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H&M’s 5 Modes Of Collaboration

Do you know what H&M stands for? The latest Christmas campaign, “From the Makers of Happy & Merry”, plays on the fact that most people don’t know (or care), and features the latest in a long line of celebrity collaborations, this time with Katy Perry and supermodels Jourdan Dunn and Sean O’Pry.

Together with the launch last week of Balmain x H&M, a unisex perfume in collaboration with Pierre Balmain, they both illustrate why H&M should perhaps stand for Harmony & Mutuality instead.

o.35969H&M clearly believe that to have a meaningful relationship with their customers, collaborating with other complimentary individuals or organisations to build and foster beneficial relationships is the best way to offer customers a fresh and exciting experience.

H&M’s mission is “offering fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way” and “for all its operations to be run in a way that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.” How do collaborative relationships support this goal?

Creative collaborations with high end designers and style icons

H&M’s designer collaborations are perhaps their most well-known, with 15 branded capsule collections across their clothing ranges since 2004 with Karl Lagerfield to Pierre Balmain last month.

All were launched as limited editions at exclusive design shows; the presence of top models and high profile celebrities such as the Kardashians and Jenner sisters caused both a media and customer frenzy, with collections selling out within hours. H&M has made sure that they offer a different style of guest designer each time in order to offer something fresh and different and appeal to different customers.

Karl_lagerfield_H_M              Kendall_jenner

The H&M Design Award is a design competition for students in collaboration with selected design schools around the world, with the aim of providing a springboard for the most promising fashion talent.


Sponsorship collaborations with pop icons, music festivals and sport stars

Numerous female pop and style icons have featured in H&M campaigns, including Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Lana Del Rey, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett. Meanwhile, H&M Life showcases new and upcoming artists: musicians such as Foxes who fronted H&M Loves Music 2015, or actresses such as Daisy Ridley and authors like Jon Ronson.


Collaborative events around the world include H&M Loves Music OSLO, Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona and Coachella in California, as well as pop-up stores at the Russian Afischa Picnic festival.


In support of the H&M sports and fitness range, they tested product lines with the help of Swedish Olympic and Paralympic athletes to demonstrate the marriage of function and fashion. They dressed the Swedish teams for the 2014 Winter Games and the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics.


H&M has been a long-time partner with footballer and style icon David Beckham since 2012; he currently has his own clothing line.


They also sponsor 5 prominent sportspeople: up-and-coming tennis player Tomas Berdych, Swedish Olympic equestrians Malin Baryard-Johnsson and Peder Fredricson, and Belgian show jumpers Nicola Philippaerts and Olivier Philippaerts, all of whom have a love of fashion.


Sustainability collaborations with eco-driven initiatives

H&M is the world’s no. 1 user of organic cotton, and aims to use only sustainable cotton by 2020, “making fashion sustainable and sustainability fashionable”.. In 2011, it launched its own range of sustainable clothing, the “Conscious Collection”, made from greener materials such as organic cotton and recycled polyester. Each year since has seen a new collection launched with much fanfare and in collaboration with a style icon. The 2016 collection is with the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, located in the Louvre in Paris and inspired by the museum’s archives. Its launch will coincide with the launch of “’Fashion Forward – Three Centuries of Fashion’ and will be fronted by French style icon Julia Restoin Roitfeld. The collection is complemented by Ecocert-approved beauty products, available in specially designed areas within their stores.

Since April, H&M and the Kering Group of luxury and sports brands are collaborating with textile innovators Worn Again on testing ground-breaking fibre-recycling technology that has the potential to eradicate textile waste while simultaneously offering a new type of sustainable raw material. Since 2013, H&M have been working with their customers to recycle unwanted clothing. The company provides a collection service in all stores that offers customers a £5 discount voucher for every bag of clothes they take into their stores. They claim to recycle 97% of the clothes and textiles they collect into new products.

H&M also teamed up with London College of Fashion’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion to launch the first nationwide Fashion Recycling Week in September. Students were tasked with interpreting British cities – from Leeds to Edinburgh – to create window installations using clothes donated through the H&M’s garment collecting initiative.


CSR collaborations with unions, other retailers and other companies

H&M wants all their suppliers to pay their employees a fair living wage. In 2014, they started collaborating with other international fashion companies and signed a joint declaration of principle for fair living wages. Last month they agreed to collaborate with IndustriALL Global Union with the aim to achieve functioning labour market relations for around 600 suppliers initially in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Turkey.

Last month, H&M became a global partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation with the joint aim of identifying opportunities to create value through circular practices and to shift the extent to which the clothing sector restores and regenerates fabrics and fibres for productive use.

Following the 2013 Bangladeshi disaster, H&M in collaboration with Inditex (who own Zara) and Abercrombie & Fitch signed a fire and building safety agreement to support and protect Bangladeshi garment factory workers. The pledge stipulated that the companies would pay for renovation and repairs in order to ensure that the country’s garment factories were safe.

Humanitarian collaborations with the third sector and ethical organisations

The H&M Conscious Foundation is an independent organisation that seeks to drive long-lasting positive change. Their focus areas are Education in collaboration with UNICEF, Clean Water in collaboration with WaterAid, and Strengthening Women in collaboration with CARE, together with numerous regional programs such as the Children’s Health Fund and Earth Institute in the US and Save the Children in Indonesia.

In September, H&M announced its collaboration with Humane Society International to promote the ethical treatment of animals across the fashion and beauty industries. Central to the collaboration is the aim to pursue policy change in countries around the world and to support the #BeCrueltyFree campaign against cosmetics animal testing.

H&M has the ability to gain and keep customer interest in the fickle world of fast fashion not only on a seasonal but almost weekly basis, through innovative and diverse collaboration. What lessons can we learn to stylise our own initiatives?

  1. Collaboration is founded on generosity, sharing and openness, and begins in organisational culture.
  2. Have clarity of your own capabilities, and of the capabilities you would be looking for from a collaboration. To work it has to be a win-win.
  3. Be open and willing to listen to feedback from your proposed collaborator.They may think differently to you – which is a good thing!
  4. Collaborate with other brands, individuals or organisations that share your brand values in order to maximise credibility and minimise the risk of brand equity dilution.
  5. Be daring, but listen to your customer early on in development.

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