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Special Interview With H&M Conscious Exclusive AW19 Collection Designer

H&M’s Conscious Exclusive range is back with a 10th-anniversary collection and the mood is clear: get set to dress up. Suffused with the heady glamour of mysterious balls and dazzling parties from a bygone era, the collection fuses sumptuous after-dark sartorial hits with versatile wardrobe binders – and all through the lens of more sustainable fashion. L'Officiel Baltics senior editor in chief Liga Zemture in exclusive interview with designer of H&M Conscious Exclusive AW19 Collection, Ella Soccorsi.
Reading time 5 minutes
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H&M Conscious Exclusive AW19 designer, Ella Soccorsi
H&M has many different lines. What is so special about the Conscious Exclusive collection?

Conscious Exclusive is our premium womenswear collection of elevated, special pieces that are made from more sustainably sourced materials. The line was launched in 2012 with a focus on development and innovation.

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How does the design process work at H&M?

I head up the design team for Conscious Exclusive. We’re a diverse team of people, so we always get together at the beginning of every season and pool our ideas and inspirations to create a mood board. Then, we begin working on designs as well as exclusive prints, and begin researching fabrications.

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Where does sustainable development begin to enter the design process?

Over time, we have established great relationships with our suppliers. We also have a fantastic production team which weighs up the strengths and weaknesses of a particular material, waiting until an incredible innovation that we might have discovered during our Global Change Awards, for instance, is durable enough for us to use in a product. Often, we carry out trials with more sustainable fabrics we want to use in the future, but sometimes they’re not quite right. We always wait until a fabric is absolutely perfect before we use it – even if that takes years. In that sense, it’s a very mindful approach to creation involving a lot of patience.  

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What was the inspiration behind the AW19 collection?

For AW19, the H&M design team was enthralled by mysterious, glamorous parties from a bygone era. We started looking at masquerade and Surrealist balls in the 1960s, thinking about parties where getting dressed up increases the pleasure. We wanted to create special, one-off pieces that will stay in your wardrobe for years to come.

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What are your favourite pieces from this collection and how would you style them?

There are lots of feminine, fun pieces in this collection that appeal to my personal style, but my favourite piece is the ruffle-sleeved, velvet cropped top made from recycled polyester. It makes for a dramatic silhouette and looks great with a mini skirt or sleek black trousers and a glamorous pair of earrings. The Surrealist-eye drop-earrings are also one of my favourite pieces in the collection, as I think they’re brilliant, and will instantly elevate any outfit.   

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What do you consider to be the most versatile piece in this collection?

We hope the jacquard rose-print skirt made from recycled polyester will appeal to lots of our customers because it can be styled in lots of different ways. We know that some of our customers will want to wear this princess-shape skirt with a t-shirt and flats, in a more low-key manner; and some customers will want to give it a more sophisticated spin, pairing it with glamorous earrings and heels for a festive occasion. There is never just one correct way to style one of these pieces – they’re endlessly flattering in all their iterations.   

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Is there a certain type of customer you are designing for with Conscious Exclusive?

We never design with one person in mind – our emphasis is always on democratising style and making timeless pieces that will suit different body types and personalities. We hope this AW19 collection, with its emphasis on dressing up, will appeal to our customers who want to shop more sustainably ahead of party season. I am always struck by how differently our customers style specific items according to their own taste – I love to see customers wearing the collection in their own way.

 

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What new sustainable innovations feature in the AW19 collection?

One of things we are most happy about is that this collection contains recycled brass and zinc. The accumulated metal is recycled jewellery that is melted, purified and cast into new products. Using recycled metal means we reduce our energy footprint and lessen the negative impacts of mining. We’re also really excited to be using REFIBRA™, which is made of reconstituted factory waste cotton that has been shredded and combined with wood pulp, before being remade into a new Tencel/Lyocell fibre. It contributes to a circular economy thanks to its closed-loop process.

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What has been the most satisfying element of working on the Conscious Exclusive collections?

We always try to adopt a 360-degree approach, and one of the most satisfying things for me about working on Conscious Exclusive was when one of our suppliers decided to specialise in sustainability because of our work at H&M. They saw a demand and decided to go for it. We know we are changing the business, and it’s exciting to think how it will grow in the years to come. 

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This is the 10th H&M Conscious Exclusive collection. What goals have you set for the future?

We are always looking to innovate and push the boundaries of more sustainable fashion to remain at the forefront of this powerful movement. We have lots of exciting plans about new innovations we want to include in the collections going forward, but it’s always a case of making sure they are entirely right for our products. Ultimately, our products have to be beautiful and timeless, otherwise they won’t appeal to our customers. Creating products that aren’t desirable is one of the most unsustainable things that you can do.  

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H&M Conscious Exclusive AW19 Collection, Choice of Liga Zemture, Senior Editor in Chief of L'Officiel Baltics
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In stores from September 26th

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