NEW YORK — H&M is expanding in all different directions.
At Tuesday’s unveiling of its first Conscious Exclusive collection pop-up shop at the Times Square flagship, Daniel Kulle, president of H&M North America, revealed the Swedish retailer is planning to accelerate the U.S. growth of its denim-driven Cheap Monday brand, including possibly opening flagships.
“Cheap Monday is a very big wholesale business in the U.S.,” Kulle said. “We’re going to take over the wholesale operation ourselves from a third party. There could potentially be flagships for Cheap Monday.”
Cheap Monday, which opened a New York showroom in January, entered the wearable fashion realm earlier this year with a line of micro synthesizers, called Pocket Operators, in collaboration with Stockholm-based Teenage Engineering. Håkan Strom, chief operating officer of Cheap Monday, has said the company’s “visibility program” for the brand includes corners in department stores or shops-in-shop. “We see a great potential in the world’s most important economy,” Strom said.
H&M will also open more stores for sister brand & Other Stories, which launched its first U.S. unit in SoHo in Manhattan in October. “It’s going to be a strong expansion year for H&M in 2015,” Kulle said, adding that “& Other Stories has been well received and will be expanding.” Kulle didn’t elaborate about & Other Stories, but said H&M this year will open 36 to 54 new stores in the U.S.
To fill the 63,000-square-foot Herald Square flagship that opens next month — it will be the retailer’s biggest unit worldwide — H&M is expanding footwear with the largest shoe department of any U.S. store. The 450-square-foot men’s shoe department and 2,000-square-foot women’s area will have their own stockrooms, lounge cushions and newly designed interiors.
On deck for fall is an in-house H&M beauty concept to replace the selection it currently sells, featuring color cosmetics, bath and body products, soaps and shampoos that will bow in stores and online.
Kulle confirmed that H&M will launch a designer collaboration in November, but wouldn’t divulge any names. “We want to take different angles,” he said. “We have a very surprising designer collaboration.” The retailer’s last designer hook-up was with Alexander Wang in 2014.
On Wednesday, Hennes & Mauritz AB said total sales in local currencies rose 10 percent in March, a slowdown from previous months.
Sales had risen 15 percent in February and 14 percent in January. Total sales include value-added taxes.
H&M noted its store count came to 3,580 as of March 31 versus 3,216 on the same date in 2014.
At the pop-up launch, Catarina Midby, the retailer’s sustainable fashion adviser, said the Conscious Exclusive offering has grown to 26 items from eight at its inception in 2012. “The point of the collection is to make the highest fashion we can think of,” Midby said, “to show that sustainable fashion can be fashionable. It used to be tree huggers with browns and beiges. We don’t have to compromise.”
Tuesday’s event was in partnership with Olivia Wilde and Barbara Burchfield of the Conscious Commerce Web site. Burchfield chose a dozen sustainable brands including Feed, Amour Vert, ClimateStore, The Giving Keys and Zady, which are sold inside the natural wood pop-up and complement the Conscious Exclusive fashion range. The pop-up will close at 1 a.m. on Sunday.
“We’re proud to be one of the partners in the pop-up shop,” said Lauren Bush Lauren. “In terms of Feed, we’re launching next week a diaper bag collaboration with Honest Co. and we’re anniversary-ing our beet supper initiative. Those are our two highlights of the year.”
As if to underscore the significance of the pop-up, Karl-Johan Persson, managing director of Hennes & Mauritz AB, made a visit to the Times Square flagship’s third floor. “The whole Conscious Exclusive collection with the collaborations is very nicely done,” Persson said. “It’s very exciting.”
Kulle noted the Conscious Exclusive collection will be in 40 U.S. stores out of 200 stores worldwide. “We’re seeing this resonate with the American people,” he said. “They like it.”
Midby said the sustainable collection takes twice as long to source as regular garments. “We only do it once a year,” she said. “We could expand it to two collections. Maybe next year. Most of the fabrics have been innovated by us and our suppliers. We feel we contribute to the entire fashion industry’s sustainability because anyone can use them.”
Wilde, who is H&M’s ambassador for the Conscious Exclusive collection, said, “I knew high fashion was a priority for them. The price points — they’re so fair.” She features in an ad and marketing campaign for the collection.
The line, which includes a sleeveless cocktail dress made of organic hemp and organic silk and a minimalist organic leather jacket, ranges in price from $17.95 to $349. An organic linen and silk sleeveless gown with hand-drawn images of birds and feather patterns worn by Wilde in the ad campaign is $299.
“A celebrity like Olivia Wilde can elevate [the collection] for us,” Kulle said.