Exclusive: How the H&M Conscious Exclusive 2017 collection was made
Concept Designer Ella Soccorsi and Sustainable Business Expert Cecilia Strömblad Brännsten tell us more about the beautiful new collection
You've seen the mesmerising H&M Conscious Exclusive 2017 campaign video with Natalia Vodianova, you've checked out every piece of the collection here and you've marked the launch date in your calendar. Ahead of the collection drop, we headed to Beijing for a preview and a chat with H&M's concept designer Ella Soccorsi and Sustainability Business Expert Cecilia Strömblad Brännsten.
Ella Soccorsi, Concept Designer
What does your role entail?
As a concept designer, I led the design team through the process of designing this collection. I have a team of designers – two each for the accessories side and garment side, then pattern makers, draping and print designers that design and paint the prints. My job is to create the inspiration to lead the team from start to finish.
Each Conscious Exclusive collection is so rich in creativity. What inspires you?
When we start working on any Conscious Exclusive collection, we [the design team] actually take ourselves away from the office, find somewhere to be for a few days to just talk. What inspires me the most, personally, is my team because everyone comes with different influences. In this collection, Elsa our print designer was listening to Nils Frahm the composer, and one of my other designers is really into perfume and we were talking about different scents. We're constantly having a dialogue about everything and that's the great thing because it's really dynamic.
How did the idea for the BIONIC material come about?
We have the CSR department that does a lot of research and they know a lot about what's going on in the industry. For this, we have been talking a lot about the problems in the oceans. We knew about this fibre [created from plastic shoreline waste] and we wanted to work with it.
How do you balance creating desirable, sellable pieces with responsible techniques and sustainable materials?
The technology now is much more advanced. How can we make something as sustainable as possible and as beautiful as possible? Each year we hope to do even better in the aspect of sustainability without decreasing the level of beauty and quality. Because the most unsustainable thing you can do is to make something that's not going to sell or be cherished and taken care of.
Are there any eco-conscious labels that you'd love to work with?
I really love Patagonia. Their whole DNA is amazing. They're so transparent and are always moving forward.
What's your favourite piece from the collection?
I have several since I know them so well now. They've become little parts of me. I love the soft suit for formal wear. It's like a tuxedo, but really relaxed. You feel like you're wearing pyjamas. I find it hard to wear something that changes my personality. That was an important element in this collection – comfort. A piece I really like for its versatility is the two-piece asymmetrical top and slip dress. It looks quite cocktail and formal when you wear it together. If you separate them you can wear the top over a T-shirt with jeans and pair the slip dress with trousers. The versatility makes it live longer in your wardrobe.
Cecilia Strömblad Brännsten, Sustainability Business Expert
Tell us more about your role.
I'm the Sustainability Business Expert on sustainable materials and circularity so I lead all our work when it comes to our circular efforts and goals. I work a lot internally with the production, buying, logistics and sales offices, the stores and also with external stakeholders for different collaborations around sustainable materials like organic cotton. It's a very versatile job. And sometimes I'm in Beijing talking about sustainability!
What's the challenge and advantage of working with new materials?
Not all materials can be sustainable immediately. We need innovation, we need to be daring to try and to be able to scale, but I think one of the good things at H&M is that we have the size and scale to do that. We have a lot of good examples where we started really small, like with recycled polyester – we started that in 2012 and now we're the second biggest user of recycled polyester in the world. We can take these small materials and make them big. That's our advantage.
This is the Conscious Exclusive's first foray into childrenswear. What else can we excpect from H&M Conscious Exclusive collections in the future?
Definitely next year we'll have more exciting, sustainable materials as there are so many cool innovations out there. What's different about the Conscious Exclusive is that here we can push the boundaries a bit more and try out new innovations which can be used in our other departments. This year we've got the perfume (not available in Malaysia) which is also exciting.
Customers can bring in used clothes from any brand back to H&M for recycling. Tell us more about this initiative.
We want customers to use garments for as long as possible. What you're handing in to us is sorted for reuse and recycling. Reusing is prioritised so whatever that can be used again, will be sold as second hand or vintage. But when that's not possible, they will be recycled so fashion never goes to waste.
What's your favourite piece from the collection?
So tricky because I love so many things! I love this dress I'm wearing, it's organic linen and silk. And the BIONIC dress, it's divine.
The H&M Conscious Exclusive 2017 collection arrives in store at H&M Lot 10 on 20 April.