H&M, COS, & Other Stories

August 26 2014

Did any of you know that H&M has launched yet another sub-brand? I was having a meeting with two very chic photo agents, both of whom happened to be wearing the same jumpsuit (they had gone shopping together at & Other Stories on Regent Street in London, and hadn’t checked in with each other that morning before going to work. Hence the twinning element in their clothes that day).


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Anyway, I loved that pantsuit, and so they both fervently suggested that I go shopping at the store, and described it as the mid-range brand between COS and H&M. I wonder if they knew that it is owned by H&M. On their corporate site, H&M states that, “& Other Stories was launched in March 2013, offering an extensive selection of clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery and cosmetics. The brand is all about fashion, with particular focus on quality and design details as well as personal expression and styling.” And they describe COS as “Modern, timeless, tactile and functional. Exploring the concept of style over fashion,” and "high-end design and quality that lives beyond the seasons is available for women, men and children.”


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What I get from their communications writing is that COS sounds more expensive, and has more design integrity than its sister sub-brand. In reality, the clothes are beautifully conceived, well-cut, restrained and chic. The store design feels deluxe and sleek, reinforcing the clean lines and clarity of the design palette. It’s hard to leave the COS store without purchasing something, no matter how small. The retail experience at & Other Stories, on the other hand, felt decidedly down-market, despite the prices. Sharp lighting, cheap display, strange stand-up price markers on the metal, free-standing racks. I was completely underwhelmed, yet the brand is building up speed very quickly. It’s not quite fast fashion, as it’s too pricey, and that position is held by the parent brand in the H&M structure. I can’t even put my finger on their brand, which either means I’m not the target audience (shouldn’t make a difference, as I don’t drink coffee but I understand what the Starbuck’s brand is about) or that all the pieces haven’t yet been knitted together between the clothing design, store design, signage, variety and quality of product. As a self-respecting shopper, I’m happy to stay tuned to see how the holes in their brand are resolved.

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