Style

Don't Let M.I.A. And H&M Fool You Into Thinking Fast Fashion Is Sustainable

It's a great idea, but how much is recycling disposable clothes helping the planet?​

BY MATT MILLER | Apr 13, 2016 | Fashion

It's really easy to walk into an H&M and spend less than USD100 on an entire outfit that helps you blend in among a crowd of cool haircuts in a coffee shop. Hell, you can even make it look like you attended a music festival with little to no thought. You'll look damn good (or horrible; it's debatable), but eventually you'll need to look better, and replace that outfit with another cooler outfit. Such is the nature of fashion—but it's being warped and accelerated by the rise of international fast fashion retailers. 

A 2012 paper in Fashion Theory, a peer reviewed academic journal, said, "fast fashion—low-cost clothing collections based on current, high-cost luxury fashion trends—is, by its very nature, a fast-response system that encourages disposability." Enter H&M, the USD150 billion-a-year company specialising in cheap clothing that will either fall apart or fall out of style in six months. In its 2014 sustainability report, H&M said it manufactures 600 million items a year for more than 3,200 stores in 55 countries. As the company grows, its demands for cotton, electricity, oil, and water become immense—even as it claims to focus on organic cotton (which in 2014 only accounted for 13.7 percent of its cotton).

There is good(ish) news though: The 2015 report said that the company has made strides in increasing its use of renewable energy while reducing its total emissions. That H&M is even considering its environmental impact, and allegedly making an effort to reduce it, is a positive thing. 

But for H&M to position itself as an environmentally friendly company is simply wrong—which is what makes its new advertisement for World Recycling Week so aggravating. It begins with some doomsday imagery with news broadcasts saying we can be part of the solution of climate change. Then, it continues with three solid minutes of M.I.A. (who has an interesting way of looking at her support of H&M's campaign) dancing and singing. It ends with text promoting H&M's new campaign: "95 percent of all textiles thrown away worldwide could get a second life. Leave your unwanted garments in any of our +3600 stores. They can be reused or recycled into new textile fibres." 

Again, this is a nice gesture, but if the goal is to get you into their store to recycle and then buy more new clothes, then what's the point? Who or what is H&M helping besides itself? Isn't this just greenwashing to sell more pants? It certainly seems that way. If you're seriously concerned with your footprint—especially when it comes to the clothes you wear—don't shop at H&M. Go to a thrift store. Buy things that are meant to last for years, not weeks. Or research one of the many great companies offering sustainable clothing without being completely obnoxious about it.

From: Esquire US.