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Thousands celebrate H&M’s South Beach debut

H&M on Thursday arrived on South Beach (finally!) in style — with more than a thousand fashionistas waiting in a line wrapped around the block, dancing to DJ Irie spinning that Miami mix of pop and Latin music.

Energetic employees doubled as cheerleaders to pump up the crowd that had come for the affordable fashion that has made H&M an international sensation.

People started lining up Wednesday night when a star-studded red carpet welcomed celebrities like Flo Rida, Matthew Morrison of Glee and Chase Crawford of Gossip Girl for a private event. Bianca Deralus, 21, was the first person in line, hoping to snag one of the gift cards promised to the first 500 people. She scored a “Fashion Access Pass” for the store, worth $200.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this and I’m so glad it’s here,” she said, referring not just to the night camping out at the door, but also to Miami’s long H&M drought. “I love fashion and H&M has great stuff.”

H&M president Daniel Kulle said the company was waiting to “come to Miami through the front door,” and the historic building on the corner of Lincoln Road and Pennsylvania Avenue was the perfect place to make a splash. The store occupies the building that used to be the Lincoln Theatre, and careful attention was paid to the restoration of the structure and the preservation of its history. On Wednesday night, Flo Rida took the stage that once belonged to the New World Symphony.

H&M’s approach to fashion is all about “challenging the borders and doing the unexpected,” Kulle said, which fits in perfectly with the diverse, funky style of South Beach.

Miami Beach Vice Mayor Michael Gongora said these energy and high traffic attractions are just the kind of businesses the city wants to attract. He said the “synergy between nightlife and fashion” helped the area’s renaissance in the 1990s, and the H&M store represents “another brick in the establishment of Miami Beach.”

Thursday afternoon, customers danced around racks of clothes, shelves of shoes and boxes of accessories, turning over price tags that promised to make high fashion affordable for all. Women can find dresses from $24.95, blouses for $14.95 and pants for $12.95. The men’s side of the store features dress shirts starting at $14.95, trousers from $19.95 and jackets for $34.95.