H&M’s Launch at the Louvre

After poring over 300-year-old sketches, 19th-century haute couture gowns, and paintings by Early Renaissance masters like Botticelli hidden away within the archives of the Musée du Louvre, a select group of H&M designers has created a remarkable blend of art and fashion. One week following the end of the Fall/Winter ’16 runway season, the Swedish fashion powerhouse previewed its 2016 Conscious Exclusive Collection at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (within the Louvre’s western wing). On April 7, the collection will hit approximately 180 stores worldwide, coinciding with the opening day of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs’ exhibition “Fashion Forward – 300 Years of Fashion (1715-2016).” With this collection, H&M shifts from high-profile collaborations (Karl Lagerfeld, Isabel Marant, Alexander Wang, and Balmain, to name a few) towards highlighting the talents of its design team, as well as the company’s commitment to environmental and social responsibility.

“Drawing on the 300-year history of the Louvre and making an ethically-produced and sustainably-sourced collection—so we can enjoy fashion, and the planet, for the next 300 hundred years—are the driving ideas behind this collection,” Anna Gedda, H&M’s Head of Sustainability, says. “We see our size as an opportunity to be a catalyst for positive change in the fashion industry.”

Honoring its commitment to transparency, last year H&M became one of the first companies to publish its supplier factory list, as well as its fabric and yarn mills, from Italy to Bangladesh. In addition to sourcing sustainable materials, the Conscious Exclusive Collection creates a space in which H&M can “experiment on a smaller scale and integrate what [is] learned into other ranges,” Gedda continues. This year, H&M employed the use of organic silk, hemp, and linen, recycled polyester, and Denimite—an entirely new, never-before-used fabric made from worn denim.

For Julia Restoin Roitfeld, the face of the campaign, the ability to wear art history hits the spot. “I love the mix of conscious, sustainable fabrics and an old painting,” she said in a statement, also naming her favorite piece: a powder pink asymmetrical mini-dress inspired by Gustave Moreau’s painting Jupiter and Semele (1984-85). Another standout is the digital rendering of Botticelli’s La Primavera on organic silk, as are the cat-eye sunglasses with flat-mirrored lenses made from recycled plastics, including shampoo bottles and bags. One also can’t forget to mention that the collection marks H&M’s first foray into wedding dresses, with three different designs—one was inspired by the Art Deco period with reused glass-bead embellishments; another evokes early 20th-century Parisian summer attire with intricate lace detailing; and the third, an organic linen gown, echoes Napoleonic grandeur. The collection is bold and innovative, bringing art to life in a way that will help sustain future generations.