Sure we love ourselves a wardrobe upgrade but why stop at that when your avatar can try out practically any outfit in the store? H&M has now launched a collection that transcends the physical space, allowing for the fluidity between the online and offline worlds. We caught up with Ella Soccorsi, Head Designer at H&M to talk about the collection, sustainability and lots more.
ELLE: High fashion meets virtual fantasy meets sustainability—is this one of H&M’s most ambitious collections yet?
Ella Soccorsi: It’s certainly a collection that many people have put a lot of work into! Our ambition was to move the needle in terms of how an H&M fashion collection can be experienced, both IRL with an exceptional collection of elevated garments spanning so many innovative processes and materials, and in the digital sphere, with astonishing virtual fashion options. We wanted to explore the future of fashion and the intersection between reality and the digital world, and I’m really proud of the looks we’ve created.
ELLE: The pieces have been designed with circularity in mind. Which has been a conscious part of H&M’s brand identity recently, Could you elaborate on how have you pushed the envelope with this collection?
ES: This collection is part of H&M’s Innovation Stories platform, which we launched in 2021 to spotlight cutting-edge innovations and more sustainable fabrics and processes. But I have to point out that sustainability is something that H&M has been investing in and exploring for over 20 years now. Today, we have a sustainability department that numbers over 200 people working solely on sustainability initiatives in the company, and it’s a top priority for the business as we look to collaborate with other companies, industry bodies and governments to make positive change. With this collection, ‘Innovation Metaverse Design Story’, innovation is everywhere: in addition to the AR filters and the “metaverse experience” on hm.com, the physical fashion collection is full of inspiring and more sustainable initiatives. In a first for H&M, several pieces feature recycled polyester fibres made entirely out of old garments and textile waste collected in partnership with our garment collection programme in H&M stores. Equally pioneering is the use of REPREVE® Our Ocean™ recycled polyester made from ocean-bound plastic bottles, which comprises a faux-fur coat and jacket. Meanwhile two dresses, a pair of leggings and a blazer-and-skirt combination feature 100% recycled sequins made from packaging waste – something that the team has been working towards for many years.
ELLE: The digital collection was a collaboration between H&M and the institute of Digital Fashion, the London-based digital atelier and thinktank—how was it working with a different creative energy which is more tech-based and how seamless was the process?
ES: It’s always exciting to collaborate with creatives in different parts of the world with different skill sets. H&M had a clear vision for this project and it was fun to workshop with the Institute of Digital Fashion, who helped us to realise some elements of our overall vision.
ELLE: Metaverse collections have been around for a while, how will the H&M experience be different and innovative for the consumers?
ES: At H&M we see technology as an incredible tool for self-expression. With this collection the virtual try-on filters, accessible via the H&M app, seamlessly bring the physical and digital worlds together, allowing for incredible exploration with garments that come to life online. Our customers will also be able to dive into an immersive “metaverse experience” on hm.com, available from December 8, which celebrates the unique digital garments co-created for this collection by H&M and the Institute of Digital Fashion.
ELLE: The design language of this collection is much more elevated and elegant than any other previous line, what was the idea and end inspiration behind it?
ES: We worked with the stylist Ib Kamara for this collection, with whom we have an ongoing relationship, and he brought a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm to the project. We really wanted to surprise our customers with a collection they could not get anywhere else, with eye-catching and tactile designs inspired by the wonders of nature as well as the spectacular possibilities of the digital world
ELLE: As a designer and a visionary, you’ve managed to tick all 3 boxes for shoppers in terms of experience. How difficult was it to do that? Could you share your insights about the same?
ES: We’re always trying to approach sustainability with a holistic mindset, so having this collection expressed in three different dimensions with ready-to-wear, digital filters and rental options was really important to us. Circularity doesn’t just translate as wearing a dress made out of 100% recycled polyester from garment waste, it’s also about sharing and renting clothes for one really special evening, or even dressing your avatar in them and posting a picture on social media. We have been working on this collection for over a year and there were certainly some challenging moments – the zero-waste dress, for instance, was a labour of love for our pattern cutter – but our goal was for it to be very inclusive and accessible to our customers all over the world, so it was worth the effort.