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).


via

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.”


via

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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Aerie, American Eagle, and the Building of a Retail Brand

October 01 2013

How many of you know about or shop at Aerie, a growing intimates brand established by American Eagle? Their demographic is for girls aged fifteen–twenty-five. Since the line was launched in 2006, it has only gained in popularity. However, right now, they are functioning more like a sub-brand, rather than as the sister- brand they want to be.


via ae.com/blog

The majority of Aerie’s current departments are situated inside larger American Eagle stores, but there is a definite difference in vibe between the two. Aerie is set up to function more of a store within a store, much like you would find DKNY or Ralph Lauren at Bloomingdales. Aerie has their own female sales staff. The atmosphere is brighter, lighter, and almost ethereal, while American Eagle is darker and more masculine – more about an All-American, casual, worn vibe. American Eagle’s merchandise, advertising, store design and marketing communicate a broad sense of vintage authenticity, even though the brand was born in 1977. On the other hand, Aerie projects a voice that is new and youthful. The brand is not rooted in Dad’s old memorabilia. Aerie’s wants to make girls feel pretty inside and out. They are the “girl-next-door” of intimates, and they aspire to be in every girl’s closet.

Aerie has definitely benefitted from being under American Eagle’s roof and brand umbrella. Being situated both physically and digitally in the American Eagle retail experience has helped bring them traffic and brand awareness. However, they have cultivated a different kind of aesthetic, both in their products and retail presence, one that differentiates from their parent brand. They have the potential to be a big competitor in intimates, but to do so, they need to continue to expand beyond such a close consumer alliance with American Eagle and add more stand-alone stores. If not, they will be forever overshadowed—a sub-brand, not a sister brand. It is definitely time for them to move out of their parent’s house.

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H & M and COS, A Low and (some) Version of High Fashion

January 03 2013

The last few times I've been in London, where fast fashion is a way of life, I stumbled into what appeared to be a chainlet named Company of Style, aka COS. Initially, I didn't know that the simple, pared down designs and palette at COS was the work of a new brand design studio at H & M.

It turns out that COS is H & M's foray into a higher price point, although most items are still priced under $100.00 and thus very accessible for what seems to be well-made, streamlined design. Their tagline is Timeless, Modern, Tactile and Functional, and I have to admit that I'm seduced by this brand. I really feel that they got it right — it's very strong, controlled brand management, and is a concept that will do well no matter where it travels. The store design, by William Russell of Pentagram, London (love them! I loved working with Michael Beirut from Pentagram in the past), and his angular, restrained store design and layout brings the architectural quality of the clothing to life. Other retailers should heed how well H & M is managing and rolling out this brand. The store has already opened in 51 stores in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden, of course. They have also just opened their first shop in Asia.

Of course, I'm awaiting their entry into the US market, where their brand of chic simplicity at an affordable price point will play very well in urban and exurban centers. C'mon over, COS!

 

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