Is H&M fashion sustainable or disposable?

The view inside an H and M store in Paris, where you can see the Take Care area of the store.

writer icon Vera P. Jensen     H&M   |   Business     🕐 18. Oct. 2018

In another attempt to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, H&M is launching a clothes repair concept in Norway.

The concept, named Take Care, has already been introduced into select stores in Germany and France, and had a short test run in a pop-up store in Oslo.

Caring for clothes
Take Care is divided into three areas. One area is products, such as laundry detergent and shoe-care kits. The other two areas cover repair services and a hub where people can learn more about how to take care of their clothes.

The pop-up store in Oslo ran from 26th September to 3rd October. Following the trial run, the store will now remain as a hand-in hub, where customers can have their clothes and shoes restored by Norwegian startup Repairable.

Repairable is a digital service that links garment makers and shoe repairers to customers. H&M has invested in the startup, in conjunction with the launch of Take Care in Norway. 

Two concepts in conflict
At the same time as they are launching Take Care, H&M makes great use of the strategy of planned obsolescence. That is to say, the deliberate intention that their product will become out of fashion, which ensures that consumers will be back to buy more.

It raises the question of why a company intent on increasing consumption by constantly creating new fashions, would simultaneously wish to encourage users to repair their worn out clothes.

Appeal of sustainability
This latest development follows several other instances where the company is trying to present itself as having sustainable values.

Consumers today, in particular millennials, want to support companies that have good values. Any marketing department knows that being able to present as a sustainable company is going to win customers to a brand.

Donating clothes
In 2013, the clothing giant began encouraging consumers to donate old clothes back to the store, with the assurance that the clothes would be recycled. There was no insistence on the clothes being H&M’s own, and it is something has been viewed by many as a positive move by H&M.

However, in 2017, Danish journalists revealed that H&M were burning clothes, and have been doing so since 2013. The report claimed that in several cases the clothes were brand new. The reason presumed for burning them was that they were unsold, and no longer current.

H&M responded to the report, stating that they do not burn any clothes that are usable. They claim that any clothes that are incinerated are completely unfit for use. Examples given by H&M were if clothes were “mould infested, or do not fulfil our strict chemical requirements”.

H&M launched a collection named Conscious. It was heralded as leading the way for sustainability in fashion. Conscious, together with H&M’s sustainability claims, features heavily in their marketing and advertising campaigns. However, it would appear that only a very small percentage of their clothes actually fall under the Conscious sustainable label

As recently as 2017, H&M was found to be buying directly from six factories in China that had been investigated, and found to be polluting the environment. There were also sourcing materials from two polluting factories in India. The investigation was carried out by the Changing Markets Foundation.  

Since the report of the investigation, H&M publicly committed to following the key principles laid out by Changing Markets, to ensure responsible material manufacturing.

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