H&M, that famed ASOS of America, has a knack for reimaging runway couture for the high street. Ever since Karl Lagerfeld took the initial plunge back in 2004, designer brands have sought out this popular retailer to collaborate on collections aimed at introducing teenagers and 20-somethings to accessible items wrought by high-end labels. It was a noble undertaking, one that has produced some of the most relevant work in popular fashion during the 21st century. Of course, not every collaboration was precise and brilliant, but when you’ve been through 15 partnerships in 16 years, it’s inevitable that a few of them won’t quite measure up. Still, H&M has managed to be impressively consistent with their projects including outside designers. Even more important, these various collections helped create Noughties fashion as we know it today and are shaping mainstream style trends in the 2010s. They’re H&M’s personal guide to contemporary fashion, so watch and learn.
COMME DES GARÇONS
The dark blazers and polka dot designs from Rei Kawakubo’s partnership with H&M didn’t feel like a singular moment in fashion. You could sense a journey, like this was just one stop on Comme des Garçon’s continued evolution as a collaborative label. A timeless collection of designer clothing for only $30? Yes, please!
When designer Alber Elbaz bared his soul to the H&M design team, he didn’t realize just how instrumental his personal story would be to the collection. Drawing from his extensive collections and individual taste in design, this H&M line perfectly captured the essence of Elbaz for a public who barely knew the man.
Obviously, Donatella was coaching the models chosen to pose in Versace’s signature Greek-inspired clothes during the brand’s partnership with H&M in 2011. The idea was so effective Versace became the first label to nab a sophomore collection. On both release dates, the H&M website crashed, and Prince played the collaborator’s second launch party. Talk about star power.
You’ve seen how current trends like polka dots, ruffles, and exotic adornments became staple elements of Noughties fashion. In a surprise twist, the partnership between Alexander Wang and H&M swerved away from traditional runway fare and instead introduced the world to an early example of athleisure. The sporty collection featured grayscale leggings, embossed hoodies, and unique workout goggles. It was such a fashion-forward line people still wear their favorite pieces to the gym today.
Apart from Chanel of his own accord, Lagerfeld brought his famous eccentric touch to H&M stores everywhere back in 2004. Though many other collaborators have followed since this early partnership, H&M has still seen the same turnout for a high-end clothing line. Legend has it this collection sold 2,000 pieces an hour at the Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan and was sold out globally within a day.
Good unstudied clothes are hard to find on the runway, much less in stores at a reasonable price. That’s what made their partnership with H&M one of the more impressive collaborations for the retailer. Suddenly, you could purchase rope decoration and other French couture designs rather than just ogling them on the catwalk.
Oliver Rousteing nailed millennial fashion in his 2015 collection in collaboration with H&M. Rather than simply bringing his couture aesthetics to the table, Rousteing remade actual runway looks so a younger generation could wear true Balmain at a lower price. He also managed to get Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, and the Backstreet Boys to attend the H&M fashion show. It’s hard to celebrate the 21st century with more gusto than that.
H&M may not have done much before the year 2000, but they certainly have the influence and reputation to impact fashion in a big way over a short period of time. Just look at that list of designers. Clearly, you can trust them the same way you depend on ASOS when it comes to trendy affordable couture.
— Scarlett Price