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H&M has hired Donald Schneider to be its creative director, in a notable change of focus for the giant Swedish fashion retailer. Schneider, currently the art director of Germany’s leading weekly news magazine Stern, starts his new job on April 1, 2011. The Swiss-born Schneider, 50, will be based in Berlin, Germany, commuting weekly to Stockholm, Sweden, where H&M is headquartered. A highly experienced professional, Schneider was creative director of French Vogue for eight years until 2004, working long stretches with two different editors – Joan Juliet Buck and Carine Roitfeld.

“I want to help create a constant buzz around H&M, it’s such defining brand of our times,” Schneider told FWD. He succeeds veteran Jan Nord, who had little editorial experience. Nord has left the company to take on a similar position at Esprit.

Schneider will report to CEO Karl-Johan Persson, grandson of the company’s founder Erling Persson, and will work in tandem with Anna Tillberg Pantzar, H&M’s key marketing executive.

Schneider is not unfamiliar with H&M, since he was the brainchild behind the partnership between the retail behemoth and Karl Lagerfeld, en epoch-making deal in fashion co-branding, whose sole collection sold out amid scenes of retail pandemonium when launched in November 2004. H&M has since gone on create large one-season collections with such luminaries as Viktor & Rolf, Comme des Garçons, Matthew Williamson and, next month, Lanvin.

The Swiss creative also launched the group’s first custom made magazine, teaming up with Tillberg Pantzar to create a multi-lingual global concept. He also invented the brand’s “Luxury Christmas” concept, changing the logo to gold and re-positioning the mass brand as more luxury label by, for instance, making its bags in faux embossed crocodile.

“It’s an exciting moment to be joining HM since they are really growing internationally, with openings in India, China and Brazil,” stressed Schneider.

Schneider will retain his own independent consulting firm, whose roster of clients has included highbrow brands like Chloé, Hugo Boss and Brioni.H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB, to give it its full name, is the acknowledged world leader in “fast fashion,” boasting over 2,000 stores in some 37 countries, and employing around 76,000 people worldwide. The company is publicly quoted on the Stockholm stock market, though still controlled by the descendants of Erling Persson, who founded the business in 1947. (FWD)