NEW YORK — H&M doesn’t like to miss out on any of the city’s key retail projects.
Less than two weeks after unveiling a 25,000-square-foot store at Westfield World Trade Center, Daniel Kulle, H&M president of North America, who recently assumed responsibility over Colombia, a new market, was discussing the 2018 opening at Hudson Yards of the retailer’s two-level, 34,000-square-foot flagship.
“It’s going to take two years to open the flagship,” Kulle said. “We are starting the design of it and doing the build-out and development. It’s going to be a flagship with large LED screens, multiple mannequins, natural stone and mirror-polished stainless steel. There will be other exclusive materials. It will be the newest thinking from Sweden.”
Explaining the 2018 opening date, Kulle said the project “is fairly complex. You need a long lead time to get everything right for the flagship.”
The H&M executive said he finds the Hudson Yards project “astonishing. The whole thing is mind-blowing. We’ve been talking to [Related, Hudson Yard’s developer] for a whole year. In the fall, we got everything finalized.”
The Hudson Yards flagship will offer collections for men and women as well as a separate store within the store for accessories; apparel for newborns to 10-year-olds will also be sold at the location.
With the opening of the Hudson Yards location, H&M’s employee count in the U.S. is expected to swell to 16,000.
H&M will be located in the mall — where more than 100 shops will open including Neiman Marcus, along with restaurants by chefs Thomas Keller, José Andrés and Costas Spiliadis.
H&M operates 12 stores in Manhattan. The Hudson Yards flagship will hardly be the largest in the city. That honor goes to a six-story, 63,000-square-foot location at Herald Center.
Kulle said Hudson Yards is “a great pocket that hadn’t been available before. We can add one [store] without interfering with existing units. Other pockets we’ve seen on the West Side were a possibility and then this space came up.
“I can never exclude locations,” said Kulle. “There are still some areas where you could have a store. H&M has different formats. We’re finding ways of doing more smaller, more local stores.”
Further expansion depends on opportunities in Manhattan presenting themselves.
Kulle said H&M Man stores could be launched in the U.S. The concept exists in other parts of the world. “We could have a separate H&M Man store somewhere in the right market,” Kulle said. “The H&M family store is a smaller format. Around the country we’re aiming for 25,000 square feet. We can make it tighter, and include just the most important core concepts, ladies, men’s and kids. When you do a flagship, there’s the full variety and you add babies, sportswear, maternity and cosmetics.”
Even a fast-fashion giant has to push harder and faster. H&M is trying to be more nimble with stores, and more reactive with product, so that it can quickly create lines for special events. The brand’s first Black Friday Collection bowed on Nov. 25, offering fashion for the holiday season such as bomber jackets with printed motifs, black faux-leather pants, velour track suits, cutout and lace-detailed tops and cozy knits.
The retailer on Thursday is launching at select Miami stores and online with the H&M x Alex Katz Fashion Loves Art collection, in celebration of Art Basel Miami. The limited-edition line features some of the artist’s most iconic works — highly-stylized portraits of muses from the art and fashion worlds — on sweatshirts, maxidresses and T-shirts. There are also products for men, accessories and home items.
Kulle said opening stores for the Cheap Monday jeanswear brand is a possibility. While department stores work well for distributing the line, “if we had the right opportunity to open a smaller concept flagship for that brand it would be a possibility,” he said. “A small flagship for Cheap Monday would be a brand store.”