list moments: riding a bike along the river from Germany into Austria, strolling the quiet gardens at Vienna's Schönbrunn Palace, hiking through the Bavarian forest, and navigating the stunning but steep vineyards of Spitz Village in Austria. I must still be jet lagged because as I review my travel photos (more on my Insta @thekeytochic), I can hardly believe the things I saw. It feels like a dream. As I get back into my regular routine, I'm feeling so grateful for the new memories.

During the early planning stages of my trip, I had trouble selecting a cruise due to the sheer number of options available. Prior to this vacation, I'd seen western and southern Germany, but I'd never traveled to Eastern Europe. So many people have raved about Prague, so the choice became more obvious as I studied Uniworld's itineraries. My trip started in Prague, with a stay at the centrally located and well appointed Art Deco Imperial Hotel, whose large breakfast buffet was nothing short of amazing. I'll certainly miss their Bircher muesli and its rich, coconut flavor. (Disclosure: I may be obsessed with muesli.) 

With two Uniworld trips under my belt, I've come to realize that they spoil their travelers with abundant breakfast and lunch buffets, customized service from the well-trained restaurant staff (who graciously accommodated my healthy eating requests), plenty of tour options to choose from, unlimited free drinks on board the ship, and fun "Go Active" excursions for travelers who seek new fitness adventures. I did two hikes and a bike ride during my trip, and also spent some time in the ship's fitness center in order to burn off all that muesli from the breakfast buffet. Any vacation that includes exercise is one that appeals to me.

While I'm not the target demographic for Uniworld due to my age, a twenty-something traveler from Australia told me about U by Uniworld. It's targeted towards the younger 21-45 age group, with an emphasis on unique experiences, Instagram-worthy scenes, nightlife, and fitness activities. I'll definitely be looking into their trips, perhaps for next year.

Here's a look at some of my favorite moments on the Delightful Danube cruise.

Prague Castle Gardens

The Prague castle gardens took my breath away as our tour guide walked us downhill from the castle to Old Town.

River Beatrice Uniworld Stateroom

Stateroom on the River Beatrice (pillow menu, L'Occitane bath products, good lighting, cable TV, and plenty of closet space make the rooms really comfortable).

River Beatrice Uniworld Lobby

Uniworld Tea Time River Beatrice

I had to indulge in tea time one evening before dinner on the River Beatrice. 

Uniworld Lunch Buffet River Beatrice

Lunch buffets always included meats, cheeses, a salad bar, soup, and more Eastern European comfort food than you can imagine. Did I mention the dessert table? I somehow managed to resist it each day at lunch.

Passau Germany

Passau, Germany was a favorite location due to its charming vibes, river views, beer gardens, bike paths, and pastel architecture. (Cute place for a honeymoon, too.)

Uniworld Breakfast Buffet Meal

Muesli, yogurt, fruit, and scrambled eggs for breakfast to fuel me through the day.

Passau Germany Hike

The views at the end of a 4-mile hike through the verdant Bavarian forest in Passau. I'll never forget the comical sound of the frogs croaking as I walked through the fields.

River Beatrice Uniworld Stateroom Flowers

Bridge From Austria to Germany

This bridge leads from Austria to Germany. It was the halfway point of a scenic bike ride along the river, which included a beverage break at a charming café. 

Austria cafe

street style germany

Another scene from Passau, where colorful gardens and charming restaurants offer pretty views along the river.

Schonbrunn Palace Gardens Vienna

Tulips in my favorite shade of pink at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. If you stroll long enough, you get past the clusters of selfie-taking tourists and you'll enjoy quiet, empty swaths of colorful flowers, manicured gardens, and endless paths for strolling.

Melk Abbey Austria

Melk Abbey also offered pretty gardens and peaceful scenery. Wearing Givenchy sunglasses, floral blouse by Who What Wear, and Adidas Gazelles

Sweets in Vienna, Austrian desserts

Vienna abounds with cafés and shops selling desserts that are hard to resist. 

Uniworld Lunch Buffet Salad

I took advantage of Uniworld's salad bar each day for lunch. The salmon was a memorable meal.

Spitz Austria vineyards

The view from the vineyards of Spitz, Austria just after a light dusting of rain.

Uniworld Fruit Dessert

Nedko, the restaurant manager aboard the River Beatrice, made sure I had healthy options for dessert. This lactose free (and guilt free) fruit compote was one of my favorites. 

Budapest Hungarian Parliament Building

Above and below, the views of Budapest were breathtaking.

Budapest Hungary Views

RiverBeatrice Delightful Danube Cruise

Catch up with my travel and shopping adventures over on Instagram or Snapchat @thekeytochic.

See my travel fashion and beauty favorites:

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April 30, 2017

Who What Wear Collection Spring 2017 Review

Please note that this post contains affiliate links and I may be compensated if purchases are made by clicking links. 

If you've seen my Insta stories over the past year, then you probably know that I'm a dedicated fan and frequent shopper of the Who What Wear Collection at Target. I adore discovering their new arrivals each month, styling head-to-toe looks, and stocking up on chic new pieces for my wardrobe. This spring 2017 collection might just be the best one to date. I pretty much want it all. 

So what's in store? Well, it's a playful mix of on-trend gingham, ruffles, chambray, statement sleeves, and party-perfect maxi dresses with just the right balance of brights (hello, yellow!) and neutrals for the spring to summer transition. There are polished pieces for work, pretty dresses for weddings and parties, and laid back looks for off-duty days. It's everything you need to update your closet and a few things you didn't even know you need! 

July 18, 2017 - See the latest:

July 2, 2017 update - Shop the newest arrivals for summer:

who what wear collection lace top and jeans july 2017

May 28, 2017 update - See the latest:

Here's a peek at the new arrivals.

who what wear collection spring 2017

Gingham is a prominent print in everything from maxi dresses to off-the-shoulder tops and sleeveless blouses.

who what wear collection spring 2017

who what wear collection spring 2017

I took home the ruffled denim jacket, embroidered jeans, this adorable bird cage skirt, and this ruffled sleeve blouse in floral

who what wear collection spring 2017

who what wear collection spring 2017

who what wear collection spring 2017

See my original Who What Wear Collection fitting room review for info on sizing. 

Preview more of the spring collection below, and connect with me on Insta stories @thekeytochic to see how I style my new pieces. 

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