The grounds of Skansen, a 127-year-old open-air museum on the Swedish island of Djurgården, are like a history book come to life, with a petting zoo and an aquarium sitting among re-created working farms and dwellings representing five centuries. It’s also the setting for the preview of H&M’s seventh Conscious Exclusive Collection, launching April 19. A mannequin is outfitted in an ethereal white floor-length gown, which looks like it’s made of lace but is actually in a new fabric called Econyl, nylon made from old fishing nets and carpets. A shiny box holds silver tulip-shaped earrings and rings fashioned from melted-down coins, candlesticks, and cutlery.
The repurposed nylon and silver are the latest materials H&M is using to create its Conscious Collections, alongside the more familiar organic linen, cotton, and Tencel, a fiber made from eucalyptus trees and produced with nontoxic chemicals. The company launched its first Conscious Collection in 2011, but the conversation on sustainability has only intensified as mitigating climate change has become a global imperative. H&M is trying to do its part. Last May, it signed the 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment—joining behemoths Kering, Adidas, and Zara, among others to use 100 percent sustainably sourced materials and develop eco-friendly production processes by the next decade. The 40-piece collection currently uses 50 percent certified sustainable materials, and H&M has a growing list of fabrics for future seasons, like a bamboo-and-organic-cotton velvet and a vegan grape leather, made out of the discarded fruit from wine making. In addition, 96 percent of the company’s electricity comes from renewable resources, and it’s also launched a clothing-recycling initiative, collecting 55,000 tons since 2013.
Progress, of course, doesn’t always come easy. “We know when we start a sustainable collection that we can’t do everything we want, but challenges often create innovation out of necessity,” says H&M creative advisor Ann-Sofie Johannson. The aesthetic of the collection (the campaign’s face is Christy Turlington) pays homage to Lilla Hyttnäs, the home of 19th-century Swedish painter Carl Larsson and his wife, Karin, an interior designer. Folkloric prints mimic Karin’s tapestries, her aprons are reimagined as striped button-down blouses, and black arrows cover a cream cloak, a reference to the Larsson family tree. “I love fashion; I want to continue to love fashion,” says Johannson. “How do we love it in the best possible way? See this?” She points out the metallic threads on a green floral dress. “The Lurex is polyester, but it’s not recycled polyester—yet.”
This story originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Carte-Mere, on newsstands now.