How H&M went from high street to haute couture for a Met Gala takeover

By Billie Miro Breskin

Photo: Courtesy of H&M

Designing looks for the Met Gala since 2015, H&M approached this year's theme as an opportunity to delve into its 80-year archives. We take a closer look at the six H&M-dressed guests and their custom red carpet looks

Each year, the Met Gala presents a unique opportunity for brands: to showcase their most spectacular designs on the most famous celebrities, on a night where the world is watching. With this brief, brands go above and beyond what they show on the runway or in stores, meticulously crafting custom looks for each of their guests. No brand exemplifies this enhancement, however, than H&M.


The Sweden-based, multinational brand was established back in 1947, when Erling Persson had a vision of bringing efficient shopping in high-volume stores to Sweden. Persson founded Hennes, a women’s clothing boutique, which was then updated to Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) in 1968 after a menswear collection was introduced. The company grew rapidly from there, going international in 1976 and developing online retail in 1998. Now one of the largest fashion companies in the world, H&M is best known for its affordable, accessible items.

Those that are familiar with the brand today may be surprised, then, to hear that H&M has been designing looks for the Met Gala since 2015. Alongside iconic luxury houses like Gucci, Dior, and Chanel, H&M’s special Met Gala design team presents suits and gowns for its guests befitting each year’s theme. The evening is a large marketing opportunity for every brand but particularly for those like H&M, that get a rare opportunity to present designs beyond standard consumer goods.

This year, H&M used the theme ‘The Garden of Time’ as an opportunity to delve into their archives (two looks from those archives will be shown in the Met’s galleries). Looking back on an almost 80-year history, designers took inspiration from the brand’s collections from the 1940s and 1950s. Dressing six guests to parade down the red carpet, H&M certainly achieved its goal of showing off its custom-made design capabilities.

Read on to learn more about each look.

Adwoa Aboah

Photo: Courtesy of H&M

The most memorable part of Adwoa Aboah’s look wasn’t the clothing itself, but what it bared; the red carpet doubled as a pregnancy announcement for the model and actor. In a red silk organza two-piece, Aboah’s glow was palpable. Donning a rhinestoned bralette, a cropped, ruffled cape, and a low-waisted bubble skirt (complete with pockets!), the monochromatic look highlighted Aboah’s pregnancy while still making a fierce fashion statement.

Paloma Elsesser

Photo: Courtesy of H&M

Paloma Elsesser is known for her oh-so-cool looks, and this one was no different. The model donned a silk taffeta bubble skirt with a dramatic train, paired with a custom breastplate. Constructed by Michael Schmidt Studios in Los Angeles, the metallic top was moulded perfectly to Elsesser’s body and featured a spray of silver, 3D-printed calla lilies. With her green heels matching the patina of the metal, Elsesser looked like a warrior princess on the red carpet.

Quannah Chasinghorse

Photo: Courtesy of H&M

Quannah Chasinghorse always shines at the Met Gala, and this year was no exception, in her custom H&M gown the activist and model appeared ethereal yet grounded. The look was inspired by graceful 1950s fashion, with the colour of the dress chosen in honour of Alaska’s state flower, the forget-me-not (Chasinghorse hails from the state). The look was completed with beaded and caribou fur-tufted accessories by Indigenous designer Heather Dickson of Dickson designs, which also depicted the flower.

Hari Nef

Photo: Courtesy of H&M

Actor, model, and writer Hari Nef also stepped out in a classic dress, this time a strapless white column gown embellished with paillettes and sequins. Complete with an oversized bow in the back, Nef was the very picture of a mid-century Hollywood starlet. Writing about the look on Instagram, Nef reflected that she had been considering “how the visual ideal of glamour travels, from high society to its fringes.” Invoking transgender women of the past, Nef concluded, “Their beauty and grandeur moves me; I reflect on what they risked for it. I wanted to honour them last night.”

Stefon Diggs

Photo: Courtesy of H&M

Stefon Diggs may best be known for what he does on the field as an American football player, but his look proved his prowess on the red carpet as well. His effortlessly draped suit was made from midnight-blue crushed velvet, woven with lurex to create nonchalant fluidity. The suit caught the light beautifully, shimmering blue-black in the flash of the cameras. While Diggs was the only male celebrity that H&M dressed this year, he certainly held his own in this elegant creation.


Photo: Courtesy of H&M

If you loved Hari Nef and Quannah Chasinghorse’s looks, then Awkwafina’s gown is the best of both worlds. Inspired directly by a wedding dress from the days when H&M was still known as Hennes, the creamy colour and bold silhouette made for a timeless dress. The actor and comedian was perfectly framed by the embellished neckline, which offset the smooth material of the base with beaded daisy patterning.