H&M & Other Stories: A new chapter for the British high street

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Here comes the latest launch from Swedish giants H&M. Expect everything from skincare to skimpies

For the next big thing on the British high street, the & Other Stories headquarters in Stockholm are surprisingly low-key. Located on a quiet, snowy street in a residential part of the city and permeated with the smell of something delicious cooking for lunch (the team in the atelier all eat together every day), it's a far cry from the vision of ultra-hip Swedish cool we have come to expect from the brands this region keeps sending to invade our shores.

It feels deceptively homely, despite all the fierce-looking, articulated platform shoes, armour-plated bags and sharp silhouttes nestling in the workroom. But then its owner is well-versed in putting us at our ease when it comes to being fashion-forward.

& Other Stories, which launched last week simultaneously in London, Berlin and Copenhagen (how's that for cool company?) and online, is a new concept from the megabrand H&M, which last month dressed Best Supporting Actress nominee Helen Hunt on the Oscars red carpet and presented a collection in the French capital to coincide with the international collections. Which, all in the past few years, has given us COS, Monki and sell-out collaborations with Versace, Marni and Maison Martin Margiela.

It's just another fashionable coup for a company that, seemingly, can do no wrong.

“& Other Stories is about bringing everything a woman can wear into one place,” explains creative director Samuel Fernstrom. “About focusing on the whole look. We believe shoes, bags, accessories, jewellery, lingerie and beauty are key for styling, and just as important as clothing.”

The label began life simply as a beauty brand, practically the only industry pie H&M doesn't yet have a finger in, with international make-up artist Lisa Butler, who has worked alongside Inez and Vinoodh, as well as labels such as Prada and Hemut Lang – as a consulting colour director. In charge of the fragrances is Ben Gorham, the nose at cult Swedish perfumiers Byredo. The beauty range includes skincare and sweet-smelling body lotions, as well as a Pantone-breadth of shades, such as pistachio and midnight blue nail varnish; coral and rose blushes engraved with a quote from Romeo and Juliet, and cobalt metallic eyeshadow. Everything is packaged in clinical white with black lettering, unutterably cool and “something we'd like to have on our shelves,” according to the similarly cool beauty collection manager Frida Fagerholm.

But from the focus on beauty, the label blossomed into an innovative and idiosyncratic lifestyle concept that those working on it are only too excited to unveil. “We felt women shop differently today compared to how they used to,” says Behnaz Aram, head of design, who works out of the Stockholm atelier (some of the team are based in Paris). “They mix and match, and buy high and low. They don't want to pay too much for a hairclip, but they're okay with paying more for things that will stay in their wardrobe. We felt that customers want to be creative today – and that was the idea with the different directions.”

& Other Stories is made up of four carefully considered mini-collections, each one a coherent vision of a specific aesthetic that takes in ready-to-wear, shoes, handbags, jewellery and a number of suggested beauty looks. “Contradiction and minimalism” is all swirled marble prints and geometric shapes on strict and severe silhouettes and tailoring, topped off with understated and upmarket accessories. “Industrial and effortless” speaks more of glamorous grunge, in biker jackets, chunky metallic jewellery and sheer-panelled minidresses. “Sophisticated and architectural” combines swoops and drapes of fabric with sporty touches and Art Deco flourishes, while “Poetic and dandy” is something more recognisably hip, slightly preppy, with leanings toward vintage.

“All our lines are diverse,” Samuel Fernstrom continues, “ranging from masculine tailoring to feminine chic and are designed to provide endless styling choices. We aim to design lasting wardrobe treasures, within a wide price, for a woman who wants to wear thing that feel right to her and reflect her personality.”

If it sounds like shopping by numbers, it isn't. The design of each pathway has been carefully considered so that each stands alone – and looks characterful – but will blend easily with another.

It feels modern, reflective of the fact that latterly women don't necessarily fall for every trend that comes their way anymore or, conversely, their tastes fall into different camps on any given day.

While the stable's other prize COS offers a mainly minimalist mid-range take, & Other Stories will provide the brighter and more feminine pieces that other fashion-forward shoppers have been waiting for.

“It felt like customers want to be creative today,” adds Behnaz Aram. “That's the thing about the internet and the whole street style thing. So if we could create a brand that had four different direction, they can mix and match.” The name comes from the nostalgic publishing tradition – there is a copy of Antony Trollope's The Parson's Daughter & Other Stories lying on one of the benches in the airy atelier (it's an exposed brickwork number) and the concept, while strikingly modern in feel, also comes from a certain sort of heritage: that of the couture houses, winning and welcoming customers with fragrances and cosmetics during the late Fifties – perhaps the last time there was such a concerted democratisation of fashion.

The look of & Other Stories is decidedly fashion-forward too. There are bags here that might not look out of place in the Parisian showroom of a hyper-luxe brand and shoes that could have come straight from the workshop of an avant garde stalwart. These are not the sorts of pieces generally available on the high street and for that, shoppers will flock to & Other Stories. The prices reflect the complexity of design – they're a little higher than your average, but shoes at £120 (real leather, well-made) and roomy totes for £145 (same, and same – one particular model was perfected for nearly 18 months by accessories designer Luca La Rocca, formerly an accessories whizzkid at Cerruti) are a snip compared to the next rung on the price ladder for equivalent items.

The design team are also split between Stockholm and Paris, a cunning move that allows the company to cherry-pick from the wealth of designers based in each city, but also to incorporate two of the most popular strands in fashion right now: nonchalant, downbeat Gallic chic and that grungey Scandi edge – both filter through all four of the Other Stories strands.

“It's for women who are interested in fashion and who feel differently every day,” says Aram. “Some days you want a romantic dress, the next day jeans and a T-shirt. That's the same person – it's not that you dress in one style. You feel different and that's what we're trying to reflect.”

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before