I made a quick stop-off in London this weekend—quick, meaning less than 24 hours—and was fortunate enough to walk by & Other Stories, H&M’s newly launched brand, on my way to dinner. How serendipitous! It had just opened on Friday and I arrived Saturday.
Obviously, my husband and I dropped in to do a “channel check”—retail jargon for observing how a store is working in the flesh—even though we were on a mini vacation. (Tough life, right?) Time was really, really tight, so I only spent about 20 minutes inside. However, that was enough for me to charge $100 on my card. My observations:
It’s really not that expensive. I know the press has been billing & Other Stories as H&M’s luxury answer, but in reality it’s just a little pricier than H&M, a little cheaper than COS. The dress I bought, for instance, was £65 (or just under $100.) At COS, a similar dress would cost around $120.
If COS appeals to lovers of Jil Sander and Marni, & Other Stories is trying to woo the Acne-obsessed crowd. & Other Stories is definitely a little bit hipper, weirder and out-there than COS, which is a great place to buy work clothes. Some of it—the split-heel pumps, crazy pleating on cotton dresses—is a bit try-hard. But a lot of it really just looks like… Acne. It’s definitely the most “Swedish” of the newly formed H&M triumvirate. (I don’t count Cheap Monday and Weekday, which H&M also owns, because it didn’t launch those brands—it bought them after they’d been around for a bit.)
There’s a massive makeup and grooming section. At the checkout a pretty pink lip gloss caught my eye and I added it to the rest of my purchases on impulse. The guy ringing me up at the till encouraged me to “try it out” before I purchased because & Other Stories associates will apply “full makeup” for you. I know he was just super enthusiastic and still on the drank-the-Kool-Aid high of opening a new store. But like, don’t discourage an impulse purchase? I didn’t go “try it out” because as I mentioned earlier, I was in a massive hurry. But it didn’t end up mattering, because I really like the glossy texture and watermelon color. My husband tried the lotion, which smelled not-great but worked well. He also noticed a line of scented stuff that looked very much like Le Labo.
So much blogger bait. I’m really curious to hear what Susie Lau thinks about the brand. (She has discussed it, but has yet to critique it.) It feels like it was made for her, and the hoards of bloggers that have followed her. The prints, the “statement clutches,” the jewelry—so much stuff that would look good photographed. Oh, and there’s a leather biker jacket for under £200. What’s more blogger-y than that?
Also, there are no clothes for dudes. Yet.
The one big issue I had with & Other Stories is that a lot of stuff was already out of stock. That’s really not the store’s fault—after all, it had just opened the day before. But I’m glad I can sift through the product easily on Stories.com. (Man, that domain must have cost a crapload of money.) Like COS, the e-commerce site doesn’t ship to the US, and there are no plans to open any stores stateside. But in a way that’s good. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that COS is better off an ocean away. It makes it a little more special. And hopefully for the H&M empire, people will think & Other Stories is special, too.
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