Interview with H&M’s Hans Andersson

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To the delight of Korean and expat fashionistas alike, Swedish multinational clothing company Hennes & Mauritz, better known as H&M, has finally arrived in Busan. Now, local shoppers no longer have to trek north to Seoul to visit one of the world’s favorite fashion retail stores.

The two-level store, located on the third and fourth floors of the Shinsegae department store, features women’s, men’s and children’s wear with products ranging from basic everyday items to suits and cocktail dresses.

The recent pre-opening party was akin to a film premiere or night club opening with spectators lining the red carpets, receiving goodie bags on arrival and stopping waiters circulating with trays of Moet. Adding to the glam atmosphere was an exclusive performance by K-pop superstars f(X) in the department store’s atrium, and in-store DJs keeping lucky attendees entertained.

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Since its first store opened in Myeongdong, Seoul in 2010, Korean shoppers have welcomed H&M into their hearts and wardrobes with open arms. H&M’s country manager for Korea, Hans Andersson, has been with the company for 22 years and three in Korea since the countries launch. The Swedish native spoke enthusiastically with Haps about the success the company has experienced breaking into the Korean market.

“We had a fantastic start, with as much as 1,700 people lining up for the first store from the very first day, and it seems that the concept of fashion quality and the best price is a winner in Korea.”

At the heart of this success may be the enthusiasm of Korean shoppers, adds Andersson. “The Korean customers are very fashion-minded and critical (of products) in a constructive way.”


“It keeps us awake, and keeps us away from, hopefully, being fat cats. You can be proud and of course celebrate successes, but you can also be in danger. You should always strive to improve and do something better all the time.”


Andersson acknowledges it did take longer than expected to establish their first location in Busan, with the opening being postponed over a year due the search for the perfect location.

He describes H&M as a “careful” company and once they were happy with their stores in Seoul they set about finding the perfect location in Busan. Comparisons are inevitably made with their Spanish rivals ZARA, who have taken a much different retail approach in Korea, opening 32 stores since 2009.

However, H&M’s cautious approach hasn’t done any harm to the retailer’s appeal in Korea. In fact, it seems to have created a more exclusive image for the company which specialises in the latest fashion at a lower price. Plans are already set for a second store to open in Seomyeon in late October.

H&M has established itself with various demographics around the world. When asked how Korean consumers compare to those in other nations, Andersson was full of praise.

“There are definitely many more trendsetters and (they are) far more fashion-minded than Europeans and Americans, I must say.”

Male and female shoppers alike will be pleased with the wide range available at the Centum City store, which includes not only casual and evening wear, but also bags, jewellery and footwear.

With a sluggish economy and an already crowded fashion world, the fight for fashion dollars is getting tougher in Korea. H&M thrives on this competition, and Andersson feels it pushes the company to perform.

“It keeps us awake, and keeps us away from, hopefully, being fat cats. You can be proud and of course celebrate successes, but you can also be in danger. You should always strive to improve and do something better all the time.”

The Korean fashion market may be dominated by a consumer-driven desire for name brands, however Andersson is impressed and heartened to see local designers in smaller boutiques compete.

“In the first store that we opened at Noon Square in Myeongdong in Seoul, on the fifth floor there is a level that makes it possible for small designers to rent a small space. This is very nice to see that you don’t have to have a very big budget or a strong parent company behind you to open up.”

The Swedish brand is known for recruiting young, newly graduated designers into their ranks, as well as working with high-fashion and couture houses. H&M has been fortunate to have recently collaborated with Marni, and previously with Lanvin, Sonia Rykiel, Karl Lagerfeld, Versace and Jimmy Choo along with a long list of notable designers. These collections come about through a cooperative approach, which is beneficial to both the designers and the company says Andersson.

“We’ve been doing this now for seven years and I think it’s really, today more a win-win situation… our designers learn from them, and they can pick up one or two things from H&M”.

The company is looking forward to launching an accessories collection this fall with Japanese Vogue editor Anna Dello Russo and a larger collaboration with avant garde label Maison Martin Margiela, in November, giving even more for Busan customers to look forward to.


Visit H&M Korea on the web at www.hm.com/kr

Event photos courtesy of H&M.

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