Tamara Sender
Tamara Sender is a Senior Fashion Retail Analyst at Mintel. She researches and writes for Mintel's UK Fashion Reports.

H&M is expanding its range of sustainable fashion with a new collection, dubbed ‘Science Story’, featuring jeans, a shirt, a tracksuit, sunglasses and sandals. This clothing line is made using less environmentally damaging materials such as cactus leather and Evo, a yarn produced from castor oil. It is the first of a series of collections called ‘Innovation Stories’, dedicated to promoting the use of new, sustainable materials and production processes in the fashion industry.

H&M’s Science Story collection “ unites the energy of the present moment and the optimism promised by a sustainable future”

Souce: H&M

The fashion brand has made huge strides in its mission to become more sustainable including stopping using cashmere wools and the launch of its cutting-edge Loop technology, which takes customers’ old clothing, cleans it, shreds it into fibres, then spins them into a new yarn which can be used to create brand new clothing.

   

Neon Green Sandals, in vegan imitation leather made from cactus leaves, £79.99, have sold out

Source: H&M

Science Story’s materials include Desserto®, a plant-based leather made from organically grown cactus, and EVO by Fulgar®, a bio-based yarn derived from castor oil. Information on the innovative materials and processes used in the creation of the collection is integrated into the design, educating the consumer. As marked on the label of the clothes, caster oil is “a totally renewable resource that does not require high amounts of water nor subtracts arable land for food purposes”.

Responding to the shift in shopping behaviours

H&M’s launches of clothing and footwear made from new sustainable materials respond to growing consumer concerns about the impact of buying new fashion items on the environment.  

Although sustainability was already a topic of discussion pre-pandemic, COVID-19 has changed people’s attitudes and behaviour when shopping for fashion. As Mintel research reveals, over a third of British shoppers care more about where their fashion items come from now than they did before the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Shoppers sceptical about sustainability claims

A vast majority of UK consumers do not trust retailers when they make sustainability claims. With so many retailers claiming they are sustainable – from boohoo to Burberry – it is difficult for consumers to know who they can trust and believe that all these retailer brands can actually be sustainable. Furthermore, with so many agreeing that cheap fashion makes it easy to shop for unnecessary items, this leaves many to question how sustainable fast fashion retailers can actually be.

Some shoppers have been taken in by advertising campaigns by fast fashion retailers, promoting sustainable initiatives and clothing lines – with data from Mintel’s latest Fashion & Sustainability report revealing that over a fifth view high street fashion retailers as the most likely to be sustainable. However, the industry has a long way to go to clear up confusion around what it means to be a sustainable retailer.

What we think

H&M has been building up its sustainable portfolio for the past few years, and this new collection will increase its credibility as a sustainable fashion retailer. Developing new sustainable fabrics from materials including cactus and castor oil will help the brand stand out as one of the more innovative clothing retailers and drive the overall fashion sector to become more circular. In addition, it will also allow H&M to gradually diversify its supply chain and create alternatives to the use of cotton in light of the growing media coverage of the alleged exploitation of cotton workers in the Xinjiang region of China.