Field: Sustainable consumption, Textile waste and recovery, Waste reduction
Global Technical function: Marketing
Technical Function Unit: Designing, Eco-designing, Upcycling
Geographic Area: Sweden

Designing clothes for the fashion sector using sustainable and recycled materials and promoting sustainable consumption

In fashion wear, conscious consumers are becoming increasingly interested in eco-design. Thus, clothes designed using upcycling techniques are at the centre of the company H&M’s sustainability strategy and marketing plan.   

The challenge

Textiles constitute a major type of waste going to landfill in European countries. Retailers could reduce this waste stream by designing and selling clothes made from recycled materials. Being conscious about textile waste and recovery, textile retailer H&M (Sweden) promotes upcycling and use of sustainable materials in its fashion range.

The innovation

The name ‘H&M Conscious’ represents H&M’s work towards a more sustainable future in fashion and encompasses the retailer’s ambitions and commitments. In order to pursue a vision of being more sustainable fashion company, it implements eco-design approaches to provide fashion lovers more sustainable clothes to wear, whilst aiming not to compromise on style.

A variety of materials are used in the ‘H&M Conscious’ fashion range, a limited collection of sustainable, reprocessed, recycled items of clothing.  

H&M is the world’s leading user of organic cotton certified according to Textile Exchange standards in the garment retail sector. It also uses certified organic linen made from flax plants for various products. Some seasonal fashion wear is designed using recycled polyester derived from PET plastic bottles and waste material generated during production. Recycled polyamide made from textile production waste, fishing nets and carpets is used when making underwear and woven fabrics. Recycled cotton as a by-product in textile production is a also a key raw material used by H&M.

The company uses innovative marketing tools to raise consumers’ awareness regarding the reuse of clothes. In February 2013, H&M started a discount scheme ‘Garment Collecting’ to promote upcycling. This scheme encourages consumers to return unwanted garments to the retailer for reuse and recycling. The campaign targets textile waste reduction in 48 nations worldwide in partnership with Swiss-based iCollect, a recycling start-up whose objective is to recycle and resell the used clothes. The scheme offers consumers a gift card in amount of Euro 5 on returning a bag of clothes of any label at dedicated ‘iCollect boxes’ placed in participating H&M stores. The discount can be availed on purchases of H&M products that amount to Euro 30 or more.

Why did it work?

‘H&M Conscious’ emerged from the need to design clothes for socially conscious consumers, which are not only sustainable but also fashionable. Its goal is achieved by combining the eco-design approaches with an incentive-scheme for consumers to become conscious consumers. The company also helps to strengthen its brand and reputation by promoting up-cycling in the fashion clothes industry.  

Further deployment

H&M’s eco-design and marketing concept has become a success in the fashion garments sector. The maturity of this eco-innovation is estimated to be beyond 9 at GML scale..

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