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Case Study: H&M

branche: Fashion

Marketing the Rainbow

Article last updated Nov 14, 2022

In November 2004, Lagerfeld launched a collection with H&M - the first collaboration of its kind. The items, which included T-shirts with Lagerfeld’s face cartooned onto them ($19.90) and a sleek sequin jacket ($129), cost a fraction of the price of his previous designs and were sold at stores across Europe and the US. It sold out almost instantly. “We’ve been operating this business for some 60 years and we’ve never seen anything like it,” said Jörgen Andersson, who was H&M’s marketing director at the time. “We are as surprised as the customer.” Lagerfeld, however, accused the retailer of “snobbery”: “It was great to work with the

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2018: Love For All Collection

For the 2018 Pride season, H&M joined in the party with Love For All. A collection of high-energy summertime looks with a retro nod to the 70s, packed with positive messages and the all-important rainbow flag colours. "It’s about the perfect pieces for everyone to join in and celebrate the message of love, equality and self-expression." 10% of the sales price from the collection was donated to UN Free & Equal, the United Nations Human Rights Office campaign whose aim is to build a world where no-one should be afraid because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

They collaborated with Out magazine on a special campaign, titled "Pride OUT Loud," to kick off the collection's launch. It featured Kim Petras, Shaun Ross, Aja, Gus Kenworthy and Gabrielle Richardson.

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2019: Love For All Collection

This Love for All collection was H&M’s second release in support of the LGBTQ+ community, headlined by the Stay True, Stay You campaign. The campaign features actress and activist Laverne Cox, internet phenomenon Rickey Thompson, influencer Shannon Beveridge, and lifestyle bloggers Brock Williams and Chris Lin. Like in the previous year, 10% of each sale was donated to Free & Equal.

The collection is designed to spread a message of individuality, diversity, self-confidence, and equality. Each piece is a vivacious and modern, featuring a motif to the iconic LGBTQ+ rainbow. Silhouettes range from cropped and boxy to body-hugging and sporty, while key pieces include a retro bodysuit with rainbow wings, a multi colored sequin top and shorts, and a rainbow mesh t-shirt complimented with a rainbow nylon zip up jacket.

Take it from Laverne Cox: “I’m really excited to be a part of this campaign, celebrating an incredible community that I am so thankful and proud to be a part of.”

In the Netherlands H&M asked their employees: "What does Stay True, Stay You mean to you?" The ones with the most inspiring answers were included in the campaign - like Kevin, Sales advisor at H&M Alkmaar.

"At H&MI found unity and equality in a close team like never before. I found 'my place' in this company. ‘Stay true, stay you’ for me means that in this turbulent world, I will always be loyal to myself and my faith and the hope that this world will become a little more beautiful evey day. I will always keep that in mind. As ambassador for H&M I want to be a role model, because I believe that everyone matters."

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H&M believes in everybody’s right to love who they want,” says Andreas Löwenstam, H&M’s men’s head of design. “We hope people can use H&M’s Love For All collection to celebrate Pride and their belief in equal love.”

The garments are unisex, and feature texts like ‘Lover not a fighter’, ‘Pride’ and ‘United’.

Note: the collection was not available in Malaysia. After probing questions from the anti-LGBT organization UNMO (which blamed the LGBT for the 2018 earthquake and tsunami) H&M said that each country had their own policy in deciding which collection to launch, and that Malaysia had decided not to. Oh well. 

David Beckham

Since early 2012, H&M and David Beckham have worked together for a collection called David Beckham Bodywear. The underwear range was inspired by Beckham’s previous collaboration with Armani in 2008 that saw the footballer model the designer underwear. In later years this was extended with swimsuits while in 2015, the Modern Essentials collection at H&M came to be. Beckham's collection was even used for the Super Bowl in 2012 and 2014. The co-operation continues to the present day.

