Among global fast-fashion players, H&M has long distinguished itself via designer collaborations. Their first was a collection designed by the late Karl Lagerfeld — and it sold out in seconds. Then there was that top secret Giambattista Valli couture capsule which damn near broke the internet. Its latest designer pairing is the first of its kind for the retailer. Last week, H&M debuted its historic collaboration with South African designer Palesa Mokubung.
“This is my love letter to the world from Africa,” says Mantsho’s head of design, Palesa Mokubung. “I hope customers around the world will enjoy this ensemble of my stand-out pieces from my last three collections.”
"People are loving the pieces," Nomzamo Mbatha, H&M and United Nations High Commission For Refugees Goodwill Ambassador, tells Refinery29 at press preview at H&M's New York showroom. "The air of everyone in [the press preview a week before the official launch] reminds me of that pandemonium when Black Panther came out." Mbatha attended on behalf of her friend Mokubung who was at the South Africa store launch.
Mbatha says the best thing about this collaboration is that Mokubung is established as a designer. "She's showcased in Greece, Senegal, Germany, across the country," she explains. "The one thing I respect about H&M is that they have their finger on the pulse and what’s happening. Everyone around the world is listening to AfroBeats, and I keep saying it’s not just us, as in the African community, that is saying we are the cool kids. It’s the world coming home."
This collaboration is particularly special because it shows the brand is investing in the continent beyond just opening stores. "You can’t open stores across the African continent and not have some kind of African feel to it. So recognizing an African designer like Mokubung who has been consistent in her work, just like the brand H&M, is a beautiful collaboration," she says. "It’s almost like we’re telling the world, oh, you’re only catching up now, that we’re the cool kids. Okay, grab a plate, we’ll be outside. It’s just beautiful to see how retail is having their finger on the pulse as much as film and television, which leads the conversation in pop culture."
The collection is available now in select H&M stores and online. Click ahead to shop.