I should explain that I live in a small town 20 miles south of the Kansas City metropolitan area. I would estimate the combined population of Kansas City to be around 2 million people, but our first H&M store just opened its doors this past fall and the "new" has not yet worn off. Of all of the stores I have featured to date, H&M has the largest reach with 2300 stores in 43 countries, and it employs 94,000 people worldwide. It is second only to Zara. KC has no Zara store. Production is outsourced to approximately 800 factories in Europe and Asia.
I was surprised to learn that its first non-Swedish store opened as long ago as 1964, in Norway and it has been expanding ever since. Germany is the largest market with 377 stores, while the US boasts just 233. The first American store opened in March, 2000. A flagship store opened in Denver, Colorado, in 2011. Our KC store, I am certain from the cramped quarters is not a flagship.
H&M has worked with a number of designers over the years--Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Viktor & Rolf, Madonna, Roberto Cavalli, Comme des Garcons, Matthew Williamson, Jimmy Choo, Sonia Rykiel, Lanvin, Versace, and Marni. In October, 2012, Anna del Russo will launch an accessories collection at H&M, as Paris Fashion Week draws to an end. It will be stocked in 140 H&M stores worldwide...though I somehow doubt KC will be one.
When I visited the store early in May, I tried to keep an open mind. The store is located on the Country Club Plaza which is a pedestrian shopping center where many of the city's designer stores are located. Parking is often at a premium, though we found a spot just around the corner. DH asked if he could wait outside in the bright warm sunshine and people watch as I did my sleuthing. The store was jam-packed with shoppers younger than myself in shorts and flip-flops.
I would have to say that I found the weight and quality of the fabrics to be higher than what I expected, having previously visited F21. Things were not in the disarray I'd found at F21 and clothing was not quite as crammed on the rack; it was often wrinkled, but had some room to breath. I found much of the merchandising to be eye-catching. The store has high ceilings and many of the displays were mounted up high so as not to compete for floor space.
I was astounded by the length of the line for the fitting room. You'll see in some of my photos that the line was 20 people long, though it seemed to move quickly. This was the first place that I have seen men and women shopping together and I don't know whether to attribute this to the fact that the store has a men's and children's department upstairs or if it is due to the nature of the shopping center where it is located.
In response to criticism about unsold clothing that was found destroyed in New York City dumpsters and the factory conditions I described in Wednesday's post., H&M has adopted Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) You'll see it in my video with the window display and merchandise that raises money for HIV/AIDS. Its "Conscious Collection" uses environmentally friendly fabrics like organic cotton and recycled plastic bottles. Leah Bourne, a writer for Forbes, wrote recently, "The brand has also made changes like using lower-impact water-based solvents to make nearly 2.5 million pairs of shoes last year."
source). Forgive me if I'm a little cynical.
I exited the store after 45 minutes, without visiting the mens and children's departments upstairs. I found DH lounging in the shade with his sunglasses. He told me that he had been approached by an Asian man who wondered if he was a rock star!? And, NO, I did not wear the t-shirt I worked so hard on. Our visit to H&M was a spur of the moment side-track during a Saturday of thrifting. However, the store so busy that I didn't even notice any employees and it was not my chest that others were there to see.
As one commenter pointed out on Wednesday, many higher end and designer clothes are guilty of turning a blind eye to the working conditions of those who manufacture their clothes. I think I need to wear the shirt to every store I visit for the remainder of the Window Shopping Project.
Now, do you own any H&M clothing? Have you purchased any of their designer items? And how might this store compare with the H&M nearest you.