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H&M’s New Members-Only Startup Aims for ‘Buy Less’ But ‘Buy Better’

After years in the spotlight for its waste-making ways, Swedish fast-fashion giant H&M Group has been focused on revamping its supply chain, investing in material innovation and reimagining its business model to augment the quality of its products and keep them in circulation longer.

On Thursday, the fashion firm announced the soft launch of a new, membership-based brand dubbed Singular Society, which features high-quality, responsibly made wardrobe essentials and products for the home. Debuting first in the European market, members pay a monthly or annual rate to gain access to a growing assortment of goods, which are priced at what they cost to make, the company said.

H&M Group built the business around the idea of providing a service, rather than mere products, to shoppers, the “small team of industry insiders” running Singular Society wrote on its microsite. “We are able to make our products responsibly—in the highest possible quality and design from the worlds best manufacturers—and sell them at a fraction of the cost from what traditional brands would charge for the same products.

“Our idea is to help people buy less by enabling them to buy better (which, genuinely, is a sustainability concept we believe in),” it added.

Current holiday offerings include high-grade cashmere sweatsuits, scarves, pillow covers and blankets, along with ceramic kitchen wares, candles, coffee and other décor. The brand’s cashmere sweaters are sourced from Inner Mongolia, “where the world’s best cashmere comes from,” and manufactured in China, while a cashmere-lambswool blend blanket is made in Scotland by luxury accessories manufacturer Alex Begg.

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A Mongolian cashmere and lambswool blanket, made in Scotland by luxury accessories manufacturer Alex Begg.
A Mongolian cashmere and lambswool blanket, made in Scotland by luxury accessories manufacturer Alex Begg. Singular Society

A base membership, which costs about $11, allows shoppers to purchase up to five products at cost over the course of each month, while a “plus” membership, which will run users about $23 per month, gives them access to up to 25 purchases per period. Members can choose to pay their membership fees monthly or annually for a slight discount.

Singular Society says it operates “in a similar way to Netflix, Spotify or Soho House if you will,” and doesn’t profit directly from the products it sells, but relies instead on the monthly subscription fees to keep the business humming. “That means we can focus fully on quality and long term relationships with our members, instead of short term profits,” it added.

For now, the membership program is accepting waitlist submissions only as brand leaders attempt to grow Singular Society “in a controlled way” so that they can guarantee the same level of service and quality at scale.

An ultra-light Mongolian cashmere scarf manufactured in Scotland by Alex Begg.
An ultra-light Mongolian cashmere scarf manufactured in Scotland by Alex Begg. Singular Society

This sustainability-minded initiative builds on the Swedish giant’s continuing efforts to clean up fashion. Earlier this month, H&M Group joined forces with the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and a number of other fashion organizations on a new initiative to channel Bangladesh’s post-production fashion waste into new products.

The Circular Fashion Partnership will rely on the expertise of its stakeholders—including H&M Group—to help turn the country’s linear production process into a circular model by the end of 2021. The project will start with the mapping of waste streams, and will find scalable solutions to give new life to cutting scraps and excess stock.

And in November, H&M expanded an existing partnership with fellow Swedes at Renewcell, which recycles unusable textile waste to form a virgin-quality fiber called Circulose using old jeans, T-shirts and other apparel items discarded at an industrial scale. The partnership stands to give the fiber maker a much-needed leg up when it comes to scaling the sustainable solution, as H&M plans so purchase enough Circulose over the next five years to produce millions of products across its brand portfolio.