H&M’s Conscious Collection is a lesson in how to do sustainable style on a budget

The conversation around sustainable style was, until last year, limited to a relatively small group of customers and decision makers.

As the debate on fast fashion continues apace, concerning the ethical implications that comes with filling your wardrobe with budget-friendly pieces, H&M has a solution – and it’s reasonably priced.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of production practices and feeling an increased sense of responsibility in where they shop, but still, the most compelling argument to the contrary is that ethically made clothing is more expensive. Often, it’s too expensive to justify.

However, H&M has been promoting accountability with clothing since long before it was cool. In 2013, they launched the Garment Collecting programme which recycles unwanted clothing from any store to prevent them from being sent to a landfill for disposal. In 2018, they collected 20,649 tonnes of clothing, which is a nothing to sniff at in our collective consumer carbon footprint. Overally, nearly 57% of the materials they use in their production comes from recycled materials and they are actively working towards increasing that figure.

By 2040, they aim to have all of their items produced in this way.

So, it’s of little surprise that they are celebrating the arrival of their ninth Conscious Exclusive collection, which is just getting better with age, in style. This time around, the collection features a 48-strong line across clothing, bags and accessories, utilising naturally occuring materials.

Headline-grabbing ingredients include Piñatex, a a leather alternative made from the leaves of the pineapple plant, orange fiber textile, made from citrus juice by-products to create silk-like fabric and bloom foam (made from algae); but, at its core, organic cotton, silk, recycled plastic and glass round out the formula for design success.

The inspiration for this year’s offering, a balance of muted neutral basics, shimmering party dresses and modernised prairie dresses came from the Venice Biennale festival. H&M’s creative advisor Ann-Sofie Johansson explained to Marie Claire Australia: “A lot of the artists at the Biennale were celebrating the glory of the Earth and the magic of nature. From there we started working with prints inspired by insects, plants and crystals – keeping in mind nature’s healing powers.”

Johansson asserts that the best way to raise awareness is “with really beautiful fashion” and it certainly delivers. The Conscious Collection, which recruited actresses Rosario Dawson and Naomie Harris for the SS19 campaign, is available year-round; while the Conscious Exclusive focuses on more show-stopping designs, like a metallic sequin midi dress for €249 (the most expensive item in the collection) or a printed silk blend dress for €159.

It’s an important next direction for the brand, which exceeded a 4% growth in its first quarter, as they aim to set themselves apart from their competitors in the increasingly competitive – and dire – retail environment.

H&M’s Conscious Collection is now in Irish stores and online.

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