Browse all

What's next for H&M?

After the shutdown of the stores, the brand restarts from the collaborations with Highsnobiety and Giuliva Heritage

What's next for H&M? After the shutdown of the stores, the brand restarts from the collaborations with Highsnobiety and Giuliva Heritage

Within the fast fashion landscape, H&M is the brand that has suffered more than anyone else from the consequences of the health emergency, because of a pre-existing difficult situation. The condition in which H&M found itself had become the symbol of the general crisis in which the whole fast fashion system finds itself, now demonized by a new generation of consumers devoted to environmental sustainability and focused on the durability of the garments. Alongside a decline in the quality, both from a design point of view and the materials used, H&M added to its economic difficulties also the closure of stores during the lockdown months, about 80% of the entire network of the brand, prompting it to announce the closure of 7 stores in Italy, not without workers' protests

Besides focusing on e-commerce, H&M is now trying to relaunch by moving away from its old aesthetic and reputation. First, with the collection designed along with the Italian brand, Giuliva Heritage, which will be released in September, well-known for the quality of its Made in Italy pieces and for imagery that recalls the classic tailoring tradition. Also in September, a collection of basics designed together with Highsnobiety will be released, an operation targeted to the streetwear public who is always looking for quality basics, a collaboration that is part of a multifaceted project focused on the future. 

The numbers

From March to May of this year, the Swedish fast-fashion giant suffered a loss of 477 million euros. Quarterly sales, in the period that ended on May 31, recorded a -50% decline, equal to -28.6 billion euros, while sales from June 1 to 13 decreased by 30% compared to the same period of 2019. 

Similarly to what went down with COS, the health emergency has strongly weakened an old business model based on territorial extension, through a large number of stores scattered in a great number of countries. With the lockdown and the shutdown of the stores, those same stores have proved to be an unnecessary burden to get rid of, instead favouring a cheaper and more convenient digital shopping model. It is therefore fair to assume that the cuts to H&M's physical stores will also continue outside Italy, in a broader attempt to redefine its own sales model in its entirety.

The aesthetics 

After the constant accusations of greenwashing, in recent years H&M has tried to rebuild its image through conscious capsules collections and eco-friendly products, made with recycled materials, or through a rental clothing service aimed at reducing waste. 

From a more aspirational point of view, on the other hand, H&M tries to go beyond its limits, widening the spectrum of its collaborations, not limiting itself to the usual capsule collection created with high-end designers and usually released in November, but with smaller, reasoned and targeted capsules. In recent months, for example, the collection created with Justine Skye was released, while the collection designed by the Lebanese creative Sandra Mansour, previously postponed due to the situation in Lebanon, is coming out these days. 
The attempt to get out of a ford made up of low-quality basics and cheap design is clear, but although the one with Giuliva can potentially be a collaboration of a certain importance, it totally loses sense if you look at the rest of H&M catalogue, starting with accessories and garments clearly inspired - if not even ripped off - by far more famous brands, first of all, Bottega Veneta. There is a certain schizophrenia in the choices of H&M, which tries to embrace and satisfy different markets, with different tastes and needs, but with the ultimate goal of gaining a certain dignity outside of its own market. 

The reputation

Beyond the health emergency, H&M finds itself in a new reality, where its values are very distant from the ones of the Gen Z. It is precise to them that the Swedish giant turns on Instagram and on social media in general, through pastel-coloured shots, putting different body types and races in the forefront, becoming an advocate for social issues such as body positivity, female empowerment and rights of the LGBT community. The intention is to create a platform, a real inclusive and open community - even if most of the comments under each post are complaints from customers who have not received their order yet. 

View this post on Instagram

Ready, set, swirl! @by_eva_ #HMxME #HM #regram

A post shared by H&M (@hm) on

In terms of aesthetics of the product, however, H&M is certainly defeated by Zara, which is able to intercept better and faster the sudden changes in tastes and trends of its fan base, drawing inspiration from the creations of big fashion labels in a more clever and veiled way. On a corporate level, the H&M group is suffering from the COS crisis, crushed by the success of brands such as Uniqlo. On the contrary, many hopes are placed in Arket, another brand belonging to the group, which promises to redefine the concept of fast fashion with innovative pieces made with quality materials. 

Finally, it seems that in order to survive the health emergency H&M will need to rebuild its identity, both from a business and product point of view, adapting them to this new, uncertain reality.