The Story Behind H&M's Eco-Conscious Clothing

The collection's ambassador, designer and product developer tell all


Sustainable fashion has been gaining traction in the past few years, with the launch of many great initiatives like the annual EcoChic Design Awards in Asia, and H&M’s Conscious collections. As the world’s climate tangibly warms up and as animals slowly die off, these projects — big or small — are definitely welcome additions to a largely wasteful industry like fashion.

But can sustainability really be fashionable? What are some innovative new ways brands like H&M are being eco-conscious? How can everyone play a part in sustaining the environment in style? We wanted answers, so we spoke to the ambassador of H&M’s Conscious Exclusive 2016 collection Julia Restoin Roitfeld, designer of the Conscious Exclusive collection Kathrin Deutsch and H&M’s product developer Louise Nordgren for an inside look.

On the H&M Conscious Exclusive 2016 Collection…

How would you describe the Conscious Exclusive Collection?

JULIA RESTOIN ROITFELD The Conscious Exclusive Collection is a mix of historic feelings and modern shapes condensed into a wardrobe of separates that every woman can wear in her own way, making it truly unique. Old paintings and all-over classical motifs are splashed onto clean-cut pieces, to striking effect. It makes for clothes that are fun to wear and different from everything else you see around, which is always another plus.

What are your favourite pieces from the collection, and why?

JRR I am not the most extravagant dresser, so I would go for the classic pieces. I like the white lace gown, which can also be worn as a wedding dress. It is totally red carpet-worthy, in an effortless kind of way. I also like the sleeveless top with an asymmetric marble print, and the blouses, either the poudre pink one or the painter's smock, because of their versatility and streamlined design. I chose these pieces because they are easy to wear and easy to interpret. 

How would you wear them?

JRR I'd keep the white lace gown shining by itself, with minimal accessories.  As for the blouses, I'd mix them with a white skirt, or the black trousers or the deco skirt, which are also in the collection. As an approach to style, mix 'n match is totally sustainable as you expand the possibilities of your wardrobe without consuming more products.

How were the art pieces from Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs picked to be featured in the H&M Conscious Exclusive 2016 collection?

KATHRIN DEUTSCH The 2016 collection is created with the upcoming exhibition Fashion Forward at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in mind. H&M has had unique access to the museum which has resulted in a contemporary collection inspired by the work of artists such as Gustave Moreau and Botticelli. The prints have been used in all-over prints and placement prints on several dresses as well as tops.

We also sought inspiration from the past three centuries of fashion, seen in the museum’s costume archives. 18th Century jacquards and details, 19th Century French Art and 20th Century Art Deco inspired embellishment and accessories meet modern silhouettes made in sustainable materials.

What’s the story behind the innovative materials — like recycled glass and Denimite — used in the collection?

LOUIS NORDGREN We are constantly on the lookout for innovative materials and processes that can make our products more sustainable.  New more sustainable materials for this year’s collection are recycled glass beads and Denimite. The recycled glass is made from glass wastage that is turned into beautiful recycled glass beads that are used for the beautiful and intricate embellishments in the collection.

Denimite is a recycled product made of worn-out, end of life jeans and factory wastage. The jeans are shredded down, mixed with organic resin and this blend is then heated up and pressed into solid Denimite boards. In the new Conscious collection we have used Denimite for accessories such as for example a pair of gorgeous Art Deco inspired earrings. We are very excited to be the first fashion brand to use Denimite in our new collection.

On sustainable fashion…

How important is sustainability in your life?

JRR Sustainability is more and more important, and not only in my own life. 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 also the way we dress.

Can sustainability be fashionable?

JRR Yes, definitely. Sustainability is a creative way to make fashion and also to use fashion. Making new clothes from old ones, turning recycled glass into embroidery is wonderful, just like mixing and matching old with new and being responsible about what we buy and consume.

Do you like the idea of affordable exclusivity?

JRR Absolutely, style and fashion are not dependent on how wealthy you are, it all comes from within. The collection is certainly affordable, but I like that it is limited edition too so you won't end up seeing all your friends in it.

Do you have any sustainable style tips?

JRR Detergents pollute a lot and washing machines consume tons of energy so I try as much as possible to wash my clothes in the sink, by hand, at night, and hang them to dry so that they are ready to be worn the next morning. Especially with wool and delicates, as they last longer being hand washed. Another sustainable style tip is to donate what you do not wear. There is no reason to keep occupying space in the closet, and donating will activate a virtuous cycle.  

What do you think is the future of sustainable fashion?

KD & LN To continue working with sustainability is the only right thing to do if we want to continue to be relevant in the years to come. We have a passion for fashion – and for our planet and how we affect the world around us.  At H&M we believe that conscious fashion choices should be available and affordable to everyone – without ever compromising on style.

How can everyone play a part in making fashion a more sustainable and eco-friendly industry?

KD & LN There are many things one can do to contribute to a more sustainable fashion future. If you haven’t already started to hand in your used and no-longer wanted clothes to our garment collecting initiative, now is a good way to start. We want to offer an easy solution for our customers to leave their old garments with H&M and at the same time do something good for the environment. Nowadays you can always find denim made with recycled fibers in our stores.

The H&M Conscious Exclusive 2016 Collection drops today, 7 April at H&M Orchard Building!

Photos: H&M

Catch a sneak peek of the H&M Conscious Exclusive 2016 collection here. Or for more on fashion, head here.

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