Here at Glamour HQ, we love a good seasonal trend, and we're always looking for great deals. At the same time, we recognize the importance of shopping responsibly—and keeping sustainability and ethical production in mind when we're looking to make new additions to our closets.
Since the rise of fast fashion in the United States—it really started to take off here around 2000, when H&M opened its first American flagship in New York City, followed later by Uniqlo, Topshop, Mango, and more—we've had nagging doubts about how cheap, wear-it-and-forget-it clothes jibe with the idea of long-lasting conscientious consumerism. Like, how can buying an entire new, trend-driven wardrobe every 10 weeks be OK in the big scheme of things?
|A look from H&M's 2013 Conscious Collection|
According to the folks at H&M—one of the world's biggest fashion retailers—fast fashion and sustainability don't have to be mutually exclusive.
"We don't aim for sustainability to be luxury thing," the company's head of sustainability, Helena Helmersson, told Reuters. "We want to make sustainable fashion more democratic."
To that end, H&M is the world's biggest user of organic cotton—and its popular "Conscious" clothing line features clothing made of recycled materials.
At the same time, for the company to keep its prices low, it sources the vast majority of its products from factories in Asia—specifically China and Bangladesh, where wages are much lower compared with those in Western Europe and the United States. Not that lower wages mean bad working conditions, to be fair.
"There is a misconception that lower prices in the stores mean bad working conditions or less pay," Helmersson said. "'Made in Bangladesh' is something that I'm proud of. Our presence in Bangladesh is coming with so much positive impact if you think about the alternative jobs for women in Bangladesh."
While H&M has a company ethos that's committed to conscientious sourcing and developing initiatives and projects to help the communities from which it sources, we're not sure all fast-fashion producers approach business the same way.
What do you think? Is it ever really possible for fast fashion to be sustainable and ethical? How much does a company's ethics play into your purchase decisions? Do you think sustainability and environmental consciousness are more a responsibility of corporations or the consumer? Tell us in the comments below! We'd love to know what you think.