I reach an unassuming, locked entryway with a buzzer in the center of Paris. It’s the first layer I'll have to penetrate before discovering the new H&M luxury brand, & Other Stories. Opening the door is not only the chance to preview the latest trends in textures and silhouettes but discovering a refreshing philosophy towards design.
A diverse mix of collaborative designers have taken the definition of “feminine” and expressed it through a challenging yet wearable vernacular. In the lead up, the brand's Tumblr is a meadow of visual musings. Art, architecture, and vintage photographs animate a collection that’s soon to hit the broader European market.
Separates are placed together along cohesive racks, forming their own distinct narrative. It's how the designers envisioned it, but it's also easy to imagine drawing pieces from all around the room into my own hybrid female identity.
"Strong and powerful" are ideals expressed through leather focal points, grey-washed jeans, a convertible zipper vest/jacket, and a simple white T-shirt. Peeling away, there's strong lingerie – black, netted, structured, with the spirit of a dominatrix waiting to be unleashed. I discuss the lingerie’s cheeky charm with the creative team. It’s a woman’s aesthetic secret, as she wears her story from the inside out. Building back up with accessories, the jewelry is heavy to hold, bringing tactile pleasure to cuffs, industrial rings, and chunky chains.
A lighter and more vibrant approach comes through visions of a frillier femme. Fabrics are silky and floral, embracing creams, whites, and blues. There are little bows and peter pan collars, to be matched with wearable basics: a beige scarf with cutout detailing, a navy skirt, and blazer. Then, shocking pink emerges. Jewelry takes on an edible candy-like quality.
Menswear references abound through both the softer and stronger sides of the collection. It's a subtle way to bring the collection together. Shoes strut through conventionally masculine detailing – tasseled loafers are elevated into a wedge heel in velvet, straight out of a luxe boudoir. Fringed slippers are the perfect accompaniment to a tailored cream shirt and cropped pant. There’s a “slashed” black bag that’s large enough to carry your whole life in -- it's instantly covetable.
Beginning life as a beauty brand, & Other Stories built its identity over an understanding of what a woman wishes to represent from visage to chaussures. It’s personal. And it doesn’t feel like throw-away fashion. This is where & Other Stories hits its mark, beyond the glut of ready-to-wear, churn-outs that threaten to overtake contemporary design.
So the layers have been peeled away, yet the stories have just begun!
Find out how you can get involved in YH's H&M Conscious campaign:
An Australian by birth and by allegiance to Vegemite, Symonne Torpy donned a fur coat and followed her dreams to Paris. She can be found drinking vin rouge at midday, editing website content, and blogging about her adventures with Miu Miu on her website, La Vue du 6ème Étage.