H&M’s True Colours

Harriet Walker

I’m currently in Stockholm, visiting the headquarters of international high street hit H&M. There’s a much bigger piece in the pipeline, but in the meantime I thought I’d blog about my visit this afternoon to the colours department of the company, where all of the shades, hues and tones are carefully worked out for each collection.

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The colour wall at the H&m headquarters in Stockholm

The colours team work up to 16 months ahead of the collections that are in store right now, so they’re currently figuring out what shades we’ll be wearing for spring/summer 2011. Obviously pictures were strictly verboten, but I can report a preponderance of sand, stone and khaki. Watch this space.

I also spotted two books on recent fashion exhibitions that have taken Europe by storm – the Maison Martin Margiela retrospective (currently on at Somerset House), a hefty white tome, and the Masters of Black exhibition which is on at the Modemuseum in Antwerp (the clue’s in the title). So we can be fairly sure that monochrome isn’t going anywhere either.

The H&M colour library contains 2,100 shades that have all been used in previous collections and is updated three times a year when each new collection goes into production. “Your eyes can see over 60 million different colours,” in-house colour wizard Rafael Pilati (a distant relation of Stefano, the creative director at Yves Saint Laurent) told me, “so 2,100 isn’t really that many to deal with.”

I found myself asking wholly legitmately what the design team’s favourite colours were – this isn’t usually the sort of question you’re supposed to wheel out in interviews unless you’re desperate. Rafael is fan of navy (“classic and boring, I know” he added) while his colleague Liselotte Loveborg favours the neutral, pinkish putty shades that are so modish right now.

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Rafael Pilati with H&M's signature red shade

Rafael also showed me the orangey-red shade of the company’s familiar insignia. It’s number 45526 in their vast archive, if you care to know. Or 1795 if you’re working on the Pantone scale.

So there you go.

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