Fast fashion is known for creating and sustaining the one and done, throw away lifestyle fashion lovers everywhere have grown accustomed to. As consumers and retailers alike become more aware of their environmental impact, change is afoot. We have seen retailers create eco-friendly lines and make pledges to practice conscious production and design. One retailer in particular is asking the fast fashion retailers of the world to step up and join them in this ambitious, but welcomed, and long overdue step.
In the first week of April, one of the largest fast fashion labels, H&M, debuted a remarkable promise. Setting their sights on closing their production loop, H&M has promised to use only recycled or green materials in all of their products by 2030. H&M’s Conscious Collection, which debuted in 2011, consisted of materials made from organic cotton and linen, Tencel, and recycled polyester. Well received by the fashion and eco-conscious community alike, H&M continued its early efforts by implementing a clothing collection and recycling program. Customers were able to drop off old or unworn clothing at any H&M location. This clothing was then recycled and reworked to be used in new styles that would be sold in stores.
The fast fashion retailer has also promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become a climate positive production and manufacturing company by 2040. In light of their efforts, Inditex and Greenpeace have both nominated H&M as one of the frontrunners of the ‘Detox My Fashion’ campaign. This campaign highlights and rewards fashion retailers who are committed to changing fast fashion for the collective good. In 2015, H&M and Benetton were awarded the avant-garde status for their efforts to eliminate hazardous chemicals from their clothing by 2020.
So far, H&M has collected nearly 39,000 tons of unwanted clothing from their clothing drop off and recycling program. That is the equivalent of 196 million t-shirts. Unfortunately, their recycling program is still limited due to the delicacy of certain fibers. As of right now, they are only able to use a small percentage of the recycled fiber mixed with new fiber. Expanding their efforts in the cultivation of sustainable and organic cotton is also on their to-do list.
H&M’s commitment to changing the way fast fashion is viewed and produced is commendable. Although, H&M alone cannot change the world of fast fashion as the production and manufacturing models need to be reassessed. The old models of putting out new styles weekly, as opposed to the traditional seasonal styles, do little to move their eco-conscious efforts in the right direction. If they wish to move forward, they must not only reconsider their material sourcing model, but their production and manufacturing models as well.