H&M ‘Concious’ Collection: EcoFashion or EcoFad?


h&m conscious collection menswear2

Somedays, when it’s slow at work, I’ll take a walk around downtown and inevitably find myself at one of the many department stores around Union Square.

As much as I explore, I always make it a point to stop by H&M, because I like their men’s collection and they always have nicely pared-down versions of some the latest trends. When it comes to things I’d like to see in my wardrobe, I can usually count on H&M to have anticipated my desires, and ones that I can actually afford.

It’s actually pretty rare to see things I want or imagine at any given moment already in stores. It used to be that it took a couple years for companies to go ahead and manufacture the things I wanted on shelves a few seasons back.

With social media spreading our likes and influences quickly and efficiently, mass-industry is uncannily synchronous and effective in generating the wants and desires broadcasted by the hive mind. Every subculture seems to be represented with products of every variety immediately available on Etsy.com, or any number of small and medium sized internet companies. It seems even the largest companies are able to pick up on these trends enough to satisfy even some of the more picky or avant-garde fashionistas. I don’t know if I could call myself a fashionista, nor would I want to, but I will say that H&M reaches a nice middle-ground when I want to be fashion-forward (even a little bold) while still keeping an understated look.

h&m conscious collection menswear

A new line that H&M has been rolling out over that past few seasons has been their Conscious line, which features clothing that make “fashion sustainable and sustainability fashionable.” Colors in the Conscious Men’s line feature rich greens and dark navy blues, but with odd touches like a splash of floral or coat fringes, no doubt a moder. lists a line of organic and recycled fabrics. Their organic blends include linen, jute, and cotton, the latter of which H&M consumes more than any other clothing store worldwide. Their recycled threads include polyester, polymide, and of course, water-bottle plastic. They also sport Tencel, a silk-like proprietary fabric made from cellulose (generically known as Lyocell).

If you like the clothes that H&M provides, and you’re environmentally conscious, you might wonder how sustainable H&M really is. Their view on sustainability is surprisingly sophisticated, covering all their bases in their “seven ambitious commitments.”

h&m sustainabilty theory

Here, H&M has actually given us a framework to understand what they mean by “Conscious,” and more importantly, their understanding of sustainability. They’re not entirely exempt from the notion of greenwashing, being a very large company, but at the same time they don’t just stamp an “organic” imprint on a tag and call it a day. They incorporate an all-important factor in any discussion about sustainability, the people factor. Social equity, which is addressed in their seventh ambition of strengthening communities, is the glue that keeps sustainability relevant to a human discussion.

Yet in reality, H&M’s Conscious line of clothes is but a small portion of the store floor, and nothing more than a marketing gamble.Sure, conserving natural resources, using renewable or recycled materials, and keeping a small carbon footprint is important, but it doesn’t help much from a human-centric view unless you keep people at the center of the discussion. When you buy clothes, you might wonder about whether people are being displaced to make way for big industry to source raw material. Are these inhabitants benefitting from the company? These are all important considerations, ones that are difficult for any company honor completely let alone navigate responsibly. H&M says they are committed to these Seven Ambitions, but at the end of the day we are speaking of only one collection which is already on their sale rack. The rest of H&M no doubt operates like any world-wide corporation, where profitability is what keeps them competitive in a worldwide marketplace.

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