When will sustainable fashion go mainstream?

Discussion
Photo: H&M
Feb 08, 2017
George Anderson

H&M’s new Conscious Exclusive Collection is unique — a line of formal wear for women, men and kids made from plastic bottles and grocery bags that have washed up on the shore.

The line is made with Bionic Yarn, which according to a Vogue report is different from “other plastic-based fabrics” in that it is “supersoft and can adapt to almost anything you want to make, from jeans to cocktail dresses.”

The crowning piece in the line, which will be available in 160 stores around the world as well as online on April 20, is an “ethereal plissé pleat gown in powder pink.”

“For the design team at H&M, this year’s Conscious Exclusive is a chance to dream and create pieces that are both quirky and beautiful. It’s great to be able to show just what is possible with sustainable materials,” said Pernilla Wohlfahrt, head of design and creative director for H&M, in a statement.

H&M chose supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova to be the face of the first-ever campaign for its Conscious Exclusive line.

“It’s amazing to see the advances in sustainable fabrics that are used in the collection, pointing towards a more sustainable future for all fashion,” said Ms. Vodianova.

H&M claims that 20 percent of its products are made using sustainable materials. The company is one of the world’s biggest users of recycled polyester and organic cotton. Its goal is to bring “sustainable, good-quality fashion accessible to as many people as possible.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see sustainable clothing breaking through over the next several years as retailers such as H&M put greater emphasis on lines such as the Conscious Exclusive Collection? What are the biggest factors currently standing in the way of sustainable clothing going mainstream?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Price and texture of fabric are probably the biggest factors standing in the way. "
"I disagree. Millennials and Generation Z are aware of the global impact of their dollar and consider sustainability worth paying for. "
"If the clothing and fabric looks, feels and wears like “real” clothing, bring it on! Factors in the way: Can they REALLY do this?"

Join the Discussion!

10 Comments on "When will sustainable fashion go mainstream?"


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Meaghan Brophy
BrainTrust

Price and texture of fabric are probably the biggest factors standing in the way. Sustainable clothing will go mainstream when retailers can replace regular items with sustainable ones without shoppers being able to tell the difference. Right now there is not enough consumer demand for shoppers to consciously pick the environmentally friendly alternative, especially if there is a difference in price or quality.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

I fully intended to write my own comment on this Meaghan. But when I read yours I decided to “+1” and tag along. I couldn’t agree with you more.

The critical phrase in the question is “mainstream” — and for that I would offer my standard answer. Products and services offering altruistic benefits at a premium price will only go “mainstream” when the price/utility equation comes into line such that the trade-off between the new offering and traditional ones is zero. Never say never and never say always — but it almost always happens this way.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Seems like an oxymoron to me. The very thought/idea of fashion is something that is perfect RIGHT NOW and anything sustainable is, well, the opposite. And besides, don’t we already have Goodwill, used clothing stores, flea markets, garage sales and even hand-me-downs as well-established purveyors of the American “clothing forever” syndrome? Just kidding (a little).

In all seriousness though, it seems like a marketing ploy to me. The real deal is to get customers to focus on quality vs. price so they stop buying so much crap they’re only going to get rid of in a few months. Oh yeah, and then sell it to a used clothing store.

Jasmine Glasheen
BrainTrust
Jasmine Glasheen
Principal Writer & Content Strategist, Jasmine Glasheen & Associates
2 years 6 months ago

I disagree. Millennials and Generation Z are aware of the global impact of their dollar and consider sustainability worth paying for. Contrary to popular opinion, sustainable clothing looks and feels identical to the stuff that’s filling landfills.

This is the era of conscious consumption and customers want products with a story. What better story for customers to tell their friends than how their apparel is helping to reduce ocean waste? Companies that ignore the environmental movement will lose out on the next generation customers.

Naomi K. Shapiro
BrainTrust

Jasmine knocked it out of the park with her observations. Global impact and sustainability are key to today’s consumer and growing more so. And if the clothing and fabric looks, feels and wears like “real” clothing, bring it on! Factors in the way: Can they REALLY do this?

Naomi K. Shapiro
BrainTrust

Afterthoughts to my comments: 1.) Can you throw this dress away when you’re done with it, or can it be recycled further? 2.) Brilliant to have the narrative by a voice such as Vodianova’s — ethereal, non-national and authoritative in a gentle, intelligent way.

Tom Redd
Guest

I think the sustainable all-the-way-through fashion is way, way too much. It’s nice marketing spin for a fashion but with the small amount of sales for some very high fashion luxury apparel it is not really a global environment health move — just typical brand differentiation marketing. This is not logical for the mainstream unless you are a small shop in a tree-hugging region. We have already seen some designers try to make a play with plastic shopping bag recycling. It fell DOA. With the massive number of second-hand fashion stores, good clothes are recycled over and over and that is an element of sustainability.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

“Fast fashion” is marketed largely on (low) price, so to the extent that this can co-exist with “sustainable” or some other environmental flavor-of-the-month, then yes, it has a chance. But I don’t see it becoming a major selling point … at least not at places like H&M.

lisa_heinze
Guest
2 years 6 months ago
Sustainable fashion will undoubtedly continue to gain traction in coming years. H&M’s Conscious Collection plays a major role in raising awareness of sustainable fashion, yet their overall business model will preclude that organization from becoming truly sustainable. Contrary to some previous comments, many sustainable fibers have a better look and texture than the synthetics and blends that have come to mark much of the fashion industry in recent decades; this is especially true when comparing to H&M’s (and other fast fashion retailer’s) standard lines in which the fabric pills and breaks apart after a few washes. Fabrics including organic cotton, wool, silk, hemp-blends and others have greater longevity, and Tencel/Modal offers draping and texture found in synthetic rayon/viscose products without the environmental footprint. Sustainable fashion designers are already addressing fabric innovations and style, and in my experience as a sustainable fashion writer and researcher, price will remain a primary barrier because consumers are not used to paying a complete or true cost of fashion. In addition, the rapid change of styles encouraged by many retailers… Read more »
Malorie Bertrand
Guest
H&M and other fast-fashion companies that focus on never-ending expansion, going on 2,800+ retail stores and counting, can’t ever truly be sustainable unless they operate in a perfect, circular system in which everything they take out is put back in. Their business model is founded upon mass production, repeated, mass consumption and designing pieces that fall out of fashion within two weeks. This model has to change before mainstream fashion can ever be sustainable. We shouldn’t be trying to lower the price of sustainable fashion to fast-fashion levels at all. The prices that we’ve grown accustomed to are only low because we rely on cheap labor and cheap material to produce them. What we should be focusing on is educating consumers and changing their perspective of fashion. It’s also quite archaic to assume that fashion, how it’s designed and consumed, won’t be changing in the coming years. This change might mean a natural progression to more sustainable practices. For example, many predict that within a few years, most households will have their own 3-D printers.… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Price and texture of fabric are probably the biggest factors standing in the way. "
"I disagree. Millennials and Generation Z are aware of the global impact of their dollar and consider sustainability worth paying for. "
"If the clothing and fabric looks, feels and wears like “real” clothing, bring it on! Factors in the way: Can they REALLY do this?"

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