Swedish retail giant Hennes & Mauritz is gunning for its “coolly-minimal younger sibling,” COS, to make big a splash in the US market after building up quite a fanbase in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The brand will make its debut in the spring, joining fast-fashion phenom H&M.
But the higher-priced, more artsy brand has no intention of settling for second place. According to H&M's head of business, Marie Honda, the high-fashion brand has the potential to be huge. After testing the waters earlier this month with a NYC pop-up shop at Opening Ceremony, the upscale, minimalist and cosmopolitan COS brand will target US ities "that have an international feel," Honda told Women's Wear Daily.
Come spring 2014, the brand plans to launch US e-commerce and open its first store in April in NYC's Soho neighborhood.
It’s a strategic shift for H&M, which launched in the US market as a trendy and cheaper alternative to Gap, Zara and Forever 21, and for whom American stores deliver the most revenue after Germany.
The US has "been on our wish list for some time," COS' Atul Pathak told the Wall Street Journal, but "this can often take time." COS currently has 75 stores with 40 planned for 2014.
COS, for one, employs a more "coherent" design that "feels more long term," than that of its fast-fashion sibling, Elle Sweden editor Erika Vallin commented. In fact, H&M’s latest fast-fashion line, with French designer Isabel Marant, went so quickly that it crashed the brand's website this week. The collection was also released in 250 H&M stores in the US including the new 42,000-square-foot tech-savvy flagship in NYC's Times Square.
As it seems, the H&M family of brands have largely come out from under the dust cloud that was recent accidents in manufacturing hubs like Bangladesh that reflected poorly on the brand's supply chain. In further efforts to build up transparency, the brand has agreed to become the sole client of two factories in Bangladesh and one in Cambodia. “We see these a little like test centers where we can try out different things that we can then push out on a larger scale in the entire supply chain,” said Anna Gedda, H&M’s social sustainability manager, according to Business of Fashion. “These test factories provide supply-chain transparency and greater control over working conditions,” added Euromonitor analyst Ashma Kunde.
H&M has been buying from Bangladesh since 1982 and Cambodia since 1998, and it's one of world’s largest retailers and clothing manufacturers now pursuing tighter control in such countries where working conditions and wages have held a spotlight as European and American retailers deal with the aftermath of more than 1,000 deaths in garment factory accidents including the Rana Plaza collapse.