H&M Drives Innovation In Sustainability With 2021 Style

Model Lexzy Fitzke wears H&M Spring/Summer 2021 Collection Courtesy of Macrae Marran for H&M Today,

Today, designers and visionaries can express their innovative ideas through new codes in technology. The fashion industry now questions the changes in society and are preparing to offer solutions that are aligned with the new consumer lifestyle. Through the rapid speed of technology consumers and brands have reached a meeting point in order to improve the performance of its creation as well as its manufacturing practices. Now is the time to think about the future.

A vast selection of new developments in the fashion and related industries help to inspire organic, optimistic energy. In a word, the Innovation Stories are the sustainability lab of H&M. This is command-central where the global apparel and retail brand experiments with new innovations and materials prior to scaling for the general product inventory. Collectively, H&M is using materials such as melted recycled glass with no added color pigments and chunky-soled sandals made from Bloom™ (a flexible foam partly produced with algae biomass). It is a hard point to argue that all design and production should be done with consideration for the environment and future generations.

H&M recently announced a new partnership with Maisie Williams as a Global Sustainability Ambassador to help lead a worldwide initiative towards a more sustainable fashion future. Williams will join H&M to drive change in fashion in the virtual world and real life; highlighting and encouraging the reuse, remaking and recycling of unwanted garments in a united effort to close the loop in fashion.

The joint action is fascinating to me. The launch of H&M Looop Island in Nintendo’s hugely popular game Animal Crossing: New Horizons on April 13th, 2021. Named after H&M’s garment recycling machine Looop which launched in October of 2020, and which takes old clothes and recycles them into new ones, H&M Looop Island has been completely designed with a sustainable theme. The players can explore the island and recycle their game outfits into new ones in the virtual version of H&M’s Looop Machine, the first ever Animal Crossing: New Horizons clothing recycling station.

For Spring 2021, the global leader has taken another bold step in its sustainability efforts, leading the change within the fashion industry by upscaling new innovative materials such as Agraloop™ Biofibre™, which was first introduced in H&M’s assortment in 2020. Transforming food crop waste — in this case, oilseed hemp waste — into a natural fiber, Agraloop™ Biofibre™ can be found in several pieces, such as the sleeveless cropped hoodie and the softly structured trench coat. The collection draws inspiration from the minimalist feel of the 1990s and plays with easy-tailoring for today’s carefree style.

The rest of the collection features sourced materials, some left undyed, encompassing organic cotton jersey, denim and poplin, and crisp organic linen reflecting H&M’s ambitious aim to use 100% recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030. At present, 64.5% of the assortment is made from sustainable materials with 100% of the organic cotton recycled or sourced in a more sustainable way.

When researching a brand, in my search for sustainable data, my curiosity launches my search for confirmation. I am proud to report that recently, H&M launched their Sustainability Performance Report, as well as launching 11 different Report Stories on their corporate website. These stories show a selection of the group’s sustainability work during 2020 through inspiring articles, videos and interviews.

In addition, the brands new concept referred to as Color Story celebrates new sustainable methods of working with color that brings awareness to the environmental impacts of dyeing and printing processes. Color Story uses cutting-edge dyeing techniques, such as biotechnology, plant-based pigments, and closed-loop systems, to create unique and charming colors with less impact on the environment.

 “Working with such interesting innovators and their wonderful ideas has been an incredible journey. Colorifix, for example, is the first company to use a natural, biological process to produce and fix pigments onto textiles. They’re launching worldwide with this collection. We’re thrilled that despite its state-of-the-art manufacture, the collection feels effortlessly modern and fresh.“ says Ella Soccorsi, Concept Designer at H&M.

Here is where it gets a even more interesting. In keeping with the company’s mission of a circular fashion future, H&M will offer a unique selection of pieces for customers to rent. Both Stockholm, Sweden and Mitte, Berlin will have a selected store with rentable collections being climate positive.

”We’re continually aiming to create elevated pieces with groundbreakingly more sustainable materials and processes. With this collection, our forward thinking designs work together with revolutionary dye processes to make a positive change – be that lower water consumption or reformed manufacturing. This collection has a charming free-spirit; our customers will no doubt love these contemporary pieces, but we hope they’re inspired by the empowering sustainable narrative too.“ says Ann-Sofie Johansson, Creative Advisor at H&M.

At this time, environmental upheaval has never been more paramount with kids. Given the hefty carbon footprint mankind has left on our beloved planet, kids are more informed and engaged. Moreover, the worlds youth is capable of making their voice be heard. In fact, there are countless examples of youth taking action to make our world a better place. This inspired the company to explore how it could play a part in supporting the role models who are shaping our future.The brand is launching a global initiative to help empower civic role model kids making progress on sustainability…. Through the initiative, H&M wil tell the stories of young changemakers from around the world.

