Swedish fast-fashion company H&M is collaborating with classic denim brand Lee on a new collection releasing Feb. 4. The clothing line is pushing “for the next generation of more sustainable denim,” featuring recycled cotton jeans and back patches made of non-leather materials, such as cork and jacron paper.
Other materials included in the collection are Tencel Lyocell thread, made from wood pulp, and Texloop RCOT recycled cotton jersey. The collaboration consists of men’s, women’s and kids’ clothing — including oversized denim jackets, corsets, dresses, dungarees and relaxed jeans, inspired by the ’80s and ’90s.
Additionally, H&M will also share its first-ever Life Cycle Assessment data on its website, which will track the water, carbon dioxide and energy footprint of each garment from creation to end of use.
This collaboration claims to have “transparency” and “sustainability central to its design,” which is nice — although the area of labor is not mentioned directly in the press release and there seems to be no plan to include it in the company’s LCA. This is especially interesting given the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster, when a building in Bangladesh used for fast-fashion collapsed due to poor conditions and H&M’s response was signing a five-year accord along with hundreds of major brands to promote better conditions in the country.
This is not H&M’s first sustainable endeavor. The brand released its Conscious Collection in 2010, making small steps toward sustainability within that project, and has done main brand releases with Billie Eilish and Giuliva Heritage. It also put out a Conscious Collection late last year made from upcycled materials.
While sustainability encompasses both environmental and societal aspects, Lee x H&M has the possibility of being the first step into sustainability for the average consumer who’s not informed on fast fashion’s impact on the environment.
Even though sustainability has been a trend in the past couple years — specifically with thrifting and popular apps on the resale market such as Depop and Poshmark — some people can’t afford those fast fashion alternatives. And thrifting in-person is still risky due to the pandemic.
This collaboration is slightly more convenient and palatable to the masses than other collaborations, where audiences fit into smaller brand or artist niches. Lee is a brand that has been around for more than 100 years, and with that comes a reputation of durability and quality.
Low prices, commonly associated with fast fashion, are another appealing aspect of this collection. H&M released an official price list with items ranging from $12.99 to $59.99. Most of the company’s items are more affordable and convenient (H&M has hundreds of locations in the U.S.) than a sustainable brand. H&M also offers a college student discount.
While the company has taken slow steps to become a more sustainable brand — particularly with documenting their labor practices — this Lee x H&M collaboration will help consumers feel better about buying clothing made from sustainable materials.
And hopefully, in the near future, the fast-fashion giant can gain certifications from credible third-party organizations such as OEKO-TEX and B Corporation, in addition to becoming a member of 1% for the Planet. This transparency about the conditions in which their garments are made can build more trust and credibility — not only to benefit consumers but to influence other fast fashion brands as well.