Five years ago H&M launched their "Conscious Collection" because while their business model is incredibly lucrative, it leaves a lot to be desired on the environmental and human rights side. Since it's introduction in 2011, the "Conscious Collection" launch has become an annual event for H&M and it's team to show its nordic rooted commitment to sustainability.
Here are the 5 things you need to know about the 2016 Conscious Collection:
1. H&M incorporated many different sustainable materials
For this collection H&M didn't just give a lazy nod to sustainability by just using organic cotton. Already one of the world's largest consumers of organic cotton, H&M got creative incorporating everything from "organic cotton to recycled polyester, organic silk, recycled wool and even hemp as well as explored water and energy saving technologies. H&M also touts "Better Cotton" certified by the Better Cotton Initiative as a sustainable material, which is patently false.
2. H&M'S NEWEST AMBASSADOR IS JULIA RESTOIN ROITFELD
For this year's collection, H&M tapped fashion royalty Julia Restoin Roitfeld. A Parisian art director, style icon and model, Ms. Roitfeld is also the daughter of former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld.
“Sustainability is more and more important, and not only in my own life,” Restoin Roitfeld said at a cocktail party on the evening of the press junket. “It's not simply a matter of how we deal with trash and recycling. Sustainability is an all-surrounding lifestyle that encompasses the way we consume, the way we behave, and the way we dress.”
3. The Collection Was Inspired by The Art Decoratifs Design Archives at the Louvre
It's easy to see numerous homages to Art Nouveau and Art Deco throughout the collection from one dress which depicts Botticelli's Three Graces, to another which pays tribute to famous Italian artist Caravaggio's La Primavera. According to H&M the work of artists such as Gustave Moreau, gleaned from Musée des Arts Décoratifs' historic archives at the Louvre provided the inspiration for the Conscious Exclusive collection.
4. THE COLLECTION IS AVAILABLE WORLDWIDE
While the collection is often unfortunately dumped in the back of the stores with little fanfare, as we found out when visiting H&M's Soho locations, the collection is available in 180 locations and of course on H&M.com. On a positive note, the collection compares price wise to the rest of the non-sustainable collections on the rest of the site.
5. ITS NOT ACTUALLY THAT CONSCIOUS OR SUSTAINABLE
We love the idea and certainly H&M has made progress, both in creating larger awareness of the importance of sustainable fashion and in their use of more sustainable materials. But five years on, the progress is surprisingly slow. Especially on the labor side, where H&M's Conscious collection is still made in factories that are at best, suspect and at worst, downright criminally dangerous.
H&M's head of sustainability Anna Gedda summed it up best saying, H&M's goal is "not to make fashion sustainable but sustainability fashionable." For H&M sustainability is a marketing campaign, and again while that's uber important, when PR points and not real sustainability is the goal, things fall through the crack such as it's use and support of "Better Cotton," which contrary to the name, is still basic regular cotton (Better Cotton is an initiative where farmers self-report that they use less pesticides and chemicals with zero accountability standards that has found to be no different or "better" than regular cotton).
Overall, The Conscious Collection has become a major campaign for H&M but for the most part fails to live up to its name.
That being said here are a few of our favorite pieces from the new collection: