The story behind fashion

Overview

We chose the LifeCycle of the H&M clothes as we are both very interested in fashion and want to know where our clothes come from.
H&M promotes a huge recycling project. The H&M stores collect old clothes and according to H&M these clothes should be brought back to their origin. But where do they actually come from?

Fashion Recycling Box H&M
Fashion Recycling Box

The birth of our project

We thought that it would be interesting to find out how many clothes we have from H&M. So we both looked for H&M clothes in our closet. We realized that we don’t have many clothes from H&M. Here you can see the results of our research:

Shannen Marija
Leggings 2 1
T-Shirts 5 4
Hosen 2
Kurze Hosen 2 1
Kleider 1 1
Pullover 3 1
Schal 1 1
Bluse 5 3
Schmuck 5 3
Tasche 1
Socken 10

H&M Sustainability Promises

We had a lot of questions and were very interested in how their project works in detail. Unfortunately we didn’t get any statements through e-mail, nor phone, nor in person. Therefore we decided to dig deeper and found some material from a reporter group from 2015. The main question of the movie is «How aware is H&M really of their responsibility ?». We were very shocked after we had finished watching the film. Apparently behind their nice promises huge scandalous production are hiding.
Following we tell you the truth about the production and the corporate law tricks H&M uses for their embarrassing success.

The journey to Bangladesh

H&M produces clothes in Bangladesh since 30 years. The filmmakers visited a production company in Bangladesh. According to the film the conditions for the people who are working there are terrible. Every day they work more than 12 hours. While they are working they are suffering of hunger.
Because of the interview with two anonymous men the filmmakers experienced that some people start their work at 8 am in the morning, eat lunch at 1 pm and afterwards continue working until 10 pm while they are very hungry. They never finish work before 10 pm. Their eyes are desiccated and they are suffering from hunger. The minimum wage for workers is 50 euro per month. The filmmakers tried to talk to a manager of H&M on these topic. The manager said that it is very difficult to antagonize the overtime because it is a trend. After the film was published the filmmakers realized that this particular company was removed from the H&M component supplier list. [1]

When the filmmakers went to Bangladesh there was another building which was also in danger to break down because it had a lot of cracks and it was built in an area where there was a bog before. All architects have a license number. When the filmmakers wanted to talk to the architect of this building “we realized that the person who draw this building had just bought his diploma and wasn’t really an architect”.
In 2012 the CEO of H&M visited Bangladesh. There he talked to a lot to politicians and tried to lift wage floor although H&M does everything to save money. [1]

Ethiopia

The filmmakers also visited Ethiopia where they can find workers who will work for less money than the workers in Bangladesh because Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. The address of H&M’s production company in Ethiopia is not known. As the filmmakers talked to H&M about this “we realized that it causes discomfort for them to talk about the production in Ethiopia”. The wage bill in Ethiopia are the lowest of the world and the private sector has no wage floor. People earn between 36 to 50 euros per month. [1]

Taxes

H&M has a production company in Bangladesh which is called Pals trading far east limited. This company does not earn any money in Bangladesh because it is financed by checks from H&M. From this money they buy raw materials of which they make clothes. When the team who was making the video asked H&M about that, they did not receive an answer. [1]

Here the link to our video source: [1] Film “Die billige Masche von H&M”

So once they got produced as told, they get shipped over the hole world to more than 4’200 stores of H&M for sale. For more infos about Container Shipping we recommend the video “The real price of shipping” (freightened.com)

H&M launched a Project to recycle old clothes to close their circle of lifetime from clothes. I:CO (I:CO Partner) is their Partner in this matter and sorts the old clothes given back in the H&M stores in to the 3 following categories:

-Rewear
-Reuse
-Recycle

Tipps from H&M how we can improve the sustainability of Fashion:

Re-wear it! Sometimes an old favourite is destined to have a comeback. Look in the darkest corners of your closet – and you might just find your Saturday night outfit.

Someone’s trash might be your treasure. Have a swap-party with your friends. Bring a few items each and create your own free shopping spree!

Don’t automatically throw out clothes that are too small. Jeans that are too short can be cut into shorts for summer. A top which is too small and shows off a little bit of your belly can be cut into a crop top.

Replacing zips, taking up hems, patching jeans – get your mending kit ready and re-wear your favourite pieces time after time.

Did you know that washing at 30 degrees instead of 60 reduces your energy use by half? By skipping the heat you save both energy and money – and make your clothes’ dyes and colours last longer.

Or, even better; skip doing laundry this week and just air your clothes. Garments are often washed many more times than necessary.

These Things H&M should change if they want us to buy clothes from them again:

Take responsibilities for the conditions during the production of the clothes

Inform the world about their production conditions

Publish a code of ethics in which the salary of the production stuff is declared

Work out arrangements for the implementation of the code of ethics and publish them

Work out salary Arrangements

Conclusion

In conclusion, we are happy that we learnd and experienced so many things about the LifeCycle of fashion. We both decided that we will stop buying clothes from H&M until they prove that they are a fair employer. We also decided that we will select carefully the stores where we are going to buy our clothes in the future.

“Being conscious in every part of the fashion production is important”, sais H&M on their Website. But how does this fit together with their production in Bangladesh? Unfortunately we don’t have an answer but a strong feeling that still a lot of dark secrets are hidden behind the good looking recycling project of H&M.

Vocab List

desiccated = ausgetrocknet
antagonize = entgegenwirken
bog = Sumpf
wage floor = Mindestlohn
Code of ethics = Verhaltenskodex

Reviewed by:

Claude Douguet and Brigitte Fischer

3 thoughts on “The story behind fashion

  1. Hi there, great text!
    It’s unbelievable how one of the biggest high street brands neglects their production especially because they could do it differently. As they “stand” for conscious fashion they should also talk about their standards and they should definitely improve them. I really liked your conclusion and that you decided to stop buying clothes at H&M until they produce their clothes under fair conditions. Maybe this step would also improve the quality a bit 🙂
    Kind regards, Carmen – http://www.carmitive.com

  2. Congrats Shannen and Marija on your report!

    Your report gives good and important information and it has a personal touch by letting the readers know your thoughts, impressions and feelings. What I especially like, is, that everybody gets awareness and practical advice how to handle clothes responsibly.
    Although you didn‘t get any answers from H&M you didn’t give up and found information about the production of H&M clothes. To reveal the working conditions in garment industries and to make it public, generates pressure on companies as H&M. Stay updated with cleanclothes.org. I’m very impressed by the consequences you are going to take for your personal shopping behavior. My compliments and respect!

    You took a closer look on the first part of the life-cycle of clothes. It would be also very interesting to discover what happens with the clothes giving them back at H&M or at the textile collection site of the Municipality. We are not only consuming a lot of clothes we are also producing a lot of second-hand-clothes which are taking their way in different parts of the world. What are the consequences there? Maybe this is going to be another report.

    Best Regards

    Brigitte Fischer
    geo-balance.ch – Abfall ist unser Thema!

  3. Hi! An interesting list of your H&M pieces! 🙂 And I am on your side with your unconventional & critical view of the things in your contribution – including your consequences. Still things happen that could and should be better. I thought a while about all that and I believe it will improve. Why? Because today there is everything that’s needed to do the things VERY 🙂 good. Dominique.

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