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July 29 2014

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Sweden’s Best Design School—H&M?

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H&M is more than a ridiculously successful Swedish company—it’s also a training ground for many of the country’s top designers, and Stockholm fashion week was full of collections by “graduates” of the affordable-fashion giant, from the geometric, seemingly cloud-moistened wrappings at Nakkna to the skinny suits and tawny nature prints at Tiger of Sweden.

Statistically speaking, this is no huge surprise: H&M retains about 100 designers and takes on 35 trainees a year, according to Margareta van den Bosch, the legendary H&M design chief emeritus. Van den Bosch (who still plays an advisory role at the company) provided those numbers at the Hope show, where she was checking up on the latest from former H&M designers Ann Ringstrand and Stefan Söderberg. Having envisioned waiters and fairies at a mid-summer feast, they’d served up a seventies-inflected mix of utility and romance.

At Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair (left), former H&M patternmaker Astrid Olsson is experimenting with exaggerated silhouettes, feminine draping, and the occasional voluminous knot of jersey. (To the disappointment of her growing fan base, her label didn’t show at SFW.) Olsson’s preferred textures at the moment are dry and papery. The mod looks in Roland Hjort’s Spring collection for Whyred, on the other hand, have a greasy sheen that suggests the oily protective layer on feathers. Even if he’s taken flight with his own label, Hjort is grounded in the commercial realities he and his fellow H&M alums picked up there. “What you really learn is that the product has to sell,” Hope’s Söderberg said backstage. “If only one person wants what you design, it won’t last.”

Photo: Courtesy of Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair

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