COS It’s So Nice

A newer, cooler ampersand in the H&M portfolio, & Other Stories has become my go-to spot on the net, but it’s still the crisp white shirts in COS which get me – and my bank account – every time.

When H&M launched its decidedly more fashion-forward concept brand & Other Stories, I was enthralled by the bright colours and unusual shapes. A follow-up to its subsidiary label ‘Collection of Style’ or COS as it’s monikered, & Other Stories wasn’t as directional or easy-wearing as its sibling, instead producing modern silhouettes in vibrant, high-end fabrics.

These last twelve months my wardrobe has become robust, mostly made up of items from these two brands. But while I lean towards the tailored, quirky lines of Other Stories, I still hanker after COS’s simple, structured shape.

Last year, a change in circumstance prompted a wardrobe overhaul and along with several bad habits (like biting my nails, which I started age four and only gave up last June) I disposed of all my old, ill-fitting clothes, choosing simply to start over. The nub of my wardrobe consisted mainly of fast-fashion brands which were repetitive, cheap, and which I harboured no love for (bar one or two exceptional items which were spared the nebulous fate of the black sack), but the process of starting over was entwined with new priorities. I didn’t want to saturate my wardrobe with more clutter, and following the collapse of the Bangladeshi factory last spring I became increasingly concerned about where my clothes were coming from, but also how retailers generate pollution. I needed to dress all the same, and was determined to achieve that elusive ‘capsule wardrobe’ fabled by Gok Wan.

As a kid I remember seeing Vanilla Sky, and aside from coveting Penelope Cruz’s chocolate-y brown hair, I became fixated on this loose shirt she wore in one of the earlier scenes. I went hunting for something similar in A-Wear but only found those close-fitting dobby shirts in shades of pastel and blue (the kind reserved for cheap polyester work trousers with an unexplained sheen).

My dreams of relaxed poplin shirts were scuppered, and aside from secondary school I didn’t own a shirt till last year. But eventually, after battling my wardrobe’s tangled graveyard of knitwear my mind turned to simple, directional separates and once again I embarked on a mission to find the ideal crisp white shirt.

In this age of fast-fashion, the white shirt is the very definition of a wardrobe staple. Buttoned-up or worn relaxed, it has a touch of masculinity to it with tailored trousers, while looking remarkably feminine with close-fitting jeans. COS’s ability to reinvent the iconic shape, playing with proportion, reversing the traditional dipped hem or eliminating the collar sets it apart while small details – a contrast pocket, concealed buttons – give it that touch of luxury which normally goes amiss on the high street.

& Other Stories will always enthrall, but COS just wins me every time.

Blurred Lines

I spend a significant portion of my day scanning online clothing stores, digital consultancy sites and the Sunday Times Style mag, plucking headlines and copy ideas while trying to get my head around key styles for the season at hand.

I’ve become relatively intuitive to good marketing and wary of savvy product endorsements, but what irritates me is the increasingly obvious, frequently banal hard-sell across different platforms.

NET-A-PORTER and Mr. Porter offer the most cohesive Internet experience in my opinion, creating a clear-cut pathway between inspiration and transaction.

The Edit, NET-A-PORTER’S digital magazine, offers users an integrated experience by combining new and traditional media and creating a product that’s unique but inherently familiar. By comparison, GQ.com runs weekly Mr. Porter style edits with press shots and copy, which serves as quick and effective click-bait.

That a print magazine has lapsed into limited content marketing, where its source has moved into quality content production, is remarkable but perhaps not surprising.

Last week, NET-A-PORTER launched Porter, its new global publication featuring bespoke fashion and lifestyle features, which can be shopped via your phone. Porter’s effortless amalgam of content and commerce underlines a desire amongst retailers to utilise media in new and creative ways that promote the brand and give it a lifestyle dimension.

This is something that H&M and its subsidiary brands do this with aplomb (how cool and gimmicky is t-commerce?) Earlier this month, the company teamed up with Bauer Media to launch a new website for 20-something women called The Debrief. Using tailor-made native advertising (read: undercover adverts dressed up as genuine editorial content), the company encourages readers to click through to the online store and shop the looks that inspire them.

Meanwhile, H&M’s sibling brand Cos launched its fourteenth bi-annual magazine last week. Free in-store, it pursues the brand’s minimalist aesthetic through typography and design, with articles featuring well-known figures in Cos clothes. It’s not quite as understated as Porter but it’s the same idea at heart.

These endeavors, all funded through Internet shopping, show an ability amongst retailers to adapt to the digital sphere, transcend our expectations, and create brand identities which readers can instantly explore online. What this means for journalism is intimidating, but what it signifies for retailers seems pretty exciting.

Cool Story, Bro

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Fashion after college was a slight whirlwind. I started working in an art gallery shortly after, then moved into an e-commerce business where I was asked to waive my rights to blue jeans and unusual hair colours. I started my first month with a remarkable collection of black clothing collected over several years and built on these with new structured separates from Cos.

Through my new job I became interested in online retail and began to study my favourite brands (all Swedish), observing their social media platforms and checkout processes while carefully honing in on their online image and its role in creating a strong brand identity.

The process began with Cos, moving through H&M’s remarkable catalogue of celeb collaborations, with a stop-off at Acne, before landing on H&M’s new sub-brand & Other Stories.

& Other Stories’ website is remarkable: playing on the concept of Pinterest, it is a high concept brand that combines the austerity of Cos with the brand’s vibrant, mischievous aesthetic. The result, like Pinterest, is addictive, and the site’s assertive merchandising strategy constantly pulls you in with more shoes, more jewellery and more make-up.

I visited & Other Stories in Stockholm last week where their store was adorned with mood boards, tables of leather, wool and cashmere accessories, a make-up area with light wood counters and a second floor dedicated to shoes.

Naturally I more-or-less bankrupted myself in that little space on Biblioteksgatan, but my heart also skipped a beat when I read this morning that & Other Stories will finally ship to Ireland.

Until then however, I think I’ll stop off at their Regent Street Store when I visit London in March. If only to cash in on this Simone Rocha-esque workwear line.

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