Back in December last year, the finalists of the inaugural H&M Design Award, selected from the best fashion schools of Europe, gathered up in London and I alongside a starry starry jury, which included Hilary Alexander, Christopher Kane and H&M's creative advisor Margareta Van Den Bosch had to decide who should win a EUR50,000 prize and have their collection produced by H&M to go on sale. The finalists were definitely varied but the decision was unanimous over who would be the winner. Stine Riis, originally from Denmark but a graduate of London College of Fashion, won the award and presented her collection at a show during Stockholm Fashion Week back in February and now core parts of her collection have been adapted for release as a mini collaboration out in H&M stores on 17th September.
It's likely to be overshadowed by H&M's more flashy collabs with Anna Dello Russo and Maison Martin Margiela coming up but it does represent a talent nurturing side to H&M that hasn't previously been spotlighted. Topshop has its New Gen scheme in collaboration with the British Fashion Council. J. Crew sponsors CFDA's Vogue Fashion Fund. Mango doles out EUR300,000 to one young designer every year. It makes sense that H&M should also get in on the act of aiding and supporting young designer talent. Their specific take on it is that they went around key European countries where fashion school output is often cerebral and interesting - Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK - to mine BA graduates from the schools. This is much more of a grassroots operation than what the other high street do with young designers as these are people who are specifially BA graduates, where upon graduation, the main objective isn't necessarily that the designer should set up their own label.
Still, having product to sell through a platform like H&M is a proud moment for any young graduate and Stine Riis may well be on her way to establishing her brand. Riis' graduate collection of graphic lines and rich tones was already well on its way to being the finished product, ready to sell, ready to be commercialised. Now the fruits of the collaboration will be available to us at prices ranging from £15 for a roll-neck top to £100 for a coat and fortunately most of the pieces retain an essence of Riis' original collection. Congratulations also to Anne Bosman (it's a dude, not a girl... yeah, that was confusing...), another finalist who impressed the public with his playful menswear collection and won the People's Prize, consisting of an internship at Christopher Kane.
The closing date for the next edition of the H&M Design Award has just lapsed but it will be interesting to see how the competition pans out for the future finalists, winners and of course, what consumers get at the receiving end of this competition.