For H&M, Today's Real Role Models Are Kids

Leave the rest of us to war it out on Twitter

H&M has begun a new global initiative to identify and support role models in the social, environmental and civic spheres. But they aren't looking up, toward the horizon; they're looking lower down. All of these role models are children.

To underline the significance of that, agency Alto and Oscar-nominated director Bryan Buckley give us "Role Models x H&M," a video that is just over six minutes long.

There's such a great, sparing setup: mostly wilderness backdrops, with a single school desk, each frame focused on the words of a different child, their perspectives handled so carefully and seriously. Much of the video is devoted to things they're concerned about.

We did not have perfect childhoods, certainly, but it's another thing entirely to see today's kids—from so many walks of life—speak with such gravity and sophistication about topics that few adults can seem to discuss without screaming, from environmental collapse to racist violence to inequality of women.

"I'm really scared that my friends are going to get put into cages," a child says at one point, and that stings. But the film also explores initiatives that seek to make things better, and we get a strong sense that kids aren't really looking to adults to solve problems over the long term. There's no bitterness there; it is simply a fact, like sunshine or rain.

"As a company that stands for progress, we feel a certain responsibility to use our size to create change today and for the future," says Pascal Brun, H&M's global sustainability manager. "We're ambitious in our goals to make our business more equitable and sustainable so the world is better for future generations. Part of that is making the decision to amplify the voices of role models who are making a difference today: kids."

To be fair, there's a lot to be said about H&M itself; its fast-fashion model is part of what contributes to a worsening future, and the brand will need a lot more than advertising to sort that out.

For now, the goals behind this campaign are soft: to join the "movement" in lifting kids up (sigh), visit hm.com/kids to nominate a remarkable role model. Toward year's end, H&M will highlight them while raising awareness for how communities can "join in their work." We're not sure what that means, and are unconvinced H&M does at this stage, either. But let's watch this space.

"This is more than just identifying some great kids, it's putting the power of our global infrastructure behind something we truly believe in," Brun promises. We'll be curious to see how much of the global infrastructure itself they attempt to change, the better to support these avatars for a non-dystopian future.

At the end of the video, the kids ruminate on the definition of a role model. "I feel like a role model is someone that you aspire to be, someone that you find truth in, someone that you agree with their opinions," one reflects.

Another responds, "For some people, I think I am a role model." Yeah. For better and worse, that is true.

The H&M Role Models initiative will be supported by a digital platform, set to go live on Thursday.

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Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is a founding contributor to Muse. She is also the co-founder of esports agency Hurrah.gg, and co-author of Generation Creation.

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