Review: H&M's Eco-Conscience Line
I love that so many people are falling in love with sustainable fashion. In real time we’re seeing it go from a niche market to something that people expect from their brands. Sustainable fashion has gone from poorly dyed stiff cotton to fashion forward in just a few years thanks to companies like Reformation who prove that you can be conscious and cute as hell. The timing couldn’t be better because us Millennials are the most engaged consumers ever. 73% of millenials are willing to pay more for something if it’s from a sustainable brand according to the Nielsen's 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report.
What consumers demand companies jump through hoops to provide. It’s the power of our wallets y’all! Today’s consumer is demanding sustainability and so we see all sorts of brands jumping into the sustainability game including fast fashion giants like Zara and H&M. On the surface it sounds great. “Yay!! More ethical options!!” But if you’ve learned anything from my blog it’s that’s fashion is complicated. We must look under the hood and kick the tires so to speak (that’s a car thing, yeah? I don’t know).
I believe that no matter where people start out, there’s always a chance they will grow and change for the better. Hate the sin, love the sinner and all that. I want to extend that same opportunity for brands. Which is why last week I bit the bullet and checked out H&M’s eco-conscious line collection for myself.
The first thing I noticed when I walked in, was just how HARD it was to find the eco-conscious pieces. You can only differentiate them by their green tags which are difficult to spot with all the clothes overstuffed on racks. It took me two full passes of both floors before I could make a complete outfit. I chose a simple tank, sweater, cargo pants, jeans and jacket.
This was red flag number one. Your commitment to eco-conscious can’t be that strong if it only makes up less than 3% (I’m being generous here) of your inventory.
Despite my misgivings, I figured I might as well try the items on and see how they stack up.
First I went for the two pack of tanks. According to the tag it was 95% organic cotton...okay looking good so far...and retailed for $12.99. What. The. Actual. H. E. double hockey sticks y’all. It is absolutely positively 100% impossible to manufacture an ethical t shirt at that price point. Red Flag number 2. You have to cut costs somewhere. First I saw it was made in Bangladesh, the country with the worst track record for employee abuses, and the lowest minimum wage for garment workers world wide. Check this to see how Bangladesh stacks up to other countries.
Once I tried the shirt on, I could see where else they cut corners. With just a slight stretch the shirt became practically see-through. It was thin, scratchy, and poorly made. If you want to see what a truly ethical eco-friendly t shirt looks like and what quality retails for take a look at this tank from Groceries Apparel.
Losing hope by the minute I moved on to a pair of cargo pants. Here again I found the same situation. A supposedly eco-friendly textile blend (this time 56% Tencel), and terrible construction. The best way to know the quality of a garment is to turn it inside out and inspect the seams. Good quality seams will be tight and the factory will take the time to cut off excess thread and make sure the seams lay flat for comfort. This attention to detail shows you that the company is not cutting corners and making a garment that will last. Want to guess what I found when I turned the pants inside out?
Yup. Lots and lots of ugly looking seams. Red Flag number 3
The next two garments I inspected had the same issues. Poor seams, poor construction, and poor quality. None of this stuff is going to last.
The one semi-decent piece I found was an olive knitted dolman sweater. The seams were decent (there were only two), and the fabric stretched and recovered well. Although at a $29.99 price point they have to be cutting costs somewhere and my bet is they’re skimping on labor costs.
Lastly, I tried on the jeans. Now jeans require a bit of extra work to make them sustainably. You have to use less water (conventional jeans use 1,800 gallons), no toxins (synthetic indigo is toxic and slow to decompose), and most importantly they’re labor intensive so you better be willing to pay your employees a living wage. The sustainable mainstay Everlane has jeans that retail between $60-$80, And yet...and yet...ugh...here was an “eco-friendly” pair retailing for $29.99. By this point I’ve raised all the red flags and am waving them like a goddamn color guard.
I really wanted to be wrong. I really hoped H&M had decided to put the planet and consumers before their profits, but that visit confirmed all my worst fears. H&M’s eco-conscious line is greenwashing at its worst. Using an eco-friendly fiber is only a tiny portion of what it means to be eco-conscious. We have to consider the life-cycle of the garment and what will happen to it at the end of its life. Such poor quality only insures that H&M’s eco-conscious line will suffer the same fate as the rest of their fast fashion pieces; a few wears and then into a landfill. Not to mention at those price points garment workers are definitely being exploited. What’s the point of being eco-friendly but anti-human?
I will continue to withhold my money from H&M and give it to brands that have sustainability at the core of their mission and not as some hot marketing trend. I hope you do too.