Everyone’s favourite brand H&M collaborated with renowned Lebanese fashion designer Sandra Mansour producing a unique and exciting new summer collection that is hitting H&M stores around the globe. Designer Sandra Mansour, together with Maria Östblom, the Head of Design Womenswear/Assortment Designer for H&M since 2013, spoke exclusively to enigma to share the story of their collaboration and the details of this fabulous collection.
Maria, can you tell eniGma readers a bit about yourself and your extensive career?
I’m from Gothenburg, Sweden, and am now based in Stockholm. I’ve been the head of design womenswear at H&M since 2013 after being with the Swedish fashion brand Tiger of Sweden for a few years. But I first joined H&M as a design assistant in 1997 after graduating from the design school, Beckmans, in Stockholm. Over 20 years, I’ve had so many different positions that I’ve lost count!
What do you think H&M is doing that other brands aren’t?
That’s always a very hard question to answer, with so many great companies around. But I know that we’re working very hard at being an inclusive global brand that also prioritises sustainability. We are also working towards greater transparency as an organisation. One of our other strengths is that we love the continuous feedback we get from our customers around the world!
How do you think your expertise has impacted H&M?
Positively, I hope! I know that because I’ve had so many different positions at H&M and elsewhere, I have a unique perspective and respect for the many, many roles that make up a design team and a whole brand. I like to emphasise and support teamwork, as well as open-mindedness. These are all very important things in the fashion world, but also in life.
With H&M’s global market, how do you think you can create something for everyone, since tastes differ from culture to culture?
The H&M identity is always one of democratic fashion – accessible styles and price points that anyone could wear if they choose – and this informs everything we do. From a design perspective, and even with a collaboration, this allows for maximum creative freedom; but we do like to have something for everyone. With the Sandra Mansour collaboration, for example, this means gorgeous dresses, but also streetwear pieces such as a hoodie and graphic t-shirt that you can mix and match with ease.
What are your thoughts on the Sandra Mansour X H&M collaboration?
When we first came across Sandra Mansour, we fell in love with all the storytelling behind her designs – they’re like modern fairytales. She’s probably best known for her dresses, and at first glance her work is light and sensitive, but it’s also dark and decadent. Sandra herself exudes a lot of self-confidence, balancing femininity with edginess throughout her designs, and that made her ideal for a collaboration with H&M.
Can you tell us a bit about the Sandra Mansour X H&M collection? What’s the style that it’s going for?
The Fleur de Soleil collection was inspired by the Sunflower, with the purpose of spreading light and hope in these very bizarre times. We worked really hard on creating pieces that represent both the house of Sandra Mansour and H&M. The style of the entire collection meshes both houses into one, our signature ethereal feel with the coolness of H&M.
Who is the target audience for this new collection?
Everyone and anyone who sees themselves in these pieces. Those who can dream and escape in the story of this collection should be the ones who adorn it.
What sets this collection apart from prior H&M collections?
It’s dreamy! And it’s the first ever collaboration between us both, so I think the entire feel will be different. It’s very much a marriage of both houses. It’s exciting when I think of all that we did together. I think the romanticism of this collection will be what sets the collaboration apart from all the others.
How does it feel to be the first Arab designer to collaborate with H&M?
It’s truly exhilarating. I don’t think I can sum it up better than that. I am also very proud and honored to represent my country and my region in such a historic event. It has been an extremely exciting journey!
Do you think this collection will tackle some of the trends of 2020? If so how?
I think it’s more a tribute to both fashion houses and their essence, rather than trends. But yes, of course, the colour schemes are very trendy so are some of the pieces; we made a really cool blazer, hoodie and t-shirt!