Yesterday saw the launch of the Conscious Collection by Swedish high street retailer, H&M. The eco-friendly collection boasts an Exclusive Conscious collection; red carpet ready pieces crafted from sustainable materials, and following in line with the Swedish retailer’s goal to become the leading name in sustainable design.
Exclusive Conscious consists of beautifully crafted floor length gowns and dresses drenched in high-end appeal, meeting the demands for au courant cuts and silhouettes, and keeping loyal to the biggest trends of spring/summer 2012.
Doused in colour pop neon and mimicking couture pieces with a pocket-pleasing price tag, you can snap up a Katrantzou-esque hyper-floral form-fitting dress for a fractional £39.99, or maybe a Lanvin-inspired printed dress with a front split, detachable skirt is suited to your style palate at a smile inducing £149.99. This is visually pleasing, well crafted fashion with an untainted production conscience that eliminates the purchasing hierarchy, and allows such fashion to spread itself thinly.
See, the glam-gone-green concept has been floating around for some time: H&M produces seasonal Conscious Collections, crafted entirely from 100% organic cotton; Eco-Age creative director and wife of Oscar-winning actor, Colin Firth, Livia Firth, is a well-know sustainable fashion ambassador, and some of the Exclusive Conscious pieces have already made their debut on the red carpet. But let’s look at the reality of it all; can H&M, the fashion world’s equivalent of McDonalds, really claim to be greener than the Amazonian rainforest? Or, even more importantly, can H&M solely produced dresses – minus a high-end designer collaboration tag – really cut it as glamorous when, in fact they are cut price and no match to a Zac Posen ruffled hem gown?
The latter, you may say, has already been achieved when Viola Davis and Michelle Williams opted to wear dresses from the Exclusive Conscious range on the red carpet, but is this an example of H&M doing too much too soon? They want to be green and glam and cheap, simultaneously. Greedy much?
The exclusive collection, I feel, is a real test for serious fashion mavens, who take their evening dresses very seriously. Would they want to be seen in an H&M dress at an exclusive designer event? I know this sounds extremely superficial, and to a certain extent elitist, and I am all for green fashion efforts, but collections such as this leave me confused, and the line between extravagance and eco-friendly blurred even further.
A brilliant piece in the Guardian questioned H&M’s ethical credibility, and whether it’s trying too hard, too soon to be taken seriously as an eco-friendly retailer. I couldn’t agree more. Fast fashion is what H&M specialises in; satiating disposable, on trend style needs at affordable price points, and demand is high, very high. Can rapidly produced fashion guarantee a) glamour and red-carpet readiness and b) that all sustainability and fair trade policies are met? You can’t really profess to serving a Big Mac meal and then replacing the fries with carrot sticks.
We admire its mega-successful collaborations and ability to mimic high-end fashion so speedily and cheaply, but H&M, I’m not sure fashion-seekers (the seriously fashionable ones) will take your claim to glam seriously, not when their purses feel no lighter post-purchase.