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Creating H&M’s most sustainable collection ever

In March, the 2020 Conscious Exclusive Collection dropped in H&M stores around the world. At H&M Group, we take great pride in pushing the boundaries when it comes to sustainability, and the collection is proof that fashion doesn’t have to come at the expense of the planet. Many of the employees at the Far East Asia Production Offices have been personally involved in the creation of the collection — here, they invite us for a peek behind the scenes and into the future of fashion.

Closing the circle with Circulose

Circulose is a really cool material, as the fibre comes from used textile rather than from forests or cotton fields. With Circulose, we are able to bring our used garments back to life and close the loop, says Michelle Hui, Material Manager for Woven fabrics. Ask anyone working with materials or in the sustainability team and there’s a risk they won’t stop talking about Circulose. 

Here’s the short version: In 2017, H&M Group’s CO:LAB invested in Swedish start-up re:newcell — a small company who figured out how to dissolve fibres such as cotton and viscose from used clothes and then create new fibres for new clothes. That’s closing the loop in action. Circulose is unique and revolutionary, as it replaces virgin raw materials, and it’s economical enough to produce in commercial quantities, without compromising on the quality. In fact, in some tests, it even outperforms new cotton and viscose. What’s more, the Circulose production process uses a closed-loop system for water and chemicals and is powered by renewable energy. With this collection, H&M Group is the first company to use chemically recycled fibres in fashion sold at scale — we believe that is well worth celebrating! 

For more information on Circulose and other interesting materials, check out the Materials section in H&M Group’s 2019 Sustainability Report.

The trés chic Avignon top, made of Tencel dyed with coffee waste from the production office.

Coffee dye with a very local connection

Going forward, we need to be using more bio-based materials and use more waste in our collections, says Pascal Brun, Sustainability Manager at H&M. 
And here is something where many of the employees in FEA Production played a crucial role in the creation of the collection — namely the coffee drinkers at the Shanghai production office. They took used coffee grounds from the office coffee machines and worked with the local supplier to create and dye a beautiful, subtly beige silk and a Tencel fabric. The result is the 2020 Conscious Exclusive Collection’s sleek Avignon strap top. Talk about teamwork, and keep sipping, everyone!

The process not only utilised what is normally considered waste, but it also has a very low environmental footprint — this truly is thinking outside the box at its finest.

Sandals and a purse in Vegea leather.

GCA winner Vegea — vegan leather from an unlikely source

The winners of the 2017 Global Change Awards, innovative Italian start-up Vegea, uses grape skins, stalks and seeds used in wine production, to make their 100 % vegetal leather. No toxic solvents, heavy metals or dangerous substances are needed in the production process. The result is a stunning material that is both free of animal suffering and the environmental tole normally associated with conventional synthetic leather. The Conscious Collection features details on handbags and shoes made with wine-residue-turned-leather from Vegea.

After winning the GCA in Shanghai in 2017, the industry took notice, and Vegea have since won numerous other awards and gained a lot of recognition for their work — including winning the Horizon 2020, the biggest EU research and innovation program ever. The European Parliament recognised Vegea as one of the best European start-ups of the new millennium.

What’s really great about all this? Premium brands, including H&M Group’s own & Other Stories, now use Vegea in their collections.