I am obsessed with H&M. When I visited the Swedish fashion emporium in New York City for the first time in 2001, I went bananas for the men’s, women’s and children’s store that stocks well-made fashions at affordable prices. I emailed the corporate headquarters of the brand on a monthly basis for a decade begging the bigwigs at the store to open a South Florida location. I once snuck out of a funeral early in the northeast just to get a spin around an H&M before my plane took off.
Few things get me out of bed at 6 a.m. But if it happens to involve H&M, I’m there. I waited in line at the crack of dawn at the Versace for H&M launch in West Palm Beach last year and I was thrilled about the store opening on Lincoln Road last month. When I heard H&M was opening in Aventura Mall Dec. 14, I was the first one there. H&M took over the space that used to be Zara inside the mall. The spacious two-story store attracted hundreds of eager shoppers. The brand has become its own fashion religion in a way. I caught up with Nicole Christie, spokesperson for H&M North America, to talk about the opening of the third store in South Florida and why fashionistas can’t get enough of the brand.
How many stores have you opened this year?
“We opened 43 stores in the calendar year. This one is number 272 in the country. Store number 273 is happening later today in Minneapolis. We hired over 80 employees for this store.”
What took so long to come to South Florida?
“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been wanting to do this for about 10 years. When we reached West Palm Beach, people were really excited. It really is always about the location. It’s about finding the right fit for our brand. We’re a fashion brand and we really want the location to reflect who we are. I think this location is perfect. We have our trend collections here and our highest fashion collections here as we have on Lincoln Road. We also have a great kids department, which is really important. It’s a family mall as well. It really is about location. We started out in the northeast and we wanted to be smart about expanding. We went from the northeast to the midwest and then the west coast. We’re in 48 markets now."
When will we be able to shop online for H&M in America?
“Next year. Everyone’s been waiting for it. Our focus has been on the bricks and mortar aspect. We’ve really established that so now we’re ready to go online. We wanted a natural progression to keep up with the market. We’ve been in business since 1947. I started at the end of 1999 with H&M. It really is for us, very strategic. We’re strong financially and we paid for this expansion ourselves. We don’t borrow money. We’re expanding in the right way, finding the right locations and malls and the customers are coming. That allows us to expand more.”
Will you open an H&M in Boca Raton?
“Never say never. ”
I personally have been emailing your corporate offices for 10 years to open a store in South Florida. Do you get a lot of customer emails regarding potential locations for H&M?
“We get emails from customers with real estate ideas daily. They will scout out a location they think will work and send it to us. It’s amazing. Our customers are serious and they know what they’re talking about.”
Will you have more designer collaborations for 2013 like you’ve done with Versace and Marni?
“Our plan is always to surprise and excite the customer. Marni was amazing. I still have pieces I’m obsessed with from Karl Lagerfeld’s 2004 collection. To keep the interest and level of excitement up, we’ll go from Versace to Marni to Margiela. We never do something that allows you to predict what we’re going to do next. It's something we really appreciate as a design company. A lot of people don’t know we are a design house with 150 designers. We’re a Swedish company so our mothership is in Sweden. All of our designers design fully in-house. The only thing not designed in-house are our designer collaborations. We have such an appreciation for the industry and other designers. We appreciate the influence of every type of design. We want to make it accessible to people.”
What is with the obsession of H&M?
“I’m equally as obsessed with the brand and it’s not just because I work for the company. I would totally be lining up for H&M too. Before H&M came around, I have never shopped in a store where there’s so much range. I can come into H&M and always find something to fit my mood or personality. I could be a dress up spokesperson on Monday and on Saturday, hanging out in jeans and a sweatshirt in Harlem. I think we allow customers to really dress their personality and the fashion level, quality and price point is all there. We also do it in a way that’s socially responsible, which is so important to me.”
What is H&M doing to support the living green movement?
“We do so much work on that end and in our Swedish humility, don’t talk about it. But I feel good working for a company like this. I feel good that we’re going to start accepting gently worn garments in our stores next year. We’re going to give people a voucher and recycle the garments. People keep coming back to H&M for the variety. Who doesn’t want to shop at a store where there’s something new every day?”Twitter.com/joaniecox.