Although neither the products, nor the campaigns were aimed specifically at gay men, David running around (literally) near-naked was surely appreciated. 

people at H&M as we all helped each other to make it a success. But the incomprehensible decisions of the management in Stockholm have taken away any desire to do it again. They did not make the clothes in sufficient quantities. I find it embarrassing that H&M let down so many people… I don’t think that is very kind, especially for people in small towns and countries in eastern Europe. It is snobbery created by anti-snobbery.” However it may be, the collection was launched with a fabulous black and white commercial.

2016: groundbreaking commercial: She's a Lady

AdRespect: "To the tune of a new version of "She's a Lady," created and performed by duo Lion Babe, this fashion ad shows a variety of expressions of powerful women - including with a shaved head, full figured, in the boardroom, or a muscled weightlifter. It includes trans model and actress Hari Nef, along with 72-year-old Lauren Hutton, Adwoa Aboah, businesswoman Pum Lefebure and Jillian Hervey. The spot ends with two women kissing underwater in a pool."

H&M created a splash on social media with this stereotype-smashing campaign. Encouraging women to be fierce and fearless with their fashion choices rather than typically ‘ladylike’, the campaign was designed to break down gender norms and encourage self-expression. The advert was particularly applauded for speaking about fashion in this context, instead of the standard focus on consumerism.

'Puritanical' Christian group One Million Moms (OMM, a mere 3,500 mostly-male Twitter followers) launched a boycott of H&M after mistaking female Champion Muay Thai Boxer Fatima Pinto for a transgender woman. Granted, there was a trans model in there, but they picked the wrong one. They added: "The H&M Marketing Team may have thought this type of advertising was politically correct, but not only is it disgusting and confusing for children, it is pushing the LBGT agenda." Of course we know that a boycott by OMM usually has a positive effect on the brand, and generates free publicity. Read more in my article about boycotts.

2019: Moments in Between

For the 2019 Holiday Season, H&M checked (almost) all the diversity boxes: mixed couples, smoldering girl-to-girl looks, androgynous youngsters and kissing boys.

"This holiday season, we want to celebrate the precious moments that are filled with love and emotion. Remember, it’s the little things in life that truly stay in your heart.

There also was a shorter German version of this video.

2016: Caitlyn Jenner

Following the groundbreaking appearance of a transgender model in the 2016 campaign, H&M announced that "pop culture icon" Caitlyn Jenner was the face of their new

'For Every VictoryAW16 sports collection campaign. However, according to the company, Jenner was not hired for her recent cultural ascension as a transgender icon, but rather, for her history as an athlete - an Olympic gold medal winning decathlete.

"For H&M it is important to show diversity and a range of personalities in everything we do. We have picked Caitlyn Jenner, one of the world’s most celebrated athletes, as part of this H&M Sports campaign because we want to illustrate that everything is possible — in sports and in life. It is a collection of performance sportswear made to celebrate individuality and self-belief."

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Pride 2020

H&M USA honored Pride 2020 with a donation of $500,000 dollars’ worth of products, as well as allowing customers additional ways to give back and donate to the community. Their donation went to organizations like Zebra CoalitionLA LGBT CenterAli Forney CenterLambert House and Imperial Valley LGBT Resource Center.

From June 4th to 14th, H&M USA partnered with Givz so that for every $60 spent on hm.com/us, H&M USA donated $10 to LGBT charities like The Trevor Project.

2005 Pride

One year later this ad appeared in the local Pride publication in Washington DC.

2010 Holidays

For the holiday season the webpage of H&M in Belgium turned L&G.

Since its first designer collaboration with Lagerfeld, H&M has partnered with a host of high-end labels including Versace, Balmain, and Stella McCartney.

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Lesbian images

Over the years, H&M has used print and online images of women in intimate poses, which suggest that they would be more than just friends.


Pride 2021: Beyond the Rainbow

With this interactive campaign H&M continues to stand by the LGBT+ community, telling individual stories from the other side of the rainbow and encouraging people to share their own personal stories through our newly developed web app.  Customers and fans can access the stories in the campaign by scanning any rainbow flag, add Instagram filters and share their own Pride stories in social media.

