Sustainability and ethical fashion are buzzwords that are becoming more common in our fashion vocabulary, as we consumers develop a more conscious attitude towards the source of our clothing. For the most part, I have always found the world of ethical fashion a little intimidating and my general knowledge of this important movement in fashion has been lacking. But having spent a day with the designers and think-tank, EVER Manifesto, who are behind the latest Conscious Exclusive and Conscious collections at H&M, I feel better informed and aware of what sustainable fashion means for the future of the industry, and just what it takes to make a collection such as this.
As one of the first retail giants to produce it’s own range promoting ethically sourced fabrics, H&M are creating awareness amongst their customers, through both affordable and fashion forward pieces. “The design process is pretty much the same, but we have a bit more space for detailing. Generally, we start the process like any other collection, we go to our production offices, and they help us find sustainable fabrics. We also ask our suppliers who have the ability to produce these fabrics for us. The fabric sourcing is the greatest part; the most time consuming process. They are a little more expensive, but this is something we don’t take out on the price tag”, says Catarina Midby, Sustainable Fashion Manager at H&M, as we chat over coffee in the London showroom.
The fabrics feel luxurious, like the organic silk dress, which has not been dyed or tinted, it’s in its natural form cultivated in organic mulberry trees. Other newly introduced materials include organic leather; leather from cows bred for organic meat production in Swedish farms. Catarina explains that some pieces are machine made, but detailing as seen on the Conscious Exclusive navy cropped jacket, are added by hand by home workers based in India. Agencies in each locality identify these workers through a government scheme, which provides opportunities for women who are unable to work outside the home. They are paid as skilled workers through this scheme, and their talents have produced the exceptional embroidery and hand stitching seen throughout the collection.
To coincide with the introduction of new ethical fabrics and the launch of both Conscious collections, H&M have unveiled the CleverCare labeling system, a garment label that shows a system for sustainable wear and care, such as washing your clothes at 30 degrees which can save up to half the energy. ”H&M is proud of its sustainability work. Our Conscious and Conscious Exclusive collections show the breadth of possibilities with sustainable materials, and our new CleverCare labeling encourages our customers to join our mission towards a more sustainable future for fashion,” says Ann-Sofie Johansson, H&M’s Head of Design, New Development.
From a fashion perspective, both the Conscious Exclusive and Conscious collections do not lack in credentials. Made famous by Miranda Kerr recently, the full-length dark navy brocade gown is most certainly my favourite, and was incredibly comfortable to wear during the photoshoot. Moreover, practical pieces such as the recycled polyester palazzo pants, trench style jacket and white blazer (made from organic cotton and hemp), will make for smart work wear over the summer months. Accessories make a real statement, with embellished shoes, drop earrings made from recycled plastic and organic cow leather shoulder bags, which are set to be popular items come launch day.
It seems fashion and ethics are creating a union that is aiming to cultivate an industry whose focus is sustainability and longevity. H&M are leading by example to guide us towards a state of mind that makes us think, even just slightly, about what we are wearing and where it came from.
For information on the collections and new labelling, check out hm.com and clevercare.info