Quick on the heels of the Shop Drop Challenge, in which more than 500 of you joined me to save 3,000 pounds of landfill waste and $30,000 by swapping or thrifting our style for the month of January, I started hearing rumors of a new H&M Conscious Collection that was blowing the socks off eco fashion. And since this is the one time of year that I don’t feel (too) guilty shopping new, I decided to head over to the mall to investigate.
Now you know now much I rail against the mall, home of bottom-of-the-barrel fast fashion houses like Forever 21, which have outsourced our $3 trillion a year apparel industry to third-world countries where workers are underpaid and often exposed to dangerous working conditions in order to bring us $5 t-shirts. Could H&M be different? H&M’s Conscious Collection just launched to the eager anticipation of eco fashion junkies like myself, who can’t afford Stella McCartney. But is it, really? The company has shifted gears towards more eco fashion manufacturing in recent years. Despite the fact that the brand’s reach is massive—second only to Zara in global manufacturing—and therefore unsustainable by definition, the facts remain:
- H&M is now the #1 user of organic cotton worldwide.
- The company saved 300,000 liters of water in their denim production last year.
- Through their in-store recycling program, 2.3 million garments have been donated to charities.
- 440,000 garment workers in Bangladesh enjoy fair(ish) trade working conditions.
- They were the first “fast fashion” company to make their supplier list transparent.
And then there’s the Conscious Collection, which launches each year just in time for Earth Day, to the eager anticipation of eco fashion devotees like myself, who restrain ourselves to thrift stores and swap shops the rest of the year because we can’t afford high-end designers like Stella McCartney. When Conscious hits H&M, you can get an upcycled polyester tank top for $14.95. So I took an eco fashion hall pass and checked it out. But here’s the frustrating thing about fast fashion, no matter how much organic cotton production it supports: You can’t find it in stores. Actually, you can find some things—like the aforementioned tank top and pants and this pair of super-comfortable pajamas-as-outerwear black pants, which I’m rocking in the photo below, as well as a gorgeous wine-colored dress that I can’t seem to photograph correctly. All made from 70% recycled polyester from post-consumer waste—think water bottles—upcycled into super silky, slinky fabric that’s perfect for summer. (I hope. Or it might not breathe at all. In which case I’m screwed.) But what about the dresses made from sustainable fabrics like organic cotton, silk and Tencel? Or the veggie-tanned leather jackets from cows humanely raised for organic meat production in Sweden? (Yes, really.) Those don’t seem to exist in stores, although according to recent press, they should. Harrumph. Guess I’ll just have to go back. What do you think of eco fashion? Have you checked out H&M’s Conscious Collection? Leave me a comment, please. I want to hear all about it!