It does look like eco-friendly fashion is here to stay. Sustainable style isn’t just the rage on the runways – now budget-conscious eco warriors can get their eco-fashion fix without breaking the bank.

Looks from H&M Conscious collection

High street retailers are also doing their part of the environment. Swedish brand H&M is one example. Since launching the Conscious collection in 2011, the high street giant has shown how on-trend pieces can be created with sustainable materials, including organic leather and silk. This Spring Summer, H&M has also introduced the limited edition Conscious Exclusive collection – think red carpet-worthy pieces made with eco-friendly materials.

A conscious mindset

Red carpet-worthy looks from the H&M Conscious Exclusive collection

But just how eco-friendly are the pieces from the Conscious collection? We went straight to Catarina Midby, head of fashion and sustainability communication for H&M, for some figures. She told us through email: “All garments and some accessories from the Conscious collection are made with at least 50 percent of sustainable materials like organic, recycled and climate smart cellulose fibres.”

Catarina Midby, head of fashion and sustainability communication for H&M

Working on the sustainable pieces must be challenging when the company is used to producing fast fashion at low cost. Midby agreed: “We’ve worked hard together with our suppliers to have today’s choice of great fashion fabrics. It’s time consuming and the fabric costs are also higher initially.”

However, the high street brand makes sure they maintain their affordable price tags even for the Conscious collection pieces. “H&M has chosen not to charge customers the added cost but instead see it as a long-term investment. The prices will even out as availability grows but we always want sustainable fashion to be democratic, for everyone,” reassured Midby who hoped to see a day when the entire H&M brand could be one huge Conscious collection.

Recycle and reuse
The Conscious collection is just one way H&M is working towards being an eco-friendly brand. It has also taken a leaf from our local rag-and-bone man. If you have noticed the “recycling” bins near the cashiers at H&M stores, you would have seen part of its Garment Collecting initiative.

Cecilia Brannsten, the environmental sustainability coordinator for H&M 

The environmental sustainability coordinator for H&M, Cecilia Brannsten explained through email the initiative’s aim, “We want to minimise the ‘enormous’ volumes of old textiles and garments that end up as waste. 95 percent can be reused or recycle instead and we hope to save natural resources by prolonging the life of materials already used by making new clothes out of old clothes.”

Collected garments that can be worn again are sold to the second hand market by H&M’s partner, the global movement that supports recycling, I:CO.

A by-project of the initiative is the new Close the Loop collection. In early 2014, H&M launched its first products made from recycled textile fibres from garments collected through the Garment Collection initiative. The five denim pieces contain 20 percent recycled cotton.

The H&M Close the Loop collection

Brannsten claimed that the highest amount of mechanically recycled post-consumer fibres that can be used at the moment is 20 percent without compromising the quality. She said, “The textile fibres are being regenerated in a way that makes them shorter and with lower quality than virgin (new) fibre and need to be blended with virgin fibres to reach the quality standards we have.”

Brannsten also pointed out that the brand works with lots of recycled material that doesn’t come from post-consumer textile waste. Recycled wool, polyester and plastics also find their way into jewellery and hair accessories.

It’s not that painful on the pocket to jump on the eco-fashion bandwagon, thanks to high street brands like H&M. Looking good and helping the earth – what a win-win situation!

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