H&M gives used clothing a second life

Cameron Russell in the latest H&M campaign.

Cameron Russell in the latest H&M campaign.

What happens to clothes after they die? Often, we’ll bundle them up and send them to our nearest Salvos in the hope that they’ll get a second life and work their way back into the local community. Yet, more often than not they wind up as landfill, causing serious social and environmental problems in the long run. 

Thankfully, Swedish chain H&M is on a mission to change that, one capsule collection at a time.

The fast-fashion giant, implementing our mother’s favourite mantra ‘waste not, want not’, is set to launch its first range made from the fibres of used clothing collected through its garment recycling initiative, which launched in February 2013. (According to WWD, H&M has so far collected close to an impressive 7.7 million pounds of used clothing from its customers over the last year.)

The collection will feature five classic denim pieces, including vests, jackets and jeans for men and women, and will be available in selected stores at the end of February.

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Every single piece from the collection contains 20 per cent recycled cotton, which, according to Fashionista, is the maximum amount that can be used without compromising the quality of the fabric. 

H&M is deserving of pats on backs all round, it seems. This collection comes on the heels of their ongoing Conscious Collection of environmentally sustainable clothing, which launched in 2011. And last year, the retailer made big announcements that it’d be paying factory workers a living wage and disclosing the names of its overseas factories.

This latest recycling program plays into H&M’s short-term goal to ‘close the loop’ on textile production by eliminating waste and decreasing the environmental impact of the fashion industry, as well as its long-term goal of finding a solution to reusing and recycling textile fibres. And though we’re not yet sure how this latest initiative will shift the retailer’s bottom line, it’s certainly a good move from a PR perspective.

While many of us hold onto our clothes like crazed hoarders worthy of our own reality TV shows, it’s good to know there are ethical ways of disposing of our tired threads. While H&M hasn’t yet set up ‘I:Collect’ recycling bins in Australia, you could always recycle your clothes with Allround Recycling or offer them to someone else who wants them through websites such as Freecyle, Givit, or Zilch

With H&M swinging open its Australian doors in March, here’s hoping we get to shop a piece of the action. After all, it’s not everyday that you get fast fashion with a story behind it.