H&M’s New Conscious Collection: Is it really that conscious?

H&M have recently announced their 2019 conscious collection featuring items made of pineapple leaves and orange peel. It seems to have created quite a stir within the ethical fashion community, with many stating that no matter what materials H&M use, they are not a sustainable brand. I wanted to share my thoughts on the new collection.

I wrote a post on H&M and their greenwashing tactics a couple of months ago, which you can read here. Like a lot of the ethical fashion community, I was not particularly impressed with H&M’s new offerings. It’s nice that they are using sustainable materials in this collection, but like I mentioned in my previous most abut H&M, it’s only a small fraction of the amount of clothes they actually produce.

But then again, I don’t want to completely put down H&M. The fact that they are a high street brand means that they are making clothes made of sustainable materials accessible to average people. It is pretty much impossible to find clothes on the high street that are made of sustainable materials.

That being said, I don’t think H&M are doing this because they care about the planet. I think it’s fairly clear they don’t. They’ve been very clever in releasing the conscious collection just before Fashion Revolution week, when they know there will be extra publicity around ethical and sustainable fashion.

The main issue that many ethical fashion bloggers have pointed out, is that H&M produce clothing on a mass scale. This is inherently harmful to the planet, no matter what materials they are made out of. But (rather depressingly) H&M are going to keep doing this as long as there is a demand for it, their primary motive is to make profits, it is not sustainability.

I find this situation almost similar to buying vegan food in non-vegan restaurants. You’re choosing the ethical option, but you’re ultimately buying into a brand that supports cruelty to animals. When you purchase from H&Ms conscious collection, you’re choosing the sustainable option, but ultimately funding an unsustainable brand. But me, and pretty much all vegans, buy vegan food from non-vegan restaurants. Maybe we should be more open to supporting H&M’s conscious collection?

If we were looking at this purely from a sustainability perspective, I would say yes we should support it. However, there is more that goes into making clothes. There is the person who actually crafted the garment. There is no evidence that workers who make the H&M conscious collection get better treatment than those who make H&M’s standard clothing. This means they are not getting paid a living wage, which makes me far less inclined to purchase from them. Their new collection may be conscious of the environment, but it is not conscious of the people who make the garments.

When researching for this post I read a few different news sources that talked about the new collection. What is frustrating is that H&M are treated as though they are the first ones to use these materials. A Refinery 29 article stated that H&M have ‘mind-blowing creativity’. I don’t think its fair to champion H&M for using materials such as pinatex when there have been much smaller ethical brands doing it for years. It’s not unlikely that these smaller ethical brands are where H&M actually get their ideas for the conscious collection from.

I also got rather frustrated by a Grazia article on the topic; ‘H&M’s new collection is made from pineapple leaves and orange peel…and you’ll want to wear everything’. That’s the whole problem. Having the desire to buy everything, this is the exact thing that is causing such destruction to our environment. It doesn’t matter if the clothes are made of eco-friendly fruit materials, its not sustainable to buy the whole collection, when you almost certainly do not need it. The problem with the news coverage of the conscious collection is that its promoted as something we need to have. This is the root of the problem though, if we want to be sustainable, we need to be consuming less.

So I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy H&M’s new conscious collection. But that being said, I don’t want to be too critical of it. As I mentioned, it’s making sustainable fashion at least a little more accessible. But even so, I think H&M get far more credit than they deserve.

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