A press invite this week to the opening of the new H&M store on the 25th November, at St David’s Shopping Centre, started me thinking about why I’ve always been a fan of the Swedish retailer, and what I hope it will continue to offer the high street shopper. The new store will be the largest in the UK, which is a bit of a coup for Cardiff. With 250 stores in the UK, the retailer has had a presence in Britain since 1976.
Known worldwide for being experts at providing fast fashion at affordable prices, I’ve always felt that the retailer pushes the boundaries more than some retailers in the same price bracket. Yes, some of the clothes are only suitable for short-term wear, and they offer a whole host of really simple basics, like t-shirts, tube skirts etc. But what I really love about H&M is that they try to offer something more fashion forward and innovative, especially with their unique collections and their very famous collaborations, seen over the past decade.
From Viktor & Rolf to Versace, Comme des Garçons to Maison Martin Margiela the brand has worked with some of the most recognised and respected design houses and groups in the business. And then there are the collaborations with global style icons such as Madonna, Kylie and David Beckham, as well as the campaigns for good causes including Fashion Against Aids, the Knotted Gun Not Violence Collection and this year’s H&M Conscious Foundation support for UNICEF. The sheer ambition and relentless search for new and interesting opportunities, of the brand, is impressive.
And then of course, there’s the clothes. They still seem to offer items that are on trend and ‘of the moment’, but in a typically H&M way. I love River Island and Topshop and other high street retailers and also continue to seek out new and emerging designers and independents, but no-one seems to match or mimic the breadth of what this Swedish staple continues to offer season after season.
There have of course been questions about the ethics and production techniques of the brand over the years, as with so many high street/high volume suppliers, and it seems H&M have attempted to improve the working conditions and global impact of their supply chain. They reportedly have a team of 80 people who audit working conditions at their supplier factories against their Code of Conduct, and have been instrumental in the production of sustainable and renewable materials, especially cotton. Their ambitions for accountability and responsibility are perhaps then as significant as their ambitions for the brand overall?
What do you think about this much loved high street retailer and what do you hope the new Cardiff store will offer?