H&M exec: ‘Filipinos are sustainable-conscious shoppers’

Lynda C. Corpuz
H&M exec: ‘Filipinos are sustainable-conscious shoppers’
(UPDATED) Instilling sustainability in a predominantly young market is H&M's thrust in growing in the Philippines, says its SEA Country Manager Fredrick Famm



MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Seven months since the Sweden-based H&M (Hennes & Mauritz AB) opened its flagship store in Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City in October 2014, there is no stopping the fast fashion brand from growing in the Philippines.

It concluded 2014 with its 5th store at Robinsons Magnolia, Quezon City. It continues its expansion streak in 2015 of establishing new stores in Metro Manila and other cities outside the metropolis. To date, H&M has 500 to 600 employees in the country.

But Fredrick Famm, recently appointed H&M Southeast Asia country manager, declined to elaborate further where in the country and how many shops they are putting up this year.

“There’s a huge potential in the Philippines,” Famm told Rappler on Wednesday, April 15, an hour prior to the country launch of the newest H&M Conscious and H&M Conscious Exclusive – its collections that promote “fashion that looks good and does good.” 

“We’re at the forefront of sustainability. Our business concept is fast fashion at a best price and made in a sustainable way,” Famm stressed. 

Wearing sustainability

QUALITY, SUSTAINABLE FASHION. H&M Conscious Exclusive may come at a higher price, but amazing price matching the fashion and quality that these products have, H&M SEA Country Manager Fredrick Famm points out. Photo from H&M Philippines and Bridges PR
Famm is echoing the sustainability efforts ingrained in the 67-year-old company, especially when it started publishing its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts in 2003. In 2010, it realigned its focus to “H&M Conscious,” a business concept to make fashion go beyond short-lived trends. (READ: H&M makes fashion ‘sustainable’)

Its H&M Conscious and Conscious Exclusive (which spotlights on the latest trends in women’s fashion), are both curated with sustainability in mind.

“For the past years, we now have more products that are made with more sustainable materials and that’s on an ongoing basis. If you come to the store, you’d see more products that are made with sustainable materials, with ‘green tags’ carrying information on what that product is made of,” Famm detailed.

And that H&M shirt or pair of jeans you are buying could be made of recycled shirt or jeans.

Giving your old H&M piece a new lease on life is “closing the loop for textile fibers and keeping fashion from ending in landfill,” H&M Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Karl-Johan Persson told Rappler in October, when he graced the opening of their flagship store in the country.

Famm said the H&M Conscious products are not necessarily expensive. 

For the H&M Conscious Exclusive, the company could be using organic materials like hemp, leather or silk or recycled beads or sequins. 

“So they come at a higher price, but amazing price matching the fashion and quality that these products have,” Famm pointed out.

The latest collection include an organic linen and silk sleeveless gown with a glamorous cut is printed with hand-drawn images of birds; a black cocktail dress inTencel® and recycled wool features African influences, with rows of recycled sequins; a sleeveless cocktail dress has a print inspired by Japanese ink-wash painting and is made from all organic hemp, silk, and cotton.

The collection worn in the campaign exclusively by actress and humanitarian Olivia Wilde, will be available in around 200 H&M stores globally Thursday, April 16, as well as online.

Famm has a personal favorite from the collection: a white long dress made of recycled polyester, beads, and sequins, and worn by Hollywood star Jessica Chastain at the Oscar’s Vanity Fair party in February this year. 

Shopping sustainably

Famm, who was previously H&M country manager in Russia, said shopping for sustainable clothes – or any product for that matter in mind – is a global trend, with Europe and US leading the way. 

But emerging, developing markets, particularly in Asia are fast catching up. 

And Filipinos shoppers are sustainable shoppers, too, Famm said.

“Filipinos are well-travelled and well-informed about global trends. It’s increasingly important for them to buy not only what look good on them, but also feel good on them,” Famm said. 

Famm also pointed out offering affordable fast fashion does not make H&M less sustainable.

“You can’t evaluate the company’s sustainability based on their prices. Instead, look at the initiatives the company is doing. And we’re on the forefront with our sustainability initiatives,” he stressed.

In terms of initiatives, Famm shared that H&M Philippines’ all 5 stores collected from December to March this year a combined 2.3 tons of recycled garments, equivalent to about 10,000 t-shirts. This is part of its drive to encourage shoppers to turn in their old clothes and in exchange, they will receive a discount voucher of 15% for any purchase of their choice. H&M makes new yarn to be used in the production of new garments. 

Globally, H&M collected 7600 tons of garments, equal to about 38 million t-shirts for 2014. “There’s an increasing awareness and many more markets want to do good,” Famm said.

SUSTAINABLE SHOPPERS. H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson says the company is bringing something "new" in the country in terms of fashion, price, and above all, sustainability. File photo by Manman Dejeto / Rappler
Thus increasing awareness on sustainability is ingrained in H&M’s growth strategy in the Philippines. “Our business model of offering quality, sustainable fast fashion at affordable price works very well in the Philippines,” Famm pointed out. 

He added that Filipinos would be surprised that H&M would roll out faster in the country in the years to come, as the brand believes so much in the Philippine market. He cited his experience that H&M entered Russia in 2008 and to date, it already has more than 75 stores.

But for the Philippines, it is too early to say how many stores or locations H&M plans to have. The huge potential is there though, Famm stressed.

“H&M doesn’t work only in major cities or big capitals. We also work in smaller cities. We have many different concepts that we can select to put in a store in a particular location to fit our customers’ profile,” Famm said. – Rappler.com 

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