H&M to launch its most sustainable collection yet. But is it enough?


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If you’re anywhere near an H&M store on April 20, expect queues.

On that day, the Swedish fast-fashion chain will launch its sixth Conscious Exclusive range – a capsule collection of women’s, men’s and children’s wear made to its highest principles of sustainability and fair trade.

Thanks to the time difference, the pieces will hit Australian stores earlier than Europe, although only the women’s and children’s wear is available here.

The collection, which costs up to about $300 for formal dresses, includes sequins made from recycled polyester and fabrics from factories that offer its workers better wages and working conditions than the average in those countries.

Head of design Ann-Sofie Johansson said fabrics included organic cotton, organic silk, organic linen and Tencel.

“The fabrics are made in a sustainable way using less water, less pesticides, all those sort of things,” she said.

Some garments were made with a blend of sustainable and conventional fabrics to achieve the right feel and quality, she added.

“The list of fabrics we can use is getting longer for each collection. We can try to push the boundaries for what is possible with sustainable fabrics.”

The showpiece in the range is an evening dress made from Bionic yarn, which turns discarded shoreline plastics into textiles. The dress in question is made from 89 plastic bottles, blended with recycled polyester.

While Conscious Exclusive is a drop in the ocean compared to the size of H&M’s overall range, it’s part of a growing sustainability ethos at the retailer, which launched its 2016 annual Sustainability Report in Stockholm on April 4.

But before you get the warm and fuzzies over your purchase, consider how far fast fashion has to go to become fully sustainable, which some argue is impossible given its business model of “buy more”.

The company’s latest aims include using 100 per cent recycled or sustainable materials by 2030, part of its eventual goal to become 100 per cent circular.

This is a pretty tough ask considering it also relies on consumers to dispose of their H&M garments thoughtfully, either by returning them to store as part of the company’s recycling program, or through another responsible system.

Other goals include fairer wages and worker representation to cover at least 50 per cent of its product output by 2018. 

Back to the collection. At a recent talk at the Melbourne Fashion Festival, Daily Life’s Sustainable Style columnist, Clare Press, was asked whether consumers could ever make a “good” purchase from a fast-fashion store.

Her response: something from the H&M Conscious collection, which extends to T-shirts made from organic or sustainable cotton, is better than buying from the main range.

The Conscious Exclusive collection also includes tops, dresses, jackets, pants and shoes. And there’s a range of fragrances produced in Denmark.

Ms Johansson said the Conscious Exclusive collection aimed to educate consumers that sustainable clothing could also be fashionable.

“You can have beautiful pieces, precious pieces, timeless pieces you can wear over and over again,” she said.

Melissa Singer travelled to Stockholm as a guest of H&M.

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