Friday, April 15, 2016

Fast fashion shopping strategy: H&M

H&M, the Scandinavian retail giant
Travelling around Europe, you quickly get the impression that there is an H&M almost around every corner of every city, be it small or big. The impression is right: H&M is actually the second largest global clothing retailer, just behind Inditex, Zara's parent company. It is present in 61 countries with over 3900 shops, and employs around 132,000 people.
In Scandinavia, the presence of H&M is even more evident. That is so because H&M (original name, Hennes & Mauritz) is a Swedish company and because it owns not just H&M, but additional brands COS, and & other stories, among others.

A friendly giant ? Living wages and sustainability
We are unfortunately familiar with tragedies in the garment industry in emerging economies. That is not good PR, and companies that were quite happy with turning a blind eye about conditions and wages among their suppliers in poor countries, started to rethink that strategy.
H&M's efforts towards "friendliness" in the form of decent working conditions really took off in 2012, after outrageous tragedies in Cambodia. Then, the company published a near-complete list of the factories that supply its garments. This transparency is laudable, as makes possible to check working conditions at their factories, something most brands do not offer.
Additionally, the company committed in 2013 to pay all textile workers a "living wage" by 2018. They have made other commitments, like implementing a garment collection scheme or aiming at more environmentally friendly products, but those strategies are still to be fully realized or their impact to be evaluated to be considered positive. It is true that there are those products, but they are only a small percentage of the total, and the company stresses above all fast and repeated consumption of cheaply made items that will not last. No recycling campaign can keep up with that.
I like to think of my blog as encouraging responsible consumption of well made garments, investments that will be enjoyed for years, so I approach H&M exclusively as a source for very specific, very carefully chosen, items.

PROs and CONs of shopping at H&M

I talked some weeks ago about H&M as fast fashion retailer and how you can get the same for less there if you keep an eye of their frequent stock updates.

PROs

  • Democratic sizing. although their Plus collection is often of the lowest quality.
  • Up-to-date silhouettes and colours. This is a double-edged sword: it can update your wardrobe instantly but it goes without saying, not everything will flatter you.
  • Some good-fitting jackets, really well cut, but only very few are made of something other than polyester.
  • Some eco-minded products.
  • High fashion collaborations that result in some very special pieces. Their Balmain and Louboutin collaborations have been especially reknown, although I am afraid I have never got to see any of the items "in the flesh", as people queue in front of the shops before opening hours and all items disappear first thing in the morning... the first morning!... And I do not queue for clothes.
  • A Premium collection at really good prices, well made and in lasting materials. These are the pieces I always check first.

Sage green and soft peach
Mixing high and low by C. Grant. The jacket above is a great find at H&M, stunningly beautiful. It is also really well made and well finished, which is always and issue with embroidered and/or embellished items in any shop. The t-shirt, also from H&M, is made of linen, and comes in three soft colours. I have included two options for shoes: a pair of pink coral walking shoes by Ecco and a pair of khaki sandals from Clarks US. These basic pieces are affordable, so you can go now and invest in the Gucci handbag, which is a veritable work of art.

COS Skirt / H&M Jacket / H&M Coat / Ecco Shoes / Gucci Handbag /  Marni Necklace / Tom ford Lipstick in Blush Nude / Tom Ford Eye Quad in Cocoa Mirage / Tom Ford Nail Lacquer in Show Me the Pink.

CONs

  • Their business model. As I mentioned above, H&M is a fast fashion emporium and does not really produce those basic pieces that are the cornerstone of any grown woman's wardrobe: a good quality black/navy tailored something. When they do (their Suiting, they are mostly 100% polyester. A young woman at an entry level position may get away with their best pieces if she takes good care of them so they look impeccable for maybe some months, but that is about it.
  • It's a nightmare to find something in the shop. The overabundance of products makes it hard to locate a specific item, and that they change the location of EVERYTHING every week makes it even worse. I ask a shop assistant whenever possible and always check first on their web page.
  • Client service is generally OK and sale assistants - when and if you find one - try their best to locate products, but sometimes they themselves seem to be overwhelmed by the fast pace.
  • A not easy to navigate web page, with filters that are next to useless. The stock in the website is different from the one online.
  • Ordering online does not include collecting in-shop, as Zara does, or returning there.
  • Overabundance of low quality materials: polyester reigns in H&M, and not the recycled type.
  • Jerseys have the expiration date of fresh milk, both material and dyes.
Conclusion

If you are on a budget, H&M is the place for you, but you will need to invest some time to get something worthwhile there. On the other hand, any good purchase you make will make you proud!
  1. Always check first online so you know what you are looking for. Then check with reality, as surprises go both ways (for better, for worse) with this shop.
  2. Choose carefully, considering quality, longevity and sustainability.
  3. Consider the possibility of personalizing through changing belts, buttons, etc. for a more upscale look.
Good luck hunting there!

Earth tones

Silk structured dress from H&M by C. Grant. H&M occasionally offers  splendid pieces for special occasions. The dress here is last year's, but their present Conscious collection, released two weeks ago, contains some amazing pieces, truly beautiful, that make for splendid investments.

H&M Dress / H&M Jacket / Hispanitas Handbag / Giuseppe Zanotti Lace-up Shoes /   Marni Leaf pendant Necklace  / YSL Lipstick in Corail Legende / Dior Nail Lacquer in Corail Divin.

