Friday, 8 April 2016

Are H&M Stepping On Fashion Revolution's Toes?

We're coming up on Fashion Revolution Day. Founded to commemorate the Rana Plaza collapse by Eco-fashionistas Cary Somers and Orsola De Castro, the purpose of the event is to highlight ethical issues such as transparency in the supply chain. But it's done in a beautifully simple and irreverent way. Last April, the #hauternatives initiative, in which vloggers celebrated vintage and upcycled fashion finds, gained 24 million impressions on social media. It's a real ethical success story.

And it's about to be hijacked.

High street juggernaut H&M, whose loudly-espoused ethical credentials are viewed with suspicion by many in the know, are choosing the same week as Fashion Revolution Day to launch their own initiative for 2016: World Recycle Week. Essentially it's a drop-off scheme similar to those already in place by M&S, Gift Your Gear and others. You drop off your clothes, you get H&M vouchers, and the brand pledges to recycle those items into fresh clothes.

In a scathing article, ethical fashion writer Lucy Seigel tears into both the timing and the mechanics behind World Recycle Week. H&M are pledging to recapture 1000 tons of fabric for recycling. But there's no clear idea of how they're going to do this with mixed fibres and items where a tiny percentage of the total weight is suitable for recycling in the first place.

But it's the choice of calender date for the event that really angers Siegel. Why choose a week that already hosts a successful independent ethical fashion initiative? You have to wonder if it's a coat-tail riding exercise or worse, an attempt to lessen the impact Fashion Revolution Day has. Lucy says:

"To some this may sound an eccentric turf war, but it’s much more important than that. Fashion Revolution is one of the only chances an active engaged citizen – note the reprieve here from the term “consumer” – gets to challenge the fast food, fast tech, fast fashion, hegemony without interference from corporations. It must not be hijacked and greenwashed.

The View will of course be celebrating Fashion Revolution Day with gusto, as we have since it was founded. In some ways, I guess we can view H&M's bullying attempt to get in on the action as a kind of compliment. At least they're taking this whole ethical fashion thing a bit more seriously now.

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