Fashion Revolution or World Recycling Week

Fashion Revolution

{ Picture via Fashion Revolution }

A couple a weeks ago I came across the news that H&M was going to launch a World Recycling Week on 18th-24th of April during which they would focus on collecting old garments in all of their stores and had set a goal of collection 1,000 tons of textile waste, they teamed up with M.I.A who made an exclusive music video for the launch – and to be honest I really liked the idea, even if I thought teaming up with M.I.A was just a marketing stunt, I do understand that it might take something like that to engage consumers. Like many others interested in sustainable fashion I have mixed feelings about H&M and their sustainability initiative; on the one hand they produce so much clothes and a lot of it in very bad quality and at a price that makes me wonder how they can pay the factory workers decent wages and fast fashion as a concept is anything but sustainable. On the other hand, if they change (and they do have some great initiatives, like the conscious exclusive collection, they are the world’s leading user of organic cotton, and last week they publicly committed to transforming their business model to become 100% circular) it will make a massive impact on the fashion industry, the people in the supply chain and the environment. If we keep consuming the way we do today I really think initiatives like H&M’s are a big part of the solution. But then I read Lucy Siegel’s article in the guardian and I realized the initiative would clash with Fashion Revolution Week.

What is Fashion Revolution and why do we need it?
Being the world’s largest fast fashion retailer it is a little ironic that H&M launches World Recycling Week at the same time, as Fashion Revolution Week will take place for the third year in a row. Because you see, Fashion Revolution is all for slow fashion, consuming less and being more aware of our choices and the impacts they have:

On 24th April each year, Fashion Revolution will bring everyone in the fashion value chain together and help to raise awareness of the true cost of fashion, show the world that change is possible, and celebrate all those involved in creating a more sustainable future.”

On 24 April 2013, 1,134 people were killed and over 2,500 were injured when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. And remembering this, creating awareness about this and to not let us, the consumers of (fast) fashion forget what happened three years ago is what Fashion Revolution is all about. To have the world’s largest fast fashion retailer launch an initiative that coincides with this event is a little ironic if you ask me.

H&M claims it is a coincidence. Orsola de Castro, one of the founders of Fashion Revolution, is outraged about it and you can’t really blame her. I love that H&M seems to take responsibility but I would love it even more if they did not steal the thunder of grassroot-organizations that try and bring awareness of the dark sides of fashion. You might question whether an initiative like the Fashion Revolution actually works, but I think the same can be asked about H&M’s initiative and the later is still about consumption – you might even stop feeling guilty about it because – hey all the crap you buy can just be recycled. But that’s not actually the case; yes you can recycle textiles and yes it is much better than to just throw it away (because there is no ‘away’, ‘away’ is somewhere), but not everything can be recycled or is even worth recycling. By all means I think you should hand in your used stuff at H&M if you no longer love it, use the voucher you get in return to buy something you’ll truly love and of a decent quality, but maybe we what we really need is to figure out how we can design things to last and build business models that do not focus on selling more stuff – can we please have a Fashion Revolution?!

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Hella Lynggaard

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