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H&M’s Brooklyn Boutique Offers First Look at New Metaverse Launch

It’s nearly impossible to pass by an H&M store without taking notice of the typically two-story spaces fronted by the scarlet red Hennes and Mauritz monogram.

But walk down 6th Street in the trendy, hipster haven of Williamsburg, Brooklyn and all that will change.

“With H&M Williamsburg we threw out the traditional store playbook to build something unexpected that embodies who we are as a brand today,” says Linda Li, head of customer activation & marketing for H&M Americas. “We’re inviting both our loyal fans and new customers to experience H&M in a new light—marrying style, culture and exclusive experiences at our new home in Williamsburg.”

Tucked inconspicuously between neighborhood boutiques, in a spot that used to be occupied by the Korean retail brand Aland, the Brasserie Hennes, as it will be known through Dec. 30, is spacious and gallery-esque on the inside; its rack choices a more cultivated take on the essence of the brand behind the fast-fashion chain that in its maiden chapter features designs inspired by a French restaurant in winter. A new theme will kick off in the new year.

A winding staircase leads to a second level with a coffee bar and apparel from H&M’s latest launch into metaverse fashion. A curated preview sample of the chain’s latest Innovation Design Story collection opened at the new Williamsburg location on Friday, where it will stay until Thursday when the entire collection will be on display at the H&M location in Times Square and online.

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The collection trips into the metaverse with the help of the H&M app.

“Five augmented reality filters, accessible via the H&M app, complete the Innovation Metaverse Design Story line-up,” the company said in its press release. “Designed in partnership with the Institute of Digital Fashion, an AR fashion lenses powered by Snapchat enables virtual try-on, seamlessly bringing the physical and digital worlds together and empowering customers to express themselves both IRL and online.”

Sourcing Journal caught up with H&M womenswear designer Ella Soccorsi to answer a few questions about the line.

Have you ever been part of designing a metaverse fashion collection? How is it different from designing in the physical world only?

For the new H&M Innovations Stories collection we are taking inspiration from the immersive potential of the Metaverse as well as the tactile beauty of the physical world. The collection invites self-expression and explores sustainability in three dimensions. In addition to the ready-to-wear collection and a series of accessories designed with circularity in mind, multiple pieces will also be available as part of a rental program in selected stores in London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Stockholm. Then there is the digital part of collection, co-designed and crafted by H&M and the Institute of Digital Fashion, the London-based digital atelier and thinktank.

The ready-to-wear collection explores the blurring boundaries between our online and offline lives, and that blends the craftsmanship of high fashion with the fantasy of virtual wardrobes. The increasingly virtual dimension of fashion creates an exciting opportunity for us to create vibrant, bold and daring virtual counterparts to our physical collections. To complete the Innovation Metaverse Design Story line-up, the digital collection consists of five augmented reality filters, accessible via the H&M app to virtual try-on the collection, seamlessly bringing the physical and digital worlds together and empowering customers to express themselves both IRL and online.

What is the inspiration for this line and what do you hope people, especially those who might not be particularly familiar with the metaverse, get from this experience?

The inspiration for this collection was two-fold: we were thinking about the fascinating opportunities of the digital world, as well as the astonishing beauty of the natural world. In 2022, lots of us find ourselves buried in our phones and reliant on technology, and when we thought about the metaverse, we felt really excited by the beauty we could create in a virtual dimension. At the same time, we also fell back in love with the beauty of the physical world and meeting in real life. We were looking at images of the Earth viewed from space, volcanoes and molten lava, microorganisms in the oceans. We wanted that balance in the collection – incredibly elevated, tactile garments that feel precious and beautifully crafted, but also a metaverse-ready aesthetic that pushes the boundaries of fashion. We hope that comes to life for our customers.

What was the most interesting and/or surprising part of working on this collection and do you have a favorite piece from it in particular?

There are so many expressive, explosive pieces in this collection, it’s almost impossible to choose. I absolutely love the pearlescent beaded mini dress, which is hand-embroidered with beads made from 60 percent recycled glass, as well as 100% recycled PMMA beads. I would love to wear the tailored blazer with the sculpted waist, made from Naia Renew cellulosic yarn and organic silk, as it’s so flattering. I’d pair it with the matching trousers and a simple camisole underneath. The virtualization of fashion creates an exciting opportunity for H&M as we can let our imaginations run wild to create vibrant, bold, and daring virtual counterparts to our physical collections.

The collection mentions an “inclusive fashion vision.” What is meant by that? Does it mean inclusive sizing? Gender fluid options, etc.?

Our vision is to propose a more sustainable and inclusive fashion vision that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere in the world. This collection explores the future of fashion at the intersection between the physical and digital world, where we also have explored AR filters that could propose more inclusive and more sustainable ways of enjoying fashion. We will continue to experiment, learn and try new ways of working with the ultimate goal of empowering people to express themselves through fashion at any given moment.

As a designer, what’s your honest opinion of metaverse fashion? Is it a space you’re genuinely excited about designing in, or is it more something we’re all just going to have to adapt to?

As a designer, new challenges spur me to think differently and really use my creativity. Technology is an incredible tool for self-expression; it opens up for exciting possibilities of more inclusive and more sustainable ways of enjoying fashion.

The collection mentions use of recycled polyester using materials including Repreve. Many contend it’s in the best interest of sustainability to instead recycle waste, like plastic bottles, into its original format and not turn it into clothing. What is your response to that?

All efforts to reduce waste are good ones, something that we as designers also think about in the creative process—how can we make this garment more sustainable, easier to pass on for re-selling or re-cycling when worn to pieces or how it be re-worked into new fashion favorites? We all need to contribute to a more circular fashion model.

Speaking of sustainability, do you see the metaverse as a solution at all to the problems of waste in fashion?

There should never be any waste in fashion, and we are striving hard towards our circular goals. We see spectacular possibilities of the digital world with garments that come to life online, where the metaverse is one of many exciting opportunities for us to explore the future of fashion.