For the first time in their collaborations history, H&M announced a collaboration with Arab designer Sandra Mansour, the eponymous Beirut based brand known for its dreamy and daring aesthetic — always with a modern coolness to it. Sandra gratuated from Instituto Marangoni Paris and launched her first collection in 2010. Sandra designed dresses for Princess Mette Marit of Norway and Ekaterina of Hanover; she also dressed some of our favorites such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Sonam Kapoor, Gigi Hadid, Lady Gaga & Cynthia Erivo. For the collaboration with H&M, the collection is inspired by strong female artists and the beauty of nature, featuring intricate designs in a muted color palette, where handcrafted details like edgy ruffles and layers of romantic fabrics create a youthful, empowering look.
We got the chance to catch up with Sandra Mansour:
1- How did the opportunity of collaborating with H&M come to be, when did you learn about it and how did it make you feel?
I was away for my Birthday weekend, and as I was having lunch I received an email discussing the possibility of collaborating with H&M. That was the best way to welcome my 36th year! Next thing I knew I flew out to Sweden, and this happened!
2- Tell us about the collection, what do we expect?
It is very true to both brands, it’s a beautiful combination of ethereal, effortless, daring and cool. You will find dresses that are very true to house of Sandra Mansour. You will also find very cool daywear pieces, like a Hoody & T-shirt that can be worn all the time! We also used a lot of tulle, point d’esprit, ruffles and neutral color tones. We wanted to create a collection that can be worn day to night and dressed down or up.
3- As an Arab designer, what are the challenges you faced?
I don’t think I faced challenges differently, than any designer in the world to be honest. I think whenever you put yourself out there in a global platform you’ll face the same amount of challenges regardless of where you are from, or where you are situated. Fashion is a cut throat industry, but I believe the region, and Lebanon in specific provided me with more opportunities than challenges. The craftsmanship here, and work ethic is worldly and I am proud that I stemmed myself from here.
4- What is your advice to aspiring Arab designers?
Don’t let people limit you, we tend to fall into limitations pushed or imposed on us, because it makes people more comfortable to peg us that way. If you are a designer, design, where you are from is embedded in you, so take that, let it inspire you and create.
5- How do you see the H&M collaboration impacting your career?
I think it will bring me closer to a worldwide audience, it will introduce me to those that haven’t met us yet, and It will further inspire me to make pieces.
We also chatted with Maria Ostblom, H&M’s head of womenswear design, to get her intake on what made H&M choose an Arab designer and Sandra Mansour in specific:
1- What triggered H&M to opt to collaborate with an Arab Designer?
We’re very proud to have customers from all around the world and always strive to be as diverse as possible so we’re thrilled to have a designer that’s based in Lebanon and represents that part of the world for this collaboration. So while it’s important for us to be representative, the collaboration is also about the energy and expertise of Sandra Mansour as a designer. She really expresses this feminine power through her clothes and we’re so happy that more H&M customers will be able to experience that.
2- How did you chose Sandra? What were the criteria that you were looking for?
When we first came across Sandra Mansour, we just fell in love with all the storytelling behind her designs – they’re like modern fairytales. She’s probably best known for her dresses, and at first glance her work is light and sensitive, but it’s also dark and decadent. Sandra herself exudes a lot of self-confidence, balancing this femininity with edginess throughout her designs, and that made her ideal for a collaboration.
3- What are some of your favourite pieces of the collection and why?
I’m very much like the concept of the collaboration – I like to mix the beautiful dresses with the more streetwear-inspired pieces. But my personal favorite is probably her effortless signature dress, which is like a relax tunic with volume sleeves and a higher neck. You can wear it when onscreen socializing, to fancy parties, at home whit jeans, you can even sleep in it! It’s just so wearable and sophisticated. When going out, I’d pair it with a chunky boots and the cool asymmetric earrings from the collaboration, which I really love.
4- In your opinion, what are the major challenges that Arab designers are facing and how do you see this H&M collaboration impacting the scene?
The main challenge is probably exposure to markets in other parts of the world, but with social media platforms that have immense reach, those barriers are much smaller now. I love how people can discover new designers on social media rather than looking to fashion weeks! The H&M collaboration with Sandra Mansour in particular will hopefully help to raise the profile of Arab designers in general with our customers that perhaps had not been aware of the wonderful talents from the region.
5- Is this a one off, or should Arab designers expect that one day it might be them getting the call?
We’re always looking for exciting talents from all around the world to collaborate with so you never know how the future will look like!
The Sandra Mansour x H&M collection will be available in selected stores from 6 August.