From Runway to Reality

Ann-Sofie Johansson on the Rabanne H&M Collaboration

Following in the footsteps of H&M’s other successful designer collaborations, the popular Swedish brand is teaming up with the house of Rabanne to create a new collection full of glamorous, nostalgic pieces. Since its founding in 1966, the house of Paco Rabanne has had a significant influence on the fashion industry. Notably, by using materials like plastic and metal in an unexpected way, Rabanne opened the door for many other designers to push the boundaries of what is possible in the field of fashion design. eniGma’s Janna Rabie got the chance to interview H&M’s Head of Design Womenswear and Creative Advisor, Ann-Sofie Johansson, to talk about the new Rabanne H&M collection.

Ann-Sofie Johansson reveals that H&M sets a high bar for its designer partnerships, which she says allows them “to stop the world for a moment.” She adds that H&M has a running wish list of designers and brands they would like to collaborate with, and that Paco Rabanne, represented by its Creative Director and Lead Designer Julien Dossena, had been on H&M’s list for a long time. Since joining the company ten years ago, Dossena had protected the legacy of the brand, while infusing it with freshness. He revived the house while retaining its unmistakably French aesthetic.

Ever since 2004, when they began their first designer partnership with the late Karl Lagerfeld, H&M has had a series of successful collaborations with designer houses. These collaborations, including the latest with Rabanne, provide H&M clients with iconic pieces of fashion history at a reasonable cost, hence their popularity. “H&M’s designer partnerships are primarily focused on providing customers with something completely unique and remarkable,” says Johansson.

“The best partnerships are those in which both sides can learn from each other, making it a win-win situation. With their vast reach, in-depth expertise in production and sustainable practises, and solid grasp of how to start these partnerships for optimal effect, H&M is a formidable force in the industry,” says Johansson. “In turn, the companies and designers with whom we work, impart knowledge to us through their distinctive designs and clientele,” she adds.

H&M was careful to incorporate the iconic hallmark techniques of renowned designer Paco Rabanne into their collection, while keeping sustainability as their focus. Johansson makes it clear that their objectives for this collection were to follow industry best practises, support H&M’s circularity objectives, and produce pieces made of premium materials at reasonable prices. Replicating the archive-inspired metallic mesh in a more environmentally friendly composition—combining recycled and conventional metal without sacrificing durability or shine—proved to be the most difficult task, according to Johansson. It’s safe to say that H&M made themselves proud by working with their suppliers to generate this distinctive combination. “For years the Rabanne team had been trying to accomplish this in-house without success,” says Johansson.

Approximately 18 months before the launch of the collection, the H&M and Rabanne teams had their first meeting in Paris, where Dossena was given creative freedom to develop an idea for the collection that would include accessories, menswear, womenswear, and an H&M HOME capsule. From the start, Dossena had a very clear vision loosely inspired by a 1970s pool party, and he wanted to include Rabanne’s iconic pieces in the collection—the instantly recognisable pieces that every fashionista wants to have in their wardrobe, as well as amazing evening wear, swimwear, and elevated leisurewear.

With Dossena’s concept quite strong and obvious from the start, the design collaboration between the two teams, H&M in Stockholm, and Rabanne in Paris, was simple. The teams convened multiple times in Paris, primarily to discuss the initial idea and subsequently, for fittings. They worked in tandem with their product development team to motivate their suppliers to create novel material advances. Both teams were eager to impart knowledge, exchange concepts and solutions, and produce some very remarkable work. “It was a dream collaboration from our end,” Johansson exclaims, adding, “We are also really excited to be offering this party collection just in time for the holidays.”

Dossena’s inspiration for the 1970s pool party means that many of the pieces have references to that era. However, these references have been filtered through Dossena’s forward-thinking perspective. He effortlessly infuses the pieces with modernity while blending archival references with his own sensibility. “I don’t think the collection is tied to one era – it’s timeless,” exclaims Johansson.

As in every one of their designer collaborations, Rabanne and H&M aim to provide their customers with a distinctive fashion offering. They are providing their consumers with unique pieces of fashion history that are unavailable elsewhere at the same price point with the Rabanne line. H&M also takes accessibility into account; they want these items to be enjoyable and simple to wear. “What I really like about Julien Dossena is that he is a really practical designer with a clear vision. He is constantly considering the consumer, just like us. Working with him and his team was enjoyable, and we are thrilled to introduce this collection. We are extremely excited to see how our customers wear it,” says Johansson.

H&M and Rabanne made sure there was something for everyone in the collection, which features some amazing statement pieces that perfectly capture Rabanne’s distinct appeal, contrasted with more relaxed, daily looks in classic cuts and exquisite fabrics. As many would expect, this collaboration has impacted H&M positively, and has set the bar quite high for others.

Rabanne H&M womenswear and menswear collection will be available on November 9th at Cairo Festival City and on