Swedish fashion brand approaches Year 1 in PH
H&M was met with an unprecedented reception when it first arrived in the Philippines in 2014, as thousands of Filipino shoppers lined up outside the brand new SM Mega Fashion Hall in Mandaluyong City hours before the flagship store opened on October 17.
Now wrapping up its third quarter, and well on its way to its first anniversary in the country, The Manila Times checked in on how the popular Swedish fashion brand is doing in the local retail scene.
“H&M has been doing really well here. We’ve been so happy with the Filipino people’s reception since Day 1. We had over 3,200 people lining up way before the opening at 9 a.m. That was historical to say because we broke the record for [the number of attendees]at all other the H&M openings around the world,” shared Dan Mejia, H&M Philippines’ press communications manager.
The Manila Times sat down with Mejia at H&M’s Studio AW15 collection launch at the Mind Museum, where it further asked about feedback from the headquarters in Stockholm.
“Our CEO [Karl-Johan Persson] specifically said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this’,” he enthused.
And while Mejia had always known that Filipinos have long anticipated the arrival of H&M in the country—shopping overseas from the Swedish clothing label—not one of them expected to receive such love from fashionistas this side of the world.
“We were all surprised to say the least,” he added.
To this day, Filipino patronage for H&M continues to overwhelm the company.
“Then and now, more and more customers are coming in. We are proud to say that we have new arrivals everyday, which is why there is always something new for them to see at the stores,” Mejia reported.
Observing the buying patterns of the Filipino market, the communications executive noted, “I believe we are already a mature and practical market. Whatever international brand comes into the country today, including H&M, the Filipino shopper bases decisions on design, while being very price-sensitive.”
He continued, “In saying this, the love of Filipinos for H&M goes beyond the label because it is more about an understanding and an appreciation of what H&M offers them.”
H&M now has five stores in the country: SM Megamall (flagship), SM Makati, Robinsons Place Manila, SM North EDSA and Robinsons Magnolia. The sixth branch in Manila is scheduled to open very soon in SM Fairview.
And before the year ends, the global company will finally go outside the National Capital Region with its first regional branch in Cebu City.
“While we cannot announce our location in Cebu just yet, all I can say is that it is going to be inside a mall because I think we are a mall-centric country. Right now, we are busy hiring team members and focused on getting the best people for the branch,” Mejia explained.
Globally, there are also numerous developments to follow for H&M.
“Our business idea used to be fashion and quality at the best price. Now we’ve expanded it by adding sustainability. Meaning, at the heart of everything that we do at H&M, we make sure that we are not only cost-conscious, we also have to be environmentally conscious,” Mejia informed.
He added that they also try to “close the loop” in the retail industry by accepting old garments—be they H&M or non-H&M—and re-use them for other purposes, or better yet, recycle and convert them to energy.
Mejia invited Filipinos to join the initiative by dropping their old clothes at dedicated boxes inside H&M stores. “We then give you a 15-percent discount voucher for one item on your next purchase,” he enticed.
As for the brand’s next designer collaboration, Mejia said that “Balmain x H&M” collection is expected to be launched worldwide by the last quarter of 2015.
He said, “We hope to achieve the same reaction that Filipinos had on the collaboration with Alexander Wang, which was sold out within a week here.”
After his tête-à-tête with The Manila Times, Mejia went back to official business, which was to introduce H&M latest Studio collection for Autum/Winter 2015. This will be available internationally on September 10 across 200 stores including the Philippines’ SM Mega Fashion Hall.
According to Mejia, fashion-philes can expect ‘70s vibe for the said season made edgier with “sporty energy, utilitarian futurism, and starburst shine.”
Among the key looks presented at the event were zip-up quilted coats, asymmetric tops, laminated wool skirt, roll neck and lurex sweaters, and pants both straight legged and flared. Colors range from burgundy, rust red, pumpkin orange, dark green, camel grey, black, gold, bronze and silver; while fabrics include wool and lurex.
Accessories take the form of utilitarian and embellished caps, laminated boots, heeled sandals worn with socks, and moon boots.
So where do Filipinos wear H&M Studio’s pieces what with just mild-to-cool weather persisting in the final quarter of the year?
Mejia replied with a knowing smile, “I believe that Filipinos are very global. I think these [clothes]will be perfect for them when they travel. You know how Filipinos are—during the holidays, what we do is we go out. We go to Europe, to Hong Kong, and to other cold places. We are confident that our customers will fall in love with this collection and wear them fashionably as they have always worn H&M.”