Pernilla Wohlfahrt, H&M Creative Director and lead designer for H&M’s premium Studio collection, has a job a million girls (and boys) would die for.
We chatted to her about her career, what it’s like to design a collection to show at Paris Fashion Week and what it takes to be at the top of your game in one of the biggest global fashion companies. The H&M Studio S/S 2017 collection (pictured above) was shown at Paris Fashion Week in the early hours of this morning and is now available to shop at H&M stores, including Auckland’s Sylvia Park.
FQ: As the creative director for H&M, what does a typical day look like for you?
Pernilla Wohlfahrt: I oversee all the design and creative output at H&M, which means that no two days are alike. Like any job, there are challenges, but I never forget how much fun it all is. Even the many meetings! I really enjoy getting down to the nitty gritty and being in the presence of such inspiring people on a daily basis. And, of course, because we are a global fashion company present in so many markets, I love the input we get from our customers from all around the world.
Can you explain your career path to date? What was your big break?
I started as a buyer’s assistant at H&M in 1993 and stayed with the company for almost 12 years before I moved to London in 2005 to develop the COS brand, which was extremely fun, challenging and inspiring. It was wonderful to be a part of building that brand together with the team there. After six years in London, I was ready to go back home to Stockholm to head up new business at H&M and then asked to take up my current role in 2015. Honestly, all this time has just flown by. Of course, a lot has changed in the industry, but people’s love of fashion – including mine – does not waver and I have appreciated and enjoyed every second of it.
Aside from the fact the collection is shown at Paris Fashion Week, what is the biggest difference between designing the Studio collection and designing for the main H&M collections?
All the different lines at H&M are created in-house by our own design team. Together, the designers try to provide customers from all around the world the opportunity to find something to wear and enjoy. The Studio Collection is about presenting the most important trends and key looks of the season – statement pieces from a limited edition collection available in selected stores and online that will complement anything else from the main line. We also want to make a statement, and be both contemporary and forward-thinking in our designs.
The main message for H&M Studio S/S 2017, however, is one of love. There are a few pieces that carry the word again and again, kind of like a ticker tape or a constant reminder of what is important. It feels like now, more than ever, we all need positive feelings and thoughts in our lives. And, of course, there’s our love of fashion – at the heart of everything we do.
We were also inspired by the grace, passion and strength of ballet. To add a fresh, contemporary twist, we also looked to sportswear or casualwear, which has been one of the strongest influences in fashion of the moment. It was ideal to combine with the more feminine, romantic story of ballet. The relaxed vibe and functional details put some modern touches on the collection and we loved the clash between dreamy frills and sporty waistbands, for example.
What is the lead-up like to Paris? What would you typically be doing a day before the show?
The day before the show is spent mainly with the last fittings and finalising details of the show, such as the line-up, the exact position of lighting, the seating plan, interviews for various media, things like that. There are a lot of people who also work on the set, with the equipment, that need enough time to make sure everything is right. There are a lot of things going on and it is quite hectic, but we never forget how much fun it is!
Customers can now shop the looks they love straight from the runway (the collection is available from today at Auckland’s Sylvia Park store). Has this changed how you design the collection? And if so, how?
With a “see now, buy now” collection, I think the main differences were logistical, such as getting the samples in time or the ordering of fabrics. From a design perspective, it’s been the same process and hasn’t affected our creative vision. The H&M Studio Collection is planned well in advance and based on extensive research by a core dedicated team of designers, separate from the other lines. The patternmakers, buyers and more similarly work for a long time on the collection.
How would you describe your signature style?
I am quite minimalistic in my approach. Maybe it is because of my Scandinavian heritage, we tend to love to keep it simple up here. And the cold climate makes it even more important what clothes you choose for your daily life. I love clean lines and silhouettes and I prefer classical pieces like the white shirt, a pair of elegant trousers and a black blazer topping it off with a heavy overcoat in wool. I also do love accessories; nice accessories can make even the dullest outfit look interesting
What motivates you every day?
Fashion truly motivates me – the way people can and do express themselves so wonderfully, the way it draws from other forms of culture such as art, music or history, the way it speaks of a certain time. There are many new developments in fashion that are also inspiring and definitely keep me on my toes. That’s the beauty of fashion – it’s constantly re-inventing itself.
*The H&M Studio S/S 2017 collection is available in store now.