Emilie Gambade at the H&M Studio Collection AW 2017

It is still early at the Westin Vendôme hotel, where journalists from around the world have been invited to view the latest H&M collection following the previous evening’s show, yet the energy in the room is buzzing. The range, drawing from 1970s boldness, with linear prints, shimmering lurex and knee-high moonboots in pumpkin orange and deep forest green, was presented by It models like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner. This season’s Studio collection bore the H&M signature: daring and fun, for a girl with confi dence and a ready-to-dance attitude. If the show was all hype and boldness, the brand’s creative advisor, Ann-Sofi e Johansson, is refi nement and gentleness personifi ed.

Emilie Gambade at the H&M Studio Collection AW 2017 Photo Gallery

The creative mind behind the collections has long natural hair let loose on her shoulders, a generous smile and a low-key simplicity that contrasts with the bright colours of the garments hanging on the rails around us. Johansson started out as a shop assistant in one of H&M’s Stockholm stores in 1987 because, she says, ‘With no design background, I thought it would be the easiest way to work my way upward.’ But things have changed: ‘Fashion today is global and that’s mainly because of the internet. We have access to everything in one click, so we all seem to get inspiration from the same things. When I started, everything was much more diverse but today, there are only small differences and our bestsellers are often the same in many countries.’ Global fashion, maybe, but don’t call it fast fashion: ‘We don’t see ourselves as fast fashion but as a fashion company. We have the opportunity to do things differently, as with our Conscious Exclusive collection.

The future is to work in a sustainable way and we try to do that in everything we do. We want to be the best choice, the best sustainable fashion.’ Since 2013, the H&M Conscious Foundation has worked with communities around the world to promote ‘Education, Clean Water and Strengthening Women’. But the company is also known for its collaborations with established designers, from Karl Lagerfeld, Comme des Garçons and Roberto Cavalli to Alexander Wang. Johansson explains, ‘We admire the designers we have been working with.

It is inspiring to see how they work with the team, but I think it’s a mutual feeling. We get as much inspiration from the designers we are collaborating with as they get from us, hopefully!’ The Swedish brand (born in 1947), which now has stores in 55 countries, is set to open its first shop at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town later this year. Expect some futuristic 1970s-chic landing on our shores. Until then, Johansson’s advice for a perfect wardrobe? ‘Invest in a great wool coat and a roll-neck! Go for warm shades, camel, brown, rusty orange, burgundy and black. We’ll never move away from black.’

Emilie Gambade at the H&M Studio Collection AW 2017

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