My first encounter with H&M was in Berlin at the age of 17 and it was love at first sight. The
’90s were in full swing, grunge was in the air and I was starting to make my first, slightly awkward fashion steps. In most of the photos from that trip I am wearing a multi-coloured striped T-shirt that I bought there and looking like a teenager in love. In the years that followed, every trip to Europe involved a whirlwind stop at one of its stores, leaving with bags exploding with 10 euro items and a euphoric sensation.
In my mid 20s I relocated to Europe, making H&M a permanent presence in my life. Its availability made it a touch less seductive but even then it was a hard habit to break. I would
still go regularly, giving in to fashion-forward items at prices that were little more than a pack
of 20 Marlboro Lights. I was smoking quite a lot back then.
Growing up and growing older did leave a mark on my shopping habits, even if it was a subconscious one. I became more aware of the textures and the cut of fabrics, the longevity of items and the power of accessories. I also began to develop a mild resistance to the barometer mentality pushed by the fashion industry. Fast consumption didn’t feel as appealing anymore.
I wanted to be thoughtful.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect when, in 2007, COS opened its first London store, bringing Scandi chic to the capital. I was ready for a change and I was instantly charmed. By
then I was happy to pay a bit more in return for a new fashion sensibility: a subtler, cleaner and
more structured one. Block colours became a prominent feature in my wardrobe, often teamed
with boxy silhouettes and industrial-looking accessories. COS was a regular stop during my
impromptu shopping sprees – a stop that would result in sober purchases that would last for
much longer than a season. But gradually and then suddenly the spark faded. The sensibility
felt restrictive and I was bored.
The London of the last few years has been blossoming with new Parisian promises. Brands such as The Kooples, Maje and Sandro have been taking over. These brands came with names that were a pleasure to pronounce and a sensuality that I was missing. But the prices almost always put them out of reach unless it was sales time – and, very often, not even then.
Then, in March 2013 came & Other Stories, a name that rang a bit awkwardly to begin with
ut now makes a perfect sense. It brought to life what seemed to me a beautiful Scandi-Parisian equilibrium with prices that were broadly similar to COS. & Other Stories evokes a coherent aesthetic that is as elegant as it is urban and loose enough to inspire ideas rather than impose solutions. Refreshingly, it also feels age inclusive: I recently went with my mum and she found herself buying denim dungarees. Even its lookbooks feature older women; I love how the model with white hair is rocking her Vans.
Being inside the shop feels exploratory. It is a structured mess of clothes rails, accessories shelves and beauty counters. The second floor is dedicated almost entirely to shoes. It’s like there’s nothing missing and yet no item feels like a filler; each has a purpose in unifying a look. Wandering around breeds spontaneity but in a considered way. Last month I popped in to check out the new range of loafers and stumbled upon a nail varnish that perfectly complements one of my old cardigans. On my next visit I plan to check out its new range of sunglasses, which may well mean I’ll leave with a set of lingerie. But it’s all good – it’s all part of the story.