Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
& Other Stories emerged in Europe just over a year ago, taking no time at all for buzz to float overseas: the clothes, the beauty products, the accessories, the price point! Fashion-hungry Americans got jealous of the H&M-owned brand's 11 stores across the pond—in countries from Spain to Sweden—and it became one of those "while you're in Europe you must check out" bullet points.
Then, like the answer to a shopping prayer, & Other Stories announced they'd open their first Stateside store in New York as well as US e-commerce at stories.com (sign up now and get 20% off your first order—you're welcome). The doors to both open today, and fashion people are freaking out excited. Here's the story.
1. They're owned by H&M Group
The company was started as an assignment from H&M Group to start a premium beauty brand. Helena Carlberg, the brand's social media manager, told us at a recent walk through of the fall assortment that all of their inspiration images in that initial phase were of people. "We went to H&M and said, 'We want to do shoes and bags and ready-to-wear,'" in addition to beauty, and the concept evolved.
2. But they kind of do their own thing
Helena tells us H&M acts as a backbone to & Other Stories, helping them with logistics and support functions, but they operate, otherwise, as their own independent beast. They have their own offices and atelier in Stockholm, as well as a second atelier in Paris. The design team is & Other Stories's own, not shared with their parent company, and they design literally everything in-house, from the clothes to the candles to the shopping bags to the store furniture.
3. It all fits together just so—but is designed to be broken
Within all of that in-house design is a lot of consideration (which they relish in sharing, particularly on Instagram). "The pink in this nail polish," Helena said, picking up a bottle of Epinglé Coral, "ties into the pink of that coat," pointing to a grey mohair coat with a broken pink stripe (see above). That same pink is called out in one of the seasonally-updated shopping bags, too, among many other harmonious guest appearances. Nothing at & Other Stories is an accident: everything is very purposeful, thoughtful, and has a story of its own.
The fall collection offers four "stories," each based on a different city—Stockholm, Paris, New York, and Berlin—designed to be mixed and clashed as the shopper sees fit. "Today, a woman with a love for fashion creates her own style," Helena explained of the brand's open approach to personal taste. As such, they offer a wide swath of styles, from fitted mini dresses to palazzo trousers, brogues to high heels. Another aim of & Other Stories is to provide all of the elements of a wardrobe under one roof—from boots to BB cream.
4. They want it to be shoppable by all: price, style, age
"All of the value is in the product, not special packaging," Helena noted as we browsed body scrubs, housed in nothing-special plastic containers with black screw caps. Affordability is at work here, but in a different way than at H&M. For instance, you won't find acrylic winter gloves at throw-away prices, but you can stock up on wool, cashmere, or leather gloves with special touches at a heck of a lot cheaper than the department store. The most expensive piece we spotted for fall was a leather jacket coming in around $350.
"We're trying to reach a woman with a heart for fashion," Helena explained, "which can be a woman of any age." Case in point: to sail into the States, they asked Ari Cohen of Advanced Style to shoot the collection on 93-year-old fashion icon Irs Apfel in a "personal styling story".
5. They're primed for collabs
The name itself is intended to be prefixed by collaborators: Nike & Other Stories, Lykke Li & Other Stories, Garance Doré & Other Stories. Sometimes this means exclusive product, sometimes it's the existing collection "through the lens of" an influential eye. We have a feeling they'll roll out projects with more cool, splashy names as they take their stake in the US (we're living in a world where H&M landed Alexander Wang, after all).
& Other Stories's Paris Rue Saint Honore store
6. Consider & Other Stories the middle child between H&M and COS
Confused by how & Other Stories compares with its sister brands, H&M and COS? Don't worry, you're not the only one. Think of COS as the super cool, super fashion-y older sister and H&M as, well, H&M. & Other Stories is right in the middle: the wide assortment of H&M, the fashion-focus of COS but warmed up for a broader audience. Keep buying your basics at H&M, get grown-up work pieces at COS, and fill in the rest with & Other Stories.