H&M's apparel is a go-to for many consumers because it's affordable, accessible, and offers a catch-all range; women, men, and children are all catered for through generic pieces such as jeans, knitwear, and swimwear.
Now, it may be a stretch to assume we've all purchased from H&M but, with 74 participating countries and over 5000 total stores, I am confident that a lot of us have at least been tempted. Perhaps it's the ease, perhaps it's the style, or perhaps it's the promise that your purchase will be directly supporting a sustainable fashion movement.
H&M's unique selling point appears to be its commitment to radically reforming the fast fashion industry, with a vision to become fully circular in the future. Unlike many other fast fashion brands, H&M has been vocal and transparent about how they're working to reduce the impact of fast fashion upon the environment… but are they?
In-store recycling bins, rental services, and sustainably sourced collections sound amazing and, in some ways, they are! Having such a large corporation as H&M endorse these sustainable methods is great for the message of environmentalism. But, if we look below the surface of these offers, are they as promising as we might first think?
Anti-fast fashion campaigner Venetia La Manna
has criticised H&M's supposed sustainability methods for being a façade of greenwashing
. The concept of fast fashion is an extremely linear model; consumers purchase new items impulsively, cheaply and, in some instances, unnecessarily, which oftentimes has disastrous effects on the environment. Textile waste, water pollution and unethical sweatshop conditions are just a few of the consequences we may be buying into when we purchase from fast fashion brands. For these reasons, Venetia La Manna denies the possibility that H&M could ever be considered a sustainable, nor truly accessible brand, and instead believes that H&M's attempts at sustainability are futile in view of this wider context. Let's take a closer look at some of these attempts for ourselves.