In early 2010, the New York Times released a story of a Manhattan H&M store caught red-handed disposing of unworn clothes, most of which seemed intentionally slashed and torn to avoid reuse. The clothes were packed in garbage bags and thrown to the curb.
This incident left consumers aghast and caused H&M to reevaluate their green footprint and become a little more socially and environmentally responsible. In 2011, H&M launched the Conscious collection, which is made from sustainable fabrics including organic cotton, recycled polyester and Tencel, a fabric made from wood pulp and processed in a closed-loop production which releases no toxic materials into the environment.
Vanessa Paradis, French actress, model and singer, is the new face of the 2013 Conscious collection which is full of optimism for the spring with romantic styles, sporty shapes and tropical prints. However, the most exciting part of the collection is that is coincides with the Conscious garment collecting program, an initiative that seems just as optimistic. Starting in February, customers can now bring any unwanted garments from any label to selected H&M stores, such as the downtown Montreal H&M, and in return for each bag, they receive an H&M voucher.
The H&M Conscious garment collecting program has partnered with I:CO, short for “I collect,” whose mission is to get heavy hitting retailers to help create sustainable consumption by participating in the environmentally friendly sorting and reuse of men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing.
Turning old into new has become somewhat of a trend, especially in Montreal given the number of vintage clothing pop-up shops. Fashion icons like Gwen Stefani and Amanda Seyfried are all known to rock eco-conscious clothing such as garments made with low-impact dyes and organic cotton.
H&M is definitely keeping with the trend in their effort to encourage garment return, preventing clothing from going to landfills and as a result, increasing unnecessary air emissions, residual and water waste. According to the CEO’s message in the 2011 Conscious Actions Sustainability Report, Karl-Johan Persson stressed that “H&M’s target is to use only sustainable cotton by 2020,” by tackling challenges of “climate change, working conditions, wages at supplier factories and the long-term availability of natural resources” that affect all fashion retailers worldwide.
Given H&M’s size and global reach, it will hopefully inspire other retailers to get informed on how they can contribute to sustaining the environment. Les Oubliettes owner Daniel D’Amours is devoted to recycling and giving new life to vintage clothes. “Being conscious is the mission behind Les Oubliettes,” said D’Amours. The company is a great example of how you can still keep with the trends while shopping second-hand.
D’Amours agrees “there is so much waste,” however, hopefully the upcoming H&M campaign “will inspire people to change the way they think and shop.”
Our levels of consumption and waste probably figure higher than we can imagine, however, there are ways we can still help sustain a healthier environment, even in the fashion world!