Since 2004, Swedish label H&M has been tapping designer labels and fashion icons to collaborate with, producing limited collections that have had us wrestling with fellow shoppers to get dibs on each special piece. Marrying high and fast fashion, it has worked closely with creative minds like Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, David Beckham, Kylie Minogue, Anna Dello Russo, and Alexander Wang. This time around, the retail giant joins hands with Olivier Roustieng for Balmain to execute a new capsule collection and special campaign.
But where exactly do these collaborations spring from and how does H&M pick out which designer they’d like to work with? Here, Voguerunway.com director Nicole Phelps chats up Olivier and H&M’s creative advisor Anne-Sofie Johansson to find out what really goes on in these unique team-ups.
NICOLE PHELPS: Sofie, why did H&M want to work with Balmain and Olivier?
ANNâ€‘SOFIE JOHANSSON: I think we have a wish list of designers we would like to collaborate with. Olivier was on that list. We also get a lot of questions from our customers - demands, really - on who to collaborate with next. He is also one of the top names there. We were super happy when Olivier and Balmain said yes. It's also fun to have a collaboration that is opposite what we had last year with Wang, which was really sporty and street-y. Now we have this opulent, glamorous, and sexy collection.
Olivier, we all know about the Balmain Army. The hashtag for this collaboration is #HMBalmainNation. Unity has been one of your biggest messages. Talk a little bit about why that is so important to you and so integral to Balmain and H&M.
OLIVIER ROUSTEING: I think I love fashion for two reasons: First, because I love to do clothes; and second, I think fashion helps to bring about a vision of diversity, and at the same time, unity. With H&M, it was literally expressing the diversity.
Also, why 'nation'? Obviously, this line is more affordable than my own line. For me, it's like building the Balmain Army; I could reach more people in different ages and in different continents. Balmain does not have so many stores like H&M. It was literally building a nation that believes in the Balmain universe, the DNA of Balmain.
You're taking over the world. What will be your advice for women and for readers [who want to follow in your footsteps]?
OR: That's a strong question. But I have a publicist in the room, so maybe I shouldn't answer. I'm kidding! (Laughs). The fashion world sometimes has so many boundaries where you can't express exactly what you want to express or comment. I'm just trying to follow my rules and be myself... Just believe in yourself. People might say you're controversial, but push your ideas and vision, and don't be afraid. You have to be sure of yourself.
One of the parts of this collaboration that many people have been talking about so much is the fragrance. Could you talk about why you wanted to launch a fragrance, what it smells like, and how you hope your fans will accept it?
OR: Smells really good.
ASJ: It's always nice to be able to do different things with the designers. We are also launching a new makeup line, body line, and hair line, so it's nice to be able to create a perfume in celebration of that.
OR: Yes. I think it's important. When you have those beautiful dresses, you also need to have a nice smell [to match it with].
As someone who talks a lot about youth, how did you deal with older people in the establishment when you were trying to get ideas across?
OR: You can learn from older people. You can learn what's good and what's bad, what's wrong and what's right. Some are close-minded because they don't evolve with the world. They have a vision that is tucked in a time that I don't even know. I think you need to make sure you find a balance to learn from old people. It’s not a matter of age. It's about state of mind. I think there are so many old people in fashion who have a younger mindset than those who claim to be young.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Photos by Vince Uy