Fresh reports released from H&M January 29th revealed that the fast-fashion retailer from Stockholm, Sweden, had a 14% increase in profits for the 4th quarter, indicating that while most of the fashion retail marketplace is capsizing, H&M is sailing.

Its 2-store openings at the end of last year in Japan surpassed expectations, and another 225 stores are planned for 2009, including a highly anticipated store in Beijing this Spring, for a total increase in employment of 6-7,000 people in 2009.

As we reported in our Brand Profile on H&M in the Fall of 2008, just as Rei Kawakubo’s masstige collection for Comme des Garcons was to debut at 20 select H&M stores, the giant retailer that basically invented fast-fashion has a formula for success that works not only in Europe and Japan, but also North America, Saudi Arabia, and soon to be in China.

Like American Apparel in the United States and Uniqlo from Japan, H&M (Hennes & Mauritz) from Sweden has almost single-handedly created the concept of fast-fashion, a.k.a. disposable fashion trends. While prices are not quite as inexpensive in some select stores and for some collections these days, the store chain of 1,500 is known for producing new styles quickly and offering them up to consumers at affordable prices (from $5.99 to $69.99).

In just a few short years, the European retailer has dominated the marketplace in Europe, opened 149 stores in the United States (with 8 in Manhattan alone), and in 2008, purchased the Stockholm-based denim brand Cheap Monday, launched a women’s store in Saudi Arabia, had profits climbing 18% in the first quarter, and had hundreds of people wrapped around the block in anticipation of their 1st southeast store opening in Atlanta back in June, 2008.

Known for collaborating with top designers and celebs, ranging from Madonna to Stella McCartney, and Viktor & Rolf, H&M was also one of the first big-box retailers to pop-up avatars and virtual stores and shopping experiences (along with American Apparel) using EA’s “Second Life” and The Sims 2.

With their collaborative collection and pop-up shop with Comme des Garcons designer Rei Kawakubo in November of 2008, H&M was poised to crossover once again into borderline couture, limited-edition direction, and yet still maintain cred with the bulk of their consumers with fast-fashion styles at affordable prices. It’s the kind of crossover success that most brands dream of and only a handful have done well, such as Apple Computer, American Apparel, Volcom to some extent, and perhaps Nike if you don’t count all of their mistakes launching into the skateboarding marketplace back in the day.

For more information on H&M and how it ranks among youth culture markets in North America, Europe, and Japan, email about our Brand Profiles and access to the Premium Subscription 2009.