H&M Plans to Open New, Higher-End Retail Chain

H&M adds to the fast fashion (slightly higher priced) craze.

Recently we learned that fast fashion giant H&M plans to open yet another retail chain. The Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported that H&M submitted a copyright protection application for the name “& other stories” to the Swedish patent and trademark office last year. According to H&M press officer Camilla Emilsson, the new chain—which is scheduled to open in early 2013—will focus on higher-quality items, while still retaining H&M’s primary business principle: sell clothes fast and cheap.

It’s a business plan that’s been wildly successful in over 44 countries, raking in $745 million in the first quarter of 2012. This year, the chain will move into Bulgaria, Mexico, Latvia, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as starting online sales in the United States.

You don’t get to where H&M is by being oblivious to the global zeitgeist. More than ever, young people are concerned about minimizing their impact on the environment. To that end, H&M has made several nods towards sustainability, of which this year’s Conscious Collection—made from materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester—was probably the most conspicuous.

But the sheer volume of clothes that H&M produces might make the term “ethical fast fashion” an oxymoron. It’s a near impossible task for a company as large as H&M to police its supply chain as thoroughly as it should—which occasionally results in terrible working conditions in a factory in Cambodia, or polluted rivers in China.

Another retail chain means more worldwide exposure to H&M’s business model—one that pushes a dizzying 30 to 50 trend-driven seasons, which is profitable for CEOs and shareholders but not as beneficial for landfills, rivers and the fast fashion consumer who sees a t-shirt at H&M as disposable as a cup of coffee.

Image: Claire L. Evans.