The campaign features 11 profile videos, among others American actress and singer Mj Rodriguez (Pose), Mexican influencer Héctor Trejo, Danish actor, model and DJ Sus Wilkins and Chella Man, American artist, actor and activist.

“It’s not to wave around to show like ‘We’re here’, it’s ‘Look what we fought for’. We’re the ones who created


H&M has been a trustful ally for decades with groundbreaking and heartwarming displays of diversity, and support for LGBT charities and causes. The representation of LGBT models comes naturally, and often matter-of-factly. An excellent example of how Marketing the Rainbow can be done. They score a 9.5.

The beginning

our own liberation. The Pride flag is beautiful, but I’m not sure a lot of people understand how beautiful, I’m not just talking about the colours, it’s what’s beyond them” - Mj Rodriguez.

In connection to the campaign a donation of 100,000 USD was made to United Nations Free & Equal Campaign.

2018: swimwear

In the same year Gus became the new face of a line of swimwear for H&M and the company teased fans with a video on their Twitter account. Minutes later, Kenworthy posted a swoon-worthy picture of himself in a pool: ‘Wanna go in but it hasn’t been 30 minutes since I ate 👅🍩 … Sooo I guess I’ll just stand here feelin’ cute in my new stripy @hm trunks’

Pride Month 2022 Chosen family: 

"You don't have to be born into a family, you can choose one. For this year’s Pride, we celebrate chosen families. A chosen family is made up of people who have chosen to love and support one another. Just like the LGBT+ families in our H&M Pride 2022 campaign: The Dreamers, The Angels and Lola & Los Javis.

"Inclusion and Diversity is about who we are and who we want to be and is deeply rooted in our values. To stay more relevant for both our customers and colleagues, we need to understand and genuinely embrace different perspectives. A truly inclusive environment will lead to better solutions, better decisions and better results. This year’s Pride brings the important topic of our chosen family to the conversation, and I am very proud of this important and beautiful campaign", said Ann-Charlotte Berglind, Head of HR H&M. As part of the campaign H&M donated 100,000 USD to the United Nations Free & Equal Campaign, which champions equal rights and fair treatment of the worldwide LGBT+ community.

Pride Month 2022

H&M teamed up with Paris-based artist Pierre Marie to update one of the most conservative symbols of the family: the family tree. It is an expression of the idea that families based on emotional ties are just as real as biological ones, and a way to celebrate the concept of "chosen families", which plays a vital role for many people in the LGBTQIA+ community and out there.

The chosen family tree is designed as a cycle where the emotional bonds of the family members are the connecting link. The chosen family portrayed consists of Jamie Windus, a non-binary editor, model and public speaker. Tori West, the founder of Bricks Magazine, an independent print publication and online platform exploring socio-political issues. Reeta Loi, musician, storyteller and founder of Gaysians - a movement that emphasizes South Asian LGTB+ voices.


Hennes & Mauritz AB (est. 1947), better known as H&M, is a Swedish multinational clothing-retail company known for its fast-fashion clothing for men, women, teenagers and children. H&M operates in 74 countries with over 5,000 stores under the various company brands, with 126,000 full-time equivalent positions. It is the second-largest global clothing retailer.

The company was established as Hennes (Swedish for "hers") and exclusively sold women's clothing. They acquired the hunting apparel retailer Mauritz Widforss in 1968, which led to the inclusion of a menswear collection in the product range and the name change to Hennes & Mauritz. In 1976, the first store outside Scandinavia opened in London. H&M continued to expand in Europe and began to retail online in 1998. The opening of its first U.S. store on 31 March 2000, on Fifth Avenue in New York City marked the start of the expansion outside of Europe.

In October 2020, H&M announced that they are planning to close 5% of their worldwide stores in 2021, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.