Can fast fashion be eco friendly?
In the news this week, along with the doom and gloom of profit warnings from Thorntons and Focus DIY going in to administration, was an article about H+M and its ambitious plans to go green. As a toy wholesaler we are committed to increasing our fair trade and organic ranges so we were interested as what H+M were going to do
The MD, Magnus Olsson, was quoted as saying "with size comes responsibility" but quickly clarifyed that to add that when times are tough businesses need to find ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. They want to add value to their ranges via organic cotton.
They are therefore introducing a design lead, organic range called Conscious. We wholesale design led toys and have seen how popular they are with consumers so all this sounded great, but as ever theres a catch.
On a positive side it is only the big retailers who are able to produce the sort of volumes which mean that even sceptical producers will look at the feasibilty of moving to organic. It is also interesting that H+M are experimenting with different materials. The Conscious collection will include garments made from recycled cottonand wool as well as less traditional materials such as polyester made from PET bottles. Again, when the large companies start looking for innovative ways to use materials they open up doors which smaller companies caould not.
This is all good stuff but they lost me when they revealled that they will be selling this range at the same price as their other ranges. They say, and I quote "The price of a product is no indication of the working conditions of the people who produce it."
Thats absolutely true. Its no secret that some top designer brands, which sell at £000s, are made in sweatshops. However it is also true that if you pay your factory £1 for a garment then there is only so much they can pay their workers.
If H+M continue to sell their garments at rock bottom prices then not only do they ensure that there is very little profit for the factory owner to pay their workers but you also set unrealistic expectations in the consumers mind about how much something should cost.
I am quite happy to shop in H+M and other value high street retailers, but I would shop there more if I knew that the clothes I am buying have not been made immorally. If that means I have to pay 50p or £1 more then thats great.
As a fair trade wholesaler we know how much more organic cotton costs than normal cotton. If H+M sell their organic clothes at their normal retails I am worried that they will have to be produced even more cheaply than their normal ranges which is not good news for the people who make them.
Our fairtrade toys are design led, safe and gorgeous, and they sell at a competitive price. It can be done but you need to be innovative not just in the materials you use but in the way in which you produce things. It can be done but it is a lot harder than just asking a pre-existing factory to give you a price
If H+M really want to differentiate themselves from the other value retailers it would be a great if they could include production in the mix when they put on their thinking caps. They have the ability to make a big difference and it would be fab if we could see them use it
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