Behind oil, fashion is the single most destructive industry. That is a fact.
It pollutes; it exploits the world’s poorest people; it uses more than 20,000 litres of water to produce one simple jeans and t-shirt outfit.
Since being exposed as one of the many fast fashion labels that casually engages in little things called slave and child labour, European clothing brand H&M have made a lot of noise about sustainable and ethical fashion. Now, they’ve recruited activist musician MIA to help tout their wares during World Recycling Week.
For just over a decade, the label has been releasing it’s Conscious Action Sustainability Report, a review of its efforts to achieve fair wages within its factories along with sustainability efforts. They also introduced a new sub-label, H&M Conscious, in an effort to show the world that they mean serious business when it comes to sustainability. With a number of celebrities on board, people got excited about a new wave of ethical fashion, seemingly able to ignore the fact that H&M’s footprint remains immense as the company continues to grow, as well as the fact that H&M fully controls the report and isn’t endorsed by any official body.
As Athit Kong, Vice President of the Cambodian Garment Workers’ Union C.CAWDU argued, “H&M’s report does not accurately reflect the reality on the ground in Cambodia or Bangladesh and their PR rings hollow to workers who are struggling everyday to feed their families… A ‘sustainability’ model that is put forth and wholly controlled by H&M but is not founded in genuine respect for organized workers and trade unions on the ground is never going to result in real change for H&M production workers and only serves as a public relations façade to cover up systemic abuse.” Shannon Whitehead adds in Huffington Post that “The success of H&M is dependent on a strategy of planned obsolescence. Fast fashion can never truly be sustainable because the business model itself is inherently unsustainable… As long as the fast fashion business model remains the same, any attempt at a more sustainable future is simply a wash.”
Perhaps these are they reasons that the brand’s newest campaign featuring MIA is focused on recycling existing garments as opposed to creating entirely new ones. Though they’ve been in the business of recycling unwanted clothes for around three years now (and with the amount of waste they create, it’s quite literally the least they can do), it appears that this is the first real effort the clothing giant has made to put its money where its mouth is and actually inform consumers of its recycling options.
The partnership between H&M and M.I.A seeks 1,000 tons of unwanted garments which will be up-cycled into new garments in an effort to raise awareness of World Recycle Week which takes place April 18th through 24th. M.I.A comes into play by releasing a new music video that will focus on the environment impact of the millions of unwanted garments that take years to breakdown in landfills. An alternative-dance/electro/hip-hop answer to the pollution, sweatshop and packing factory themed videos from bands like Rise Against.
There’s no word on whether the song will feature on M.I.A’s upcoming album Matahdatah, but the video will premier on the H&M website on April 11th and is set to feature a handful of other performers. H&M have also enlisted the assistance of popular vloggers and bloggers – many of whom found fame through the bizarrely enthralling genre of haul videos – to film “rehaul videos” in which they show the garments that they will be dropping off to H&M to be recycled.