H&M is an interesting example of a company adapting to a changing market.
H&M was established in Västerås, Sweden in 1947 by Erling Persson. ‘Hennes’ means ‘hers’ in Swedish, and Mauritz was a hunting chain that Persson bought out in the 1960s. H&M collections are created by close to 200 in-house designers.
I love H&M – their clothes are cheap, mostly well-made, and do not imitate others. They have their own designers who create things which can stand alone, are abreast of – and often ahead of – trends. The quick turnover of items in their stores and the constant new stock means that you hardly ever see many people wearing the same items. Interesting, it is harder to find gorgeous H&M items from previous seasons than high-end designer items, because people normally do not archive them.
They also have regular designer collaborations with designers such as
- Stella McCartney (2005)
- Viktor & Rolf (2006)
- Roberto Cavalli (2007)
- Comme des Garcons (2008)
- Matthew Williamson (2009)
- Jimmy Choo (2009)
- Sonia Rykiel (2010)
- Lanvin (2010)
- Versace (2011)
- Marni (2012)
- Maison Martin Margiela (2013)
- Isabel Marant (2013)
- Alexander Wang (2014)
- Balmain (2015)
- Kenzo (2016)
- Erdem (2017)
- Moschino (2018)
- Giambattista Valli (2020)
- The Vampire’s Wife (2020)
- Simone Rocha (2021)
- Brock Collection (2021)
- Sabyasachi (2021).
These collaborations offer designer items for a fraction of their regular price. The quality is generally more high-end than H&M’s regular range, and the prices are not that much higher.
- opened the more upmarket COS (Collection of Style)
- bought the brilliant jean brand (now defunct), Cheap Monday
- bought Weekday
- bought Monki (for a younger market)
- opened Arket (also higher end)
- started & other stories (also more expensive but has epic resale value)
- began H&M Home which sold homewares
As the years passed, the problem with H&M became that the fashion cycles spun faster and faster, output was enormous, the shops became a bit of a jumbled mess, and quality over time became hit and miss. Good items were really good quality, but a lot of their cheaper stuff did not last being washed and worn for more than one season. I stopped shopping at H&M for a while because I found it all a bit overwhelming. I preferred to shop at & other stories, because their quality was much better and the clothes had great resale value. Meaning that I could contribute to a circular economy by selling my clothes and buying pre-loved.
H&M responded to criticism
- by offering the designer collaborations mentioned above, where items that were more of an investment and would last longer
- by starting the higher-end brands COS, Arket, & other stories.
- by starting Afound, an outlet for brans within the H&M stable, offering previous season items at a deep discount, and also selling previous season and overstock items from other brands.
- offering second-hand items for sale on the H&M website
- offering a clothing rental service in-store
- offering remake and repair services in-store
- allowing people to drop off old clothes (in any condition, even unwearable) and receive a generous voucher to use in-store.
It is very clear now that the circular economy is very much a priority.
H&M have closed many of their brick and mortar stores, but many of those that remain have become a totall different shopping experience. Everything is curated, things are easy to find, and they offer wonderful services.