H&M SIBLING BRAND & OTHER STORIES MAKES ITS ANTICIPATED U.S. DEBUT. BY LISA MISCHIANTI
In a former 19th-century brewery on Stockholm’s island of Kungsholmen, the walls are covered in mood-board clippings. Colorful paint-dipped swatches and shopping bags pervade the premises. Piles of tracing paper etched with hand-written cursive logos sit beneath stacks of short-fiction collections—from Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost to J.D. Salinger’s For Esmé—With Love and Squalor—works that have a multiplicity of tales to tell. The same idea is at the core of H&M sibling label & Other Stories, and I’m here at its atelier to understand the creative narratives behind this brand that America will soon be obsessing over.
Since its launch in spring ’13, & Other Stories has been strictly available in Europe, first setting up shop in London, and then expanding to Antwerp, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Milan, Paris, and its parent company’s hometown of Stockholm. Even the line’s retail website only served the overseas market. Like Topshop and H&M before it, the wallet-friendly Euro-brand quickly developed a following among the Stateside style set, establishing the store as a shopping destination abroad. But now, making an & Other Stories purchase no longer requires a transatlantic flight, as this October the label opens its inaugural U.S. location in New York City’s SoHo district and debuts an accompanying American e-commerce site.
Originally conceived as a beauty line that eventually blossomed into a complete-look concept, the label is founded on the belief that today’s fashion lover is less interested in trends than she is in crafting a unique sartorial trademark that tells her personal story. “Our brand embraces women who wear what they want, and everything we do links back to that,” explains head of & Other Stories Samuel Fernström. So, the objective is to avoid a limiting “defining aesthetic” and instead present a highly varied array of great ready-to-wear pieces, shoes, bags, accessories, and beauty products for shoppers to interpret. “Diversity sits at the heart of everything we do,” adds creative director Sara Hildén Bengtsson. “We provide a platform for women to build their own look.” There is certainly a spectrum of visions at play, from street-savvy edge to refined polish and masculine tailoring to modern femininity, but it’s all united by a shared sense of substance. This clothing has the trappings of investment pieces, without the exorbitant price point (albeit a slightly more costly buy than H&M).
For fall, expect four separate fashion “stories,” each reflecting a different city. The Stockholm offerings feature an emphasis on draping, folding, and pleating, with plentiful winter pastels. The Paris tale is informed by a quirky interpretation of African sapeur style. A selection of illusionary pieces references New York. Dramatic graphic items evoke dark imagery for Berlin. The collection’s outerwear game is particularly strong (think, for instance, a muted mauve cape-coat hybrid). Rounding it all out is a comprehensive range of cosmetics, a bath and body selection offering enchanting scents like Fig Fiction and Moroccan Tea, and a Cotton Care line of products enriched with cottonseed protein and oil.
Be prepared for an intimate, boutique-y retail experience when shopping at & Other Stories. The Stockholm store has a clean and spare quality to it, with tile and concrete flooring, white cast-iron clothing racks, and scattered small cactus plants. Though, like its clothes, the label’s locations also vary widely from city to city and adapt to their neighborhoods. The one common thread is inclusiveness. “We want to bring the customers into our world, to inspire their confidence and creativity. We want it to feel like they’re coming home to us,” says Fernström. Case in point: situated above the merchandise are little look-book inspiration cards, not unlike what a stylist might find in a showroom. “We get a lot of comments like, ‘The store looks exactly like the atelier!’” he continues with a knowing smile.
It’s a lot to anticipate, but American shoppers aren’t the only ones excited. “We’re really looking forward to seeing what New Yorkers are going to do with & Other Stories,” says Hildén Bengtsson. Although it’s safe to say you should be seriously amped. “I think women in the U.S. have a strong sense of confidence when dressing,” says Fernström. “So & Other Stories, with its millions of opportunities, might just be paradise.”