Have you heard about the Stormtrooper who became a creative director? Alright, so maybe John Boyega won't be swapping Hollywood for Paris any time soon, but the release of his eponymous H&M Edition line has proven beyond doubt there's more to him than mere lightsaber duels and aliens.
Boyega has teamed up with the high street giant for a relaxed collection that puts a flowery twist on workwear staples. It's solid stuff; the kind of versatile collection from which every dude out there is sure to find at least one piece that fits into their wardrobe. It's been a long time in the works for the Londoner, who can still easily recall his earliest flutters with fashion.
"It would be getting hand-me-downs from my eldest sister," explains the Star Wars and Attack the Block star over a ropey Zoom line. "I was smaller, so I could still maneuver into her old trainers, her old loose fit tops. Going into secondary school, obviously fashion becomes more of a social thing, even in terms of interacting with girls, with the guys; you had to make sure you looked good."
As Boyega's star shone brighter, his tastes have changed accordingly. A regular fixture on red carpets, he could never be accused of lacking a sense of adventure. Whether he's in a tuxedo, high fashion, or native wear, this is a guy who isn't shy when it comes to experimentation. When I put it to Boyega that he has the best coat game in the business, he beams with a smile that could power up the National Grid. "My big thing is color," he says. "As you mentioned, my jacket game's tight, so I had to just drop that trench in there. H&M knew it's the kind of thing that I've worn before."
Whenever a fast fashion brand starts throwing the sustainability word around, it's difficult to not feel anything but skepticism toward the product they're actually pushing. For Edition, the press release goes pretty heavy on the usual buzzwords, claiming "[it] was made using more sustainable materials, which is in line with H&M’s commitment to move fashion into a more sustainable future" and how the "cotton is organic or recycled from textile-production waste or post-consumer waste, nylons and polyesters are recycled, and viscose fibers are from sustainable sources."
Being brutally honest? It's tough to decipher what a lot of that truly means, and people should do their own due diligence. The company has at least taken positive strides towards a more eco-friendly future over the years, but remains something of a chimera in the eyes of many conscious consumers. Perhaps fan favorites like Boyega and Maisie Williams coming on board will help it win the trust of younger generations. When it comes to his own environmental journey, Boyega isn't about to pretend he's always been perfect.
"It wasn't like that for me, to be honest," is his reply, when asked if sustainability has always informed his buying habits. "[This project] was more of a creative thing. I was never taught about taking care of the planet. You recycle and do what you need to do, but it was never a moral kind of code. And I was just like, okay, I do want to release a line. That's something I would like to get into, but H&M offering a way in which it also makes a positive impact was something that I'm all for, and all down to support."
H&M Head of Men's Design Ross Lydon explains some of the pieces in further depth to me over e-mail, writing: "We have had discussions around sustainability and why it is important for fashion to change to using more sustainably sourced materials. For example, the use of organic and recycled cotton for the shirts, the checked coat partly made from premium Italian recycled wool, and the chore puffer jacket featuring Vegea™ — a vegan alternative to leather, partly made from waste from the winemaking industry. John has also influenced the styling of the outfits he is wearing in the campaign."
Just hours before getting on the call with Boyega, the Black in Fashion Council’s first-ever Human Rights Campaign Report was released. It detailed how the fashion industry was still sorely lacking diversity and inclusion, and how "Black professionals still face widespread discrimination and prejudice — a testament to the fashion industry’s historically racist and exclusionary nature.” The actor has always been fearless, putting his head above the parapet when it comes to racial injustice; see his impassioned speech at a Black Lives Matter protest in London last year. For him, there are parallels between where fashion is currently and the movie industry.
"I think that also kind of mirrors the conversation that we had for many years in Hollywood," says Boyega. "We're finding the same narratives in other fields of creativity. And what better way to tackle that than someone speaking out about it?"
Before hanging up, I realize it would be remiss of me not to ask one of the world's most talented actors for some style advice. So what is his one secret hack? "Reversible jackets," he replies immediately. "It means you can have one layer as one different color, and that you can just take it out the other way and it's a second jacket!" There might not be any in this lineup, but don't be surprised if we hear a lot more from Boyega in fashion going forward.
Shop the Edition by John Boyega collection over at H&M on October 28.