Posted : 2010-11-22 17:22
Updated : 2010-11-22 17:22

Can H&M’s high-end fast fashion make it here?

H&M Korea President
Hans Andersson
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia

The much-hyped Lanvin for H&M collection hits the racks in Seoul, Tuesday, and fashion-crazy shoppers are expected to form long queues waiting for the two H&M stores in Myeongdong to open at 8 a.m.

``We expect many people (on Tuesday). Korea is the only country where we have Lanvin in 100 percent of our stores. We only have two stores, but the collection is only available in 200 out of over 2,000 stores around the world,” Hans Andersson, H&M Korea president and representative director, told The Korea Times, at the Aston House, Walkerhill, Seoul, Friday evening.

The Swedish fast-fashion giant is quite confident of the Koreans’ seemingly insatiable appetite for fashion. Aside from a star-studded launch party in New York, H&M chose Seoul as the only other city for a special VIP party celebrating the collection at the Aston House, Friday. Korean stars, such as Choi Ji-woo, Son Dam-bi, Kim Ha-neul and Kim Hyun-joong, attended the party dressed head-to-toe in Lanvin for H&M pieces.

``Korea is a new country for us. We thought it would be very good to have an event for the Lanvin collection. Our main collection is highly appreciated everywhere but I think with the playful colors and styles, I believe the Asian market would even be more enthusiastic,’’ Andersson said.

Considered one of the most influential brands of the 21st century, Lanvin is known for its sumptuous colors and impeccably cut designs. Alber Elbaz, artistic director at Lanvin, recreated the signature Lanvin look with a collection of flirty party dresses, striking coats, fun accessories and sky-high pumps.

Lanvin is the latest luxury brand to collaborate with H&M, with past collections designed by Stella McCartney, Comme des Garcons and Karl Lagerfeld.

H&M is synonymous with quality fashion pieces at reasonable prices, but the highly coveted pieces from the Lanvin for H&M collection are priced a bit higher. For example, a T-shirt goes for 59,000 won, while a pair of leopard-print pumps is 199,000 won. The attention-grabbing one-shouldered yellow dress goes for 249,000 won, while a sophisticated faux fur coat is 399,000 won.

Some may have complained about the higher pricing scheme in Seoul, but Andersson said pricing for H&M pieces differs around the world because of the taxes.

H&M, the world’s third largest fashion retailer by revenue, made quite a splash when it opened its first store in Seoul in February. Since then, it has caught the attention of Korean shoppers and foreign tourists. Its stores in Myeongdong are always packed with shoppers eager to grab the latest fashions.

``We did have high belief in Korea when we launched H&M here, but the reception was even better than we expected... We knew the fashion level was high, but when we opened the first store here, we were surprised the fashion level was even higher,’’ Andersson said.

In particular, Andersson noted that Korean customers are ``constructively critical’’ and have keen sense of quality, design and value for money.

H&M Korea is already planning on opening three more stores, one in IFC Mall in Yeouido, and two retail outlets within Shinsegae department stores in Incheon and Cheonan, by spring 2011.

``Our intention was always to establish a good number of stores. For us, location is very important, especially the first five to 10 stores, you roll out. It's not that we say we should open this many stores in so many years. We wait until we have the location and the conditions,’’ Andersson said.

There is stiff competition in the fast fashion market in Korea, with H&M competing with Spanish chain Zara, Korean-American-owned Forever 21 and the Korean brand SPAO.

``We love competition. Competition is the driver that keeps us dynamic. We want to have our best competitors around us because that makes us stay awake and try harder,’’ the H&M Korea president said.

Andersson, a Swedish executive who moved to Seoul last January, said he was quite impressed with Korean culture and its vibrant dynamism.

This same dynamism is fueling H&M’s optimism in the Korean market.

``The future is very positive. It’s a highly competitive market... We will try our best to be on top and expand here in Korea in the next couple of years,’’ Andersson said.
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