“As a company that stands for progress, we feel a certain responsibility to use our size to create change today and for the future,” says Pascal Brun, Global Sustainability Manager H&M. “We’re ambitious in our goals to make our business more equitable and sustainable so the world is better for future generations. Part of that is making the decision to amplify the voices of role models who are making a difference today: kids.”

 I recently had a chat with Pascal Brun, Global Sustainability Manager H&M about growing in ways that make a difference to our colleagues, our customers, our business and our planet, how the ambition of H&M is to inspire customers with sustainability initiatives and empower them in making meaningful decisions and why he believes that sustainable fashion future is better with H&M in it than without. 

Joseph DeAcetis: The new line is unique in its approach to both active and sustainable sportswear. How was the concept developed?

Pascal Brun: We want all of our fashion that we offer, to our many customers, including sportswear, to be made of sustainably sourced materials by 2030. For the buying and design team the challenge is to create the fashion that our customer wants and is looking for.

JD: Part of your brand’s success can be attributed to style on trend, low cost and big advertising. Do you think this trend will continue? 

PB: Our business idea of fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way is really our sweet spot. When you combine them, it is then that the fashion magic happens.

 JD: Do you envision a sustainable fashion future for H&M.

PB: I do. Our vision is to lead the change towards circular and climate positive fashion while being a fair and equal company.. By 2040 the H&M group should be climate positive throughout its value chain, but we have other goals along the way. For example, by 2030 we should only use recycled or sustainably sourced materials in all of our collections. Already in 2020, we reached this goal with our cotton use, only sourcing recycled cotton, organic cotton, or cotton sourced through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). We want to close the loop in fashion. So for me, the sustainable fashion future is better with H&M in it than without. 

 JD:Now that 2020 has come to a close, what fashion trends do you see coming for H&M in 2021 and moving forward as we approach the renaissance of fashion? 

PB: There are many fashion trends running at the same time these days, it is all about creating your own personal style and empowering our customers to dress their personality. But apart from wearing clothes that make you look and feel good, you as a customer also always need to consider the more sustainable choice.

JD: As the global leader of fast-fashion, do you see any changes in consumer purchasing? 

PB: There are many players that are referred to as being fast-fashion, and I can only see that the fashion industry needs to change and become more sustainable in the future. We need to produce only what the customer wants to buy, offer fashion made in sustainably sourced materials and look at our whole value chain to be able to create a positive impact. 

JD: Talk to Forbes what your current strategy is to be a sustainable brand and maintain that strategy for years to come. How important do you find it for brands to focus on sustainability?  

PB: We believe our sustainability strategy focuses on the right areas, but we need to accelerate the speed of change and develop a new mindset to achieve our ambitions at the pace required. We call this mindset meaningful growth. It’s about growing in ways that make a difference to our colleagues, our customers, our business and our planet. We’ll achieve this by placing our customers in the center and integrating sustainability into everything we do.

JD: What do you think has been one of the strongest aspects that H&M brings to the table in the fashion world? What separates H&M from the rest? 

PB: I have to come back to our business idea of fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way. You can create great fashion, you can offer affordable prices, you can be wholly sustainable, but it is our combination of offering all of these that sets us out, in my opinion. Democratizing sustainable fashion is and will be key in years to come!

 JD: Talk to Forbes what it is like to be in the fast fashion industry. What are some of your takes on the positive and negative aspects? When it comes to the negative aspects, how do you think they can be changed? 

PB: Our aim is to change the fashion industry from a linear to a circular business model. That’s how we will transform our negative impacts into positive ones. It is not a choice to make, it is our responsibility.

 JD: Talk to Forbes about H&M’s sustainability marketing strategy moving into 2021?

PB: We want to make Sustainability accessible and simple for our customers to understand. Our ambition is to inspire our customers with our Sustainability initiatives and empower them in making meaningful decisions. How amazing would it be to create a full community of Change Makers!

JD: During these trying economic times, how are young men and women able to dress for success and look together at H&M?

PB: By looking into what they already have in their wardrobes, and how to add new items that will update the looks they already have.

JD: In your words, how has a global retailer been able to prosper during the pandemic? And what precautionary steps did you take to make the most efficient decisions with respect to the workers and the brand? 

PB: We have during these unprecedented times fully stood by our responsible purchasing practices and contractual agreements. We all depend on having a viable and sustainable textile industry going forward, and while the full implications of the pandemic are yet to be experienced, we will continue to tackle future challenges together with our suppliers, and always with our responsible purchasing practices at heart.

JD: In speaking of fashion and style progression, how have you enhanced the creative path moving into the future?

PB:  By looking into every step of the design process. For example, how can we make this item in a smarter way, with fewer steps between the design start until the finished garment reaches our customers. With that being said, now that we are a year into the pandemic, people are ready to venture out from the dark ages to a modifies renaissance.