Sources:
H&M webpage
The Guardian H&M: how does the fashion retailer's sustainability report stack up? 24 April 2013
The Guardian Is H&M the new home of ethical fashion?
The Huffington Post H&M’s “Conscious” Collection? Don’t Buy Into the Hype 21 June 2015
clean clothes campaign H&M's sustainability promises will not deliver a living wage  9 April 2015


This post contains no affiliated links.
This post first appeared on The Red Lipstick: Own Your Style, on April 15 2016.

Friday, April 8, 2016

How to wear... sailor trousers

This is the third and final post about sailor trousers. Enjoy!

Tops:

  • Bright, happy colours, white, and striped T-shirts with or without nautical embellishments (buttons with anchors, etc.) are a classic combination with sailor trousers, which are usually navy, white, red, or white.
  • With sleeves to achieved a balance between upper and lower body (unless you have narrow hips), either short or three-quarter length.
  • Should hit you at high hip, and so should any cardigan you wear, as you run the risk of losing all shape if you don't stick to that.
  • To tuck or not to tuck. This really depends on how wide your top and leg trousers are in relation to each other, and the length of the top. In general, I wear my fitted tees, blouses, and knit tops tucked in.

Sailor trousers 3
Sailor trousers with striped t-shirt by C. Grant. A classic combination of red, white and blue, with sophisticated shoes and accessories. The sandals have a closed back, with avoids the pain of having the trouser leg get trapped between heel and shoe all the time.
APhilosophy di Alberta Ferretti Trousers / Mary Kratantzou rainbow stripe T-shirt / McQ Alexander McQueen Crêpe Coat / Ann Taylor Shoes / Kate Spade New York Earrings / Gucci Handbag /  Marc by Marc Jacobs Scarf / Dior Lipstick in Trafalgar / Dior Nail Lacquer in Riviera.

Shoes:

  • Go for substantial flats (not your average "I'm really walking straight on the floor" pair, but rather one with a proper sole: better for your back, I promise), pointy ballerinas or loafers for a relaxed style.
  • Heels with a wedge or a platform look great with sailor trousers, but you can go with more polished styles, as in the sets I have created.

Sailor trousers 4
Sailor trousers with lace cardigan by C. Grant. The cardigan hits at high hip, as you can see, and the vertical lines created by the double row of buttons continue with it. I love this statement necklace by Kate Spade, and have found quite easy to replicate it in black for myself using black Czech glass beads.

Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti Trousers / Talula U-turn T-shirt / Phase Eight Guipure Lace Cardigan / Zara Shoes / Kate Spade New York Necklace / Gucci Handbag /  Accessorize Scarf / YSL Lipstick in Corail Legende / Dior Nail Lacquer in Corail Divin.

Accessories:

To accessorize, think about how much embellishment your top is carrying and how visible the buttons on your tummy are (are they contrasting in colour or metallic?).

Sailor trousers 5
Sailor trousers for weekend by C. Grant. A relaxed, Scandi-ensemble for the weekend. In Denmark, wearing trainers is OK with everything, from skirts to formal trousers, to commute or to go out for lunch. Comfort is paramount among Danish women...

Alberta Ferreti Trousers / H&M Sweater / H&M Coat / Ecco Shoes / Issey Miyake Handbag /  Anton Heunis Brooch, Ring and Earrings / Tom ford Lipstick in Blush Nude / Tom Ford Nail Lacquer in Show Me the Pink.

This post contains no affiliated links.
This post first appeared on The Red Lipstick: Own Your Style, on September 4 2012. It has been edited now.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Sailor trousers: Styling tips

Styling tips for sailor trousers

Last week I introduced a new TRL style essential: the sailor trouser. Sailor trousers offer timeless style and they are revisited every few years by designers, as is the whole nautical idea behind them.I'd like to go over now some styling tips for different body types.
Sailor pants can very well be every working woman's staple, so it can be a good idea stock up on them whenever they are fashionable. I often buy two pairs of the same trousers in the best quality I can afford: one pair hemmed for heels, one for flats.
What to look for?
  • A straight or slightly flared leg is most people's best choice, cut mid to wide width. Remember that your best leg width depends on how tall you are, because wider trousers legs will make you look shorter. They should fall loose from the widest part of your hips. 
  • A double row of buttons is good tummy camouflage, just check that they are not placed very low.
  • A crease will always elongate your legs. Keep it sharp through ironing (through a cotton cloth, of course, to avoid unpleasant shine).
  • Hem wide sailor pants (or, for that matter, any long, flared pair) 1/2-1" from the floor when wearing the shoes you will be using.

Hobbs Keeva Trousers / Alice and Olivia bell sleeve Blouse / Hobbs Gweneth Coat / Tory Burch Shoes / Roger Vivier Clutch Handbag /  Kenneth Jay Lane Necklace / Dior Lipstick in Trafalgar / Tom Ford Eye shadow Quad in Golden Mink / Tom Ford Nail Lacquer in Show Me the Pink.

Styling tips for Body Types:

If the pair you find needs to be taken in at the waist, just go ahead and choose a pair that fits your hips and have a professional deal with the rest.
  • Body Type A: Choose ones that are not at waist level but one inch or two below it so they don't accentuate the difference between your hips and your upper body. Keep in mind that very low rise trousers will make your hips look wider too.
  • Body Type B: A pair of sailor trousers with a high waist will make your legs look longer. Look for a pair that places the buttons over your stomach and not your hips.
  • Body Type C: You can wear any style of trousers, so sailor trousers are for you too. 

This post first appeared in The Red Lipstick: Own Your Style on April 6, 2012. It has been edited for re-publication.
This post contains no affiliated links.