Today, H&M drops a collection that’s unlike any the Swedish clothing company has released before. Full of statement-making elements, the new drop, which comes under the Innovation Stories initiative, spotlights the ever-merging worlds of our online and offline lives, blending the great craftsmanship that comes with high fashion, with the fantasy of virtual wardrobes.
How does that work? Combining inspiration from the Metaverse with the tactile beauty of the physical world we live in, H&M has created a ready-to-wear collection that seems to transcends across dimensions—three, to be exact. The first, a series of bold womenswear and menswear looks, complemented with accessories that focus on circularity and sustainability; the second, a special selection of creations that will be available to customers as part of a rental programme in select H&M outlets; and the third, a digital collection that has been co-designed and crafted by H&M and the Institute of Digital Fashion, the London-based digital atelier and thinktank.
Along with the unique thought process behind the big launch, what makes H&M’s latest fashion baby so enticing is its statement-making aesthetic. Think unconventional silhouettes, lots of intricate embroidery, and eye-catching hues that demand everyone’s attention. Among the key pieces are a neon yellow corset-detailed dress from the womenswear section, and an oversized black beaded bomber for men. Futuristic jewelry pieces take the line to the next level with their molten metal finishing.
With each passing year, H&M has strengthened its focus on environmentally-friendly processes, and the new collection falls in line with this mission. A handful of pieces from the new metaverse-inspired collection feature recycled polyester fibres from old garments, and textile waste collected in partnership with H&M’s garment-collection programme in stores. After years of hard work, 100% recycled sequins also make an appearance in the latest drop—keep an eye out for them on sparkling dresses, leggings and a blazer + skirt combo.
Coming to the digital collection, H&M is offering up five augmented reality filters to its family of consumers, all of which can be found via the H&M app. Designed in partnership with the Institute of Digital Fashion, the AR fashion lenses powered by Snapchat enable users to virtually try looks on. What could be better than that?
“The increasingly virtual dimension of fashion creates exciting future opportunities for H&M, allowing us to create vibrant, bold and daring virtual counterparts to our physical collections,” shares Ann-Sofie Johansson, creative advisor at H&M. “In addition to the endless creative possibilities, it also allows us to propose a more sustainable and inclusive fashion vision that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere in the world.”
Below, Vogue Arabia chats with Johansson about the Innovation Metaverse Design Story line-up.
Congratulations on H&M’s latest collection— it looks incredible. How did the idea of putting together this line come about?
Thank you! It feels great to finally present this collection as we’ve been working on it for a long time. The initial conversations with the design team were focussed on the future of fashion and the increasingly virtual elements of the industry which will allow all of us to express ourselves in unique ways. We were also talking about circularity, which is a big priority for H&M – we have a company goal of net-zero by 2040, and circularity is a big part of that. We wanted to create a collection that approached circularity in a holistic way, with incredible material innovations and processes spotlighted in an eye-catching physical collection that felt really elevated and exciting, as well as a virtual extension that could propose more inclusive and more sustainable ways of enjoying fashion, and then also including some items for rental, which is another example of the circular economy.
Even a quick glimpse through the new collection tells us that this series of creations blurs the lines between the present and the future. How did you go about selection of colors and techniques for H&M’s latest offering?
We wanted to create a collection that was visually impactful both online and in real life. And what was funny was, once we started talking about the digital world, the metaverse, and what our avatars would be wearing in the future, we also began to think about the beauty of the physical world, zooming out to look at the earth from space, and zooming in to see how incredible microorganisms can be. We wanted the physical garments to be tactile and rich, to echo that fascination with the natural world. And of course worked in lots of cutting-edge innovations, including 100% recycled-content sequins, which is something we’ve been working towards for a very long time; 100% recycled polyester made entirely out of old garments and textile waste; and considering trimmings and using monofibres so that garments can be recycled more easily once they reach the end of their life.
This time around, H&M’s clothing can be bought, rented, or even experienced digitally. What, according to you, makes each section so special?
Well, I should point out that, although this collection is the first to unite these three particular elements in one project, we’ve been experimenting with them in other collections for a while now. We launched the rental programme in our Stockholm flagship store in 2019 and pieces from our Conscious Exclusive and H&M Studio collections are available to rent in four stores. Digital fashion is another element we have explored with projects including a catwalk show in the Animal Crossing game and releasing a Divided collection of entirely virtual pieces in collaboration with DressX. With this collection, I think the stand-out for me is that, in addition to all the incredible innovation at play, so much thought has gone into the construction of the garments, from hand-worked embellishments to beautiful boning. These are not just “wow” pieces, they’re also beautifully constructed and amazing quality. I think accessibility is something that H&M has always excelled in: if you don’t want to buy something, you can rent it for one special night, or you can try it on virtually and upload a picture to social media. We really feel it offers something for everyone.
From using recycled fabrics to allowing people to rent pieces, H&M seems to be focusing more and more on sustainable practices. Can you tell us a little bit more about these decisions? What more can we see from H&M in the coming years?
Sustainability is obviously a huge focus for H&M but I have to say that this is not something new: we’ve been working with a sustainability strategy for over 25 years. We now have over 200 people globally who are working solely in sustainability roles across the business. And it’s something that is baked into the company at every level. By 2025, for example, we are aiming for all of our designers to be using the Circulator tool, which is something we used in this particular Innovation Stories collection, and which helps designers to make more circular decisions when they are designing a collection. We have set ourselves tough targets, including using 30% recycled materials in our products across the H&M Group by 2025 and achieving net-zero by 2040 (there is lots more information about this and all our other goals on our website). Of course, we know we need to do more, but we believe the key to positive change is collaboration – with government bodies, other businesses and other stakeholders. As a global company, we have a unique opportunity to make a difference and we are determined not to waste it.
What inspired you to come up with special AR filters? What do you hope to achieve with them? What was the design process like here?
Coming back to the theme of the metaverse, we loved the idea of the boundaries of fashion being expanded, and the excitement that comes with being able to try on garments that you couldn’t wear in real life – for example, a dress made out of glass. We wanted to create a unique experience for our customers in a digital sphere, and we felt like AR filters were a fun way to do that. We workshopped ideas with the Institute of Digital Fashion in London and they helped to realize certain elements of our creative vision. It was an exciting process.