H&M features at Oscars

While the Oscars red carpet was generally a success on Sunday night, there was a notable and disappointing absence of younger and more independent designer labels, like Zac Posen, Proenza Schouler and Joseph Altuzarra. It’s a challenge for smaller fish to compete in a pond that is dominated by big labels like Valentino, Dior and Armani.

There was one surprise addition this year. When Helen Hunt identified the designer of her navy silk satin strapless dress as H&M, many people thought she was joking. But it really was one of those rare moments when a mass brand winds up on Hollywood’s biggest stage, the last memorable occasion being Sharon Stone wearing Gap in 1996. There’s a big difference, however. Ms. Stone said at the time she just pulled her look out of her closet, but this year, H&M actively sought opportunities for placement at the Oscars.

“It was a good surprise, I hope,” said Ann-Sofie Johansson, H&M’s head of design, in a phone interview from Stockholm this morning. “This is a way for us to show we can do so many more things than what we have in our stores.”

In fact, H&M plans to introduce a “red carpet” collection in some stores, beginning April 4. You won’t find the exact dress Ms. Hunt wore, but Ms. Johansson estimated such a look would cost about $650, had Ms. Hunt bought it off the rack.