A few years ago I turned down my nose at the notion of buying “eco-friendly” clothing from big-box stores like Wal-Mart, Target, and H&M. My rationale was that one must consider the company from which you’re buying the item and the entirety of its environmental footprint – which would more than likely outweigh any of the positives you might have achieved by buying an organic cotton t-shirt from said retailer.
I mostly disagree with that point of view now. I still firmly believe that conscious consumerism extends much farther than the material a garment is made out of to the country in which it was produced, who produced it, how long it took to get to the retailer, and then what you are going to do with your clothes AFTER you buy them (how long they’ll last, how you wash them…), but mass market retailers have an enormous amount of influence, and appeal to the MAJORITY of shoppers in the US. If they do it right, they can start to have a more positive impact on sustainability in fashion and eco-consciousness overall.
So far, I think H&M is pulling their weight quite admirably. They still sell cheap clothing, and not of the highest quality (although it’s not as bad as it could be), but they have a recycling program, and make efforts at introducing items made from sustainable and recycled fabrics frequently.
Ideally, I’d buy my eco-friendly clothing from retailers who are more invested in sustainability and conscious consumerism, smaller, and more local, but the reality is that good is better than perfect, and doing better than you were yesterday is still BETTER. Every step we take towards being more mindful of what we buy (also who we buy it from, and where we buy it) is a step in the right direction. And if that means buying a few pieces from H&M, then fine.
But on to the actual H&M conscious collection – at first, from the lookbook and previews I was not impressed; a lot of the pieces look like costumes. I couldn’t think of an occasion where one would want to wear an embroidered cropped jacket or extreme puff-sleeved top, and I wish the kaftan came in something other than animal print…but in general, the pieces are pretty good.
Most of the items are made from lyocell* and/or recycled polyester and some organic materials, which I appreciate. I wear a lot of lyocell/tencel and love the feel of it, and it is sustainable. (My Acne Studios dress I wore yesterday is 100% Lyocell)
What do you think about the collection? Will you buy anything? Do you appreciate H&M’s effort at trying to influence sustainability in fashion?
*Lyocell is a man-made fiber from natural origins, sometimes going under the brand name Tencel (has to have a certain percentage of lyocell), and is made from dissolving wood pulp. It’s generally considered more eco-friendly because manufacturers don’t have to use bleach, as they do with cotton, for example, and plant fiber is generally more sustainable (“the closed-loop manufacturing process make lyocell the most eco-friendly of the regenerative fibers“). As with bamboo and other plants, including cotton, just because you don’t HAVE to use chemicals on it to process it, doesn’t mean manufacturers DON’T, so while it may be more “sustainable” or eco-friendly, it does not mean that it’s organic, or appropriate for people with a lot of chemical sensitivies.