H&M was founded back in Sweden in 1947 and has meticulously taken on the fashion world in subtle ways; in a sense, it exists under the radar of serious fashionistas yet competes in ways in which its presence is undeniable. For one, H&M has some of the largest concept stores ever, dwarfing the square footage of your average Abercrombie and Fitch store of that of many specialty high-end retailers that attempt to cram the most expensive kitsch clothing into the smallest space possible. H&M has also persevered, through slow and steady growth whereas many other concept stores have come and gone, with the exception of the many Limited Brand releases. They’re also one of the few foreign stores to have a serious presence all over the world, as opposed to just Europe, Asia or the U.S.
What’s also interesting is how forthcoming H&M is about marketing their tactics to consumers. This is the first concept store that has been upfront about how many buyers and designers they have working on them. They also have a new line of stores for the ready-to-wear enthusiast under the COS label, which they’re selling as “offering more upscale clothing” to compete with other concept stores that are moving in that direction to compete directly against established fashion designers. The few stores that offered their collection designed by Karl Lagerfeld were a success, followed by other offerings from Stella McCartney and Viktor and Rolf. If you’re in Great Britain, Belgium, Netherlands or Germany, their COS collection offers some really serious looks that you wouldn’t normally associate with a concept store, high-end or not.
What is also refreshing is the transparency with which H&M is able to market clothing to potential consumers. H&M has found a creative way to stay away from the politics and marketing hubris of traditional concept stores and simply delivers the goods by offering the whole spectrum of what the fashion world has to offer at the time, to regular consumers, as well as to fashion enthusiasts.
- Chris Kendalls