23/11/2011 04:55 GMT | Updated 18/01/2012 05:12 GMT

The Only Way is...Versace

And so, after weeks of carefully-created media hype, an appearance by Prince at the Manhattan catwalk show last week, and almost offensively large posters dominating London's central tube stations, Thursday and the launch of Versace for H&M finally came around.

And boy, did you have to be there. As brand ambassador Lady Gaga pumped out of a nearby stereo and wristbands and small bottles of Versace scent were issued to the loyal shoppers in the queue, the whole event seemed as perfectly coiffed as Donatella's platinum (ahem, flaxen) hair. The tiny maestro herself made an appearance at around 8.30am (on a pink carpet no less), and suddenly it felt like we were back in the heyday of 90s Versace, where all things opulent, eye-poppingly bright and shamelessly bling were the last word in cool.

But was it all hype? Could this collection, with its futuristic aesthetic, and prints and studded luxury, rediscover a market amongst the attitude for grunge, so popular in 2011? As I made my way across to Regent's Street on Thursday morning, I remained unconvinced.

I was in for a surprise. The characters outside the flagship Regent's Street store on Thursday morning were young, predominantly fledgling fashion and design students, and also surprisingly male-dominated. Paddy, 22, a fashion student from Kingston, said: "It was the boys who were most keen inside; running up the escalators to get their hands on that palm-tree shirt." Rhea, 23, from the London College of Fashion, was one of the lucky five that got to meet Donatella herself: "I got to say hi to her. It was such an awesome experience." As the first delirious shoppers left the store just after 9am, bright-eyed and Versace-clad, it seemed that the buzzword was "experience". No one was immune to the power of a leather studded dress and bling was firmly back in business. "It's even better than I imagined," I overheard one girl say to another, breathlessly.

However, also surprisingly, it seemed that the big shoppers were to be found over on Oxford Street. Sean, 24, from the London College of Fashion, racked up an impressive bill for £430, explaining himself by saying "I just love fashion. I run everywhere for collaborations. And I mean, you have to obey Versace." Sean, I have to hand it to you: it would seem that this is so.

So, as the day drew to a close, and the crowds kept coming, the website kept crashing, and the event kept trending on Twitter, I decided to look properly at the Medusa-inspired collection. It is excess, pure extravagant excess, dripping with lashings of gold and studs. But it's also iconic, and in the words of Donatella herself, the very "essence of Versace". This has been a clever move by the flagging design house of Versace, as while the price of a catwalk-inspired dress may be a mere £179.99, we all know that the real price of a high-street collaboration is surely priceless.