NEW YORK — H&M’s new format, “& Other Stories,” is starting a new chapter.
This story first appeared in the October 9, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The chain on Oct. 17 will open its first store in the U.S., in SoHo, as well as a U.S. e-commerce site.
The 6,400-square-foot store is at 575 Broadway. It has two entrances: on Broadway, which attracts a mixed audience, including tourists, and on Mercer Street, which is filled with designer and luxury brands.
“Be the first to know all about our U.S. opening and get 20 percent off your first order,” said a notice on Wednesday on the brand’s Web site, which featured a photo shoot of Iris Apfel, the nonagenarian fashion trendsetter. The company said Apfel represents & Other Stories’ target audience, which is broad and inclusive, as well as an exclusive, insider fashion crowd. “We want to be a really empowering environment for women of all ages,” said Helena Carlberg, head of social media.
The brand is built around a cross-merchandising concept that brings together items across categories in vignettes throughout the store. Customers can see a display that features Cordovan nail polish, wine-colored suede shoes and a burgundy-and-black clutch; on the table, a photo shows a model wearing a black sweater and holding the clutch in one hand with Cordovan-painted nails.
The store is “all about personal styling,” said Sara Hildén Bengtsson, the Stockholm-based creative director of the brand. “We create with a strong woman in mind. That’s a very fundamental idea. To make your own personal styling, you need different directions and universes. We created four.”
There’s an industrial, raw and comfortable collection, which has shirts with raw edges and a plaid silk dress; another collection features sophisticated dresses; the third collection is more minimalist and androgynous, and the last collection has bohemian and vintage influences. An elaborate sweater with different stitches and colors is $130. The collections range in price from $9 for a nail polish to $300 for outerwear.
While & Other Stories employs the latest technology for its Web site, the brand likes to tout its handcrafted approach. “As things get more technical and digital in the world — and we want to use that — we still think it’s important to show something handmade,” said Carlberg. At the Stockholm headquarters, where chemists for the beauty collection work alongside furniture designers, the place sometimes looks as if it were a design school, with people dip-dyeing paper in different vats of color to come up with the exact shade for the embellishment on the store’s white paper bags.
Nor does & Other Stories do traditional advertising and marketing campaigns or fashion shows. Samuel Fernström, head of & Other Stories, said, “We try to bring creativity by bringing in interesting people. We try to do it not from a supercommercial angle.” For example there’s & Other Stories’ collaboration with Lykke Li, a Swedish pop singer who is friendly with two designers at the retailer’s Paris atelier. Li asked them for a shoe in which she could dance and not fall off the stage, and a black patent-leather platform boot was born. From there, the collaboration expanded into apparel and jewelry.
The company has full creative autonomy, while H&M provides support “only from a technical perspective, such as logistics and travel,” Carlberg said. “Everything that reaches the customers is all us.”