An Afternoon with H&M Conscious Exclusive Changed My Perspective on Sustainability in Fashion
Lessons in sustainability and saving the world, and then some
With the sustainability movement in full swing, to say that there’s a lot of pressure on retail giants is an understatement. Just about every month, I’d see the same few BOF articles propelled across my Facebook feed and a new thread about why we should side-step fast fashion gaining traction on Twitter. In a time where the word of retweeting and double-tapping runs on faster fuel than word of mouth, clothing juggernauts need to make shifts in the name of sustainability—and quick.
However, an afternoon with H&M and the minds behind their premium spin-off line, Conscious Exclusive, was a wake-up call. As I listened to three women: a representative of the brand, a founder of a 100% natural textile and a sustainability specialist, I realized that those big, brave moves can’t be made in a snap when you’ve got a multinational retailer in your hands.
It’s bittersweet, but while these strategic shifts take time to trickle down the large corporate ladders, the efforts have been planted and are taking root. It’s an uphill battle to turn the economy into that circular, zero-waste wonder we long for it to be, but H&M is making changes one Conscious collection at a time.
Sustainability isn’t the destination. It’s the journey.
A common misconception, according to impact strategist and Clothing the Loop founder Laura Francois, is that sustainability is the end-all and be-all of this fight for the environment. It isn’t. “Sustainability simply means we have to sustain what you currently have,” she explains. And if the Earth’s current state is all we try to sustain, that obviously isn’t very aspirational, is it? The sweet spot we eventually want to reach is a better, cleaner, healthier world through and through––sustainability is simply a way to get there.
Brands can’t gauge what to create, because customers don’t know what they want.
Relaying the story of a visit to an abandoned textile factory in Southeast Asia full of rolls upon rolls of unused textile, Laura stresses the importance of knowing what we want as consumers of the fashion industry. There’s truth in the belief that the biggest things start small. After all, how will brands know how much to order, what to produce, and most importantly, what their customers will say no to if we don’t know it ourselves?
Fashion is an opportunity, not a problem.
Despite being the among the largest contributors to pollution, fashion can still be seen from two sides of the coin. The current impact that it has over the environment gives it leverage to make vast improvements with enough time, intention and customer reception.
Keeping that ball of sustainability rolling, H&M has employed new, ultra-innovative textiles in crafting its latest Conscious Exclusive collection. Among the newest Conscious drops you’ll find pieces made out of BLOOM™ Foam, Piñatex® and Orange Fiber®, which are durable, responsibly sourced materials made out of algae biomass, pineapple leaf fiber and citrus peel, respectively. Up ahead, take a look at our favorites from the latest H&M Conscious Exclusive collection, available in selected stores and online on April 11.
Art Alexandra Lara