The Brain Behind H&M's Fashion Against AIDS Talks Slogan T-Shirts, Harem Pants and Designer Condoms

BERLIN-Like Wednesday's celebration in New York, H&M threw Fashion Against AIDS bashes all over Europe this week. Events this side of the pond, however, didn't involve a Battle of the Bands contest. So when the party started in Berlin last night, H&M's new Festival collection garnered most of the attention. Case in point: There was a bigger crowd gathering around the racks of clothes, trying to snap up a pair of harem pants--the item that sold out the fastest last night--than there were guests mingling around the bar area. Prior to the party, Fashionista chatted with Ninette Murk, original founder of Designers Against AIDS and initiator of H&M’s Fashion Against AIDS, to hear how the project turned from a series of t-shirts to a themed collection.
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BERLIN-Like Wednesday's celebration in New York, H&M threw Fashion Against AIDS bashes all over Europe this week. Events this side of the pond, however, didn't involve a Battle of the Bands contest. So when the party started in Berlin last night, H&M's new Festival collection garnered most of the attention. Case in point: There was a bigger crowd gathering around the racks of clothes, trying to snap up a pair of harem pants--the item that sold out the fastest last night--than there were guests mingling around the bar area. Prior to the party, Fashionista chatted with Ninette Murk, original founder of Designers Against AIDS and initiator of H&M’s Fashion Against AIDS, to hear how the project turned from a series of t-shirts to a themed collection.
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BERLIN-Like Wednesday's celebration in New York, H&M threw Fashion Against AIDS bashes all over Europe this week. Events this side of the pond, however, didn't involve a Battle of the Bands contest.

So when the party started in Berlin last night, H&M's new Festival collection garnered most of the attention. Case in point: There was a bigger crowd gathering around the racks of clothes, trying to snap up a pair of harem pants--the item that sold out the fastest last night--than there were guests mingling around the bar area.

Prior to the party, Fashionista chatted with Ninette Murk, original founder of Designers Against AIDS and initiator of H&M’s Fashion Against AIDS, to hear how the project turned from a series of t-shirts to a themed collection.

Fashionista: You originally started Designers Against AIDS in 2004. Why'd you teamed up with H&M in 2007 instead of continuing to work on your own? Ninette Murk: Well, H&M is better at selling t-shirts than we are. There’s such a network behind it. Javier [Barcala, Murk’s business partner] and I were two journalists trying to get our t-shirts out, but H&M was able to create the campaign; everyone was able to work at what they were good at.

How has the initiative evolve over the years? The first two collections were only t-shirts and hoodies. That was the basic concept. Now for the third collection, since it’s been two years, H&M suggested something different and that’s how the Festival Collection--complete with sleeping bags and tents--came about. I actually told them to do condoms, too. Those are now in a little wash bag together with a towel, mirror and sleeping mask, but I really hope that next year, they’ll be courageous enough to sell condoms separately in boxes. Then you could even have designers or celebrities create the packaging.

Are you attending any of the parties this week? No, I live in Belgium, it’s too small to throw a party here. But I went to see the collection launch at the Antwerp store this morning and was surprised at how many people bought the tents and sleeping bags. Some were even trying to put pieces on hold.

How much were you involved in the planning process of the events around the world? I contacted the PRs in each country and asked if they’d like to invite representatives from AIDS charities and support groups. Japan and Germany were the only ones that wanted to do that. I think that’s a missed opportunity for America--They can do with a bit of safe sex information. But H&M had its reasons not to do this there. I don’t like that the safe sex message has disappeared this time. There should always be an element of raising awareness so I was thinking we should’ve had a slogan like ‘Shop and Think’ to go with the collection. However, I also know they’re a fashion company concentrating on the clothes and we’re glad to be involved because there’s a donation.

And did you have a word to say about the look of the collection? Yes, I suggested some pieces. Like the harem pants. Those are originally mine, I had them at home and told them that you can’t do a festival collection without harem pants. H&M then copied them. Well, except my originals don’t have pockets.

What direction would you like Fashion Against AIDS in next year? This morning I thought, "Wow, now we have an entire collection." Next time, I would like to have a culmination of everything we've done so far: A complete collection, a safe sex slogan and celebrities speaking out. That would be my dream scenario.