As important as collaborations are in today’s fashion biz, they’re also incredibly common. Hardly a day goes by without a streetwear brand, luxury label, artist, or other cultural polyglot ramming two brand names together for the sake of shilling T-shirts or shoes.
As such, when you hear that Heron Preston and H&M are entering into a deep, long-term collaboration, you might think that the two are going to begin releasing a series of co-branded capsules. You would be right to think so, given the current state of the word “collaboration,” but you would also be wrong.
As Heron Preston himself told Highsnobiety, his H&M partnership isn’t a collab: it’s “Collab 2.0.”
“Around the same time H&M approached me to explore and define a concept around ‘brain over brand,’ I was feeling the same way: like it was time for a change,” Preston said over email.
Heron Preston is a New York-based but very international Virgil Abloh scion whose eponymous clothing label shows in Paris and maintains a flagship store in Hong Kong.
Preston is a walking idea factory, incapable of resigning himself to single easy path through life. He instead is driven to create, tinker, and refine; earlier this year, he launched a creative agency as multifaceted as himself.
This Heron Preston x H&M project, appropriately dubbed “H2,” is an opportunity for Preston to realize his elevated design ideals at worldwide scale.
A long-term commitment with H&M wasn’t something Preston initially had in mind. “I didn’t really have [a personal relationship with H&M] prior to this partnership as I rarely shop for clothes,” he said. I don’t have much in my closet, I like to keep it that way. Less is more.”.
Instead, H2 was organically born through conversation.
“H&M spoke to me about creating something boldly-imagined, carefully-crafted, respectfully-made, culturally-heightened and intimately-shared, for and with the people who really deserve it,” Preston said.
“But what really got me was [when we] asked ourselves the question, ‘What if people lined up to recycle their clothes?’ ‘A line-up!…. To recycle clothes?!” I said to myself. Line-ups are usually for people to shop but this was like a reverse drop. At that point, I was like, ‘Ok, H&M might be onto something!'”
That’s a taste of the innovation that H2 promises. Truly, this ain’t your average collaboration but a collaboration it nevertheless remains, with Preston’s ideas informed by H&M’s scale.
“The idea here is to work together to participate in changing the course of fashion for the better,” Preston explained.
“We’re starting small and experimenting with new processes and concepts. It’s bigger than the product. The idea is to [eventually] share with the industry how to create closed-loop systems.”
Transparency is the name of the game, even though H2 remains rather nebulous for now.
Everything ought to become clearer once H2 properly debuts in 2024, though even the ensuing physical product will represent a mere fraction of H2’s overarching vision.
See, H2 is a multi-pillared creative arm founded on four main principles: Circular Innovation (eco-conscious craft), Design Advisory (guidance on H&M’s clothing lines, especially menswear with design head Daniel Herrmann), Special Collections (seasonal collections both limited and “open source”), and Young Talent (incubation for “young, self-taught creatives”).
It sounds like a lot because H2 has some truly lofty aspirations but at its core, H2 is informed by a simple give and take.
“It’s about finding a balance that works for everyone,” said Preston. “I’ve had to understand consumers from much more of a global perspective as H&M speaks to so many more people around the world [whereas] the H&M designs teams were interested in learning from my journey and expertise.”
H&M benefits from Heron Preston and vice versa.
One of the most important elements of the H2 project, though, is that young would-be designers are also benefitting from this collaboration.
“We are looking at supporting the next generation of talent, and providing them with the tools that only H&M can provide,” Preston explained.
“I was once that kid making clothes in my bedroom, but with no guidance except for this retail job that I had. My parents didn’t know how to make line sheets or do production. I had to teach myself. But now, I’ve come this far. I am now in the position to help that same kid the resources and support of a large company. H&M and myself are here to help them drive.”
It’s all coming from the same place of sincerity that’s perpetually fueled Preston’s output since even before he launched his eponymous brand. It’s just that H&M is giving the designer an opportunity to bring his brand of radical transparency to a larger audience than ever before.
Real recognize real or, as Preston more humbly put it, “I’m obsessed with authentic connections.”
That’s the difference between a collaboration and this collaboration.
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