Whooli Chen x H&M
“I imagined children wandering around a foggy forest filled with flowers and furry animals or heading out on an expedition in search of wild creatures,” says Whooli Chen, the Taiwan-based illustrator, on the latest H&M kidswear collaboration, “all by exploring their neighbourhoods.” With dreamy colours and painterly layers, Chen is known for an organic, surreal style. “I do hope people can find a little poeticism and whimsical atmosphere in my works,” she admits.
True to her whimsy, Whooli is actually a pseudonym, the pronunciation of which means fox in Chinese. While studying for her MA in illustration at the University of the Arts London, she lived on the top floor of a 19th-century yellow brick house in west London: “There was a red fox who lived across the street and sometimes I could see her sunbathing in the neighbour’s backyard. I missed her so I took ‘Whooli’ as a pseudonym to remind me of her and my time in London.”
It’s perhaps not surprising then that for the H&M autumn kidswear collaboration, Chen focuses on a fantastical and expressive world of animals, florals and other nature scenarios. “I’m always inspired by botany and zoology, but literature is also a constant source of wonder, too. That sense of storytelling is what I try to bring out in all my illustrations,” she says. Her creative process begins with drawing in pencil followed by digital gradients added after to manipulate the colours.
The Whooli Chen x H&M capsule collection includes dresses, cosy hoodies, a jumpsuit, joggers and leggings, plus a matching rabbit-shaped bag, scrunchies, beanies and snoods, all in a variety of print techniques and effects. Pyjamas, underwear and socks round out the collection. With a colour palette of warm, soft neutrals and black as a contrast, plus greens, muted pink, turquoise, navy and pop colour accents, the magic of nature and wildlife really comes to life.
The entire collection is also made from more sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, Tencel, cotton sourced through the Better Cotton Initiative and for the first time in kidswear, Texloop™ RCOT™. A fabric with a high share of recycled cotton, Texloop™ processes high-value cotton waste to create new fabric, preserving the original fibre quality for the next generation of recycled materials.
“We’re really proud of our sustainability work and how far we’ve come, in kidswear and across all departments. In 2019, 57% of all H&M’s materials came from recycled or sustainably sourced materials. We’ll continue to improve this in the coming years up to 2030, when all our materials will be from recycled or sustainably sourced materials. There’s also our garment collecting program and Take Care program, both steps towards closing the loop in fashion,” says Nellie Lindeborg, Sustainability responsible at H&M.
“We’re very happy to have more sustainable materials throughout this collaboration, including Texloop™, a fantastic material incorporated into some of the pieces. For example, the long-sleeve T-shirt is 50% Texloop™ RCOT™ recycled cotton, the highest share of recycled cotton H&M has ever done. We’re also thrilled, of course, with Whooli Chen’s illustrations, which are so unique and beautiful, balancing softness and precision. They look absolutely stunning on all the kidswear designs,” says Sofia Löfstedt, Head of Kidswear Design at H&M.
Ultimately, the collaboration aims to capture the minds and hearts of the children wearing the collection. “I can’t wait to see and hear about their reactions,” says Whooli Chen, “but above all, I hope the illustrations will be more than just some collages of animals and plants. By wearing them, it will be a celebration of the world’s diverse beauty.”
The Whooli Chen x H&M collection will be in stores worldwide, as well as online on hm.com, from 17 September.
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