H&M focusing on sustainable fashion

The new H&M at Somerset Mall opened to much hype and anticipation on Saturday 1 October. Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood was there.

There was a frenzy in the air, as the queue of more than 1,000 eager shoppers snaked around the corridors. People who had been there since the centre opened were already sitting on the floor, having given up on standing. Despite this being the second H&M store in the Western Cape, there was no less anticipation from when the first store opened at the V&A Waterfront last year.

Prior to the official opening of the store at 11am, the media and some select special guests got a tour of the new store. The clothing hung in neat lines, yet to be touched by anxious, eager hands. The floors gleamed, having not been subjected to the weary trample of shoppers weighed down by their purchases.

When the doors finally opened, the staff welcomed the over-excited shoppers with warm smiles and bags to fill with their shopping. Despite the queue the store was not over packed, with the number of shoppers permitted at one time limited to prevent the store and staff from being overwhelmed with shoppers.

The store offers something for everyone, with plenty of room to move around, so you don’t feel cramped and uncomfortable while browsing. The prices vary, with something suitable for every pocket. While the shoppers on the opening weekend got to enjoy the opening sales, do not fret, H&M countrywide is currently running its mid-season sale.

For those who still don’t feel they can afford to shop at this international retailer, there is a glimmer of light. H&M has a garment collecting initiative that rewards shoppers with a 15% off voucher when they take their old clothes to the store. This is part of the company’s consciousness drive to limit the amount of waste that is generated by the fashion industry.

Closing the loop

The idea behind the garment collecting initiative is ‘closing the loop’ with regards to fashion. I.e. clothing is purchased, worn, and then recycled back into new clothing, limiting the amount of raw materials that will be needed. These garments are then sold at H&M under the Close the Loop label.

The H&M South Africa website explains: “Each year tons of clothes and textiles end up in landfills, but as much as 95% could be used again. The H&M garment collecting initiative has been created to decrease the waste and close the fashion loop. We want your old textiles back, from any brand, in any condition. By reusing and recycling they will get a new life.”

The garment collection process works as follows:

  1. Bring your old clothes and home textiles (any brand, size, style etc. is accepted) to your nearest H&M store.
  2. Your textiles are sent with the usual H&M deliveries to the nearest processing plant. The clothes are then graded and hand-sorted.
  3. Items that are too worn and torn to be reused will be recycled and turned into raw materials and new products. When re-wear, reuse and recycle are not options, the textiles are used to produce energy (see below for more).
  4. You receive one voucher of 15% off for each grocery-bag-sized bag you hand in, with a maximum of two vouchers per day.

Re-wear, reuse, recycle

The idea of reduce, reuse, recycle is bandied about quite a bit with regards to recycling and reducing waste in various sectors, from plastic and paper to glass. In fashion this changes slightly with ‘re-wear’ replacing ‘reduce’, but the idea is the same, to limit the amount of waste created by the industry.

  • Re-wear refers to the fact that the clothing can be worn again, and any clothing donated is marketed worldwide and second-hand goods.
  • Reuse applies to textiles that are no longer suitable to wear and are converted into other products, such as cleaning cloths.
  • Recycle applies to textiles that cannot be reused. These are broken down into textile fibres or are used to manufacture products like damping and insulation materials for the auto industry.

If you don’t have an H&M store near you don’t worry. There are plans to open several more stores in South Africa over the coming months. Before the end of this year, H&M is opening stores at Galleria Mall in Durban, Menlyn Park in Pretoria and East Rand Mall in Johannesburg. Within the first half of next year (2017) there are plans to open stores at l’langa Mall in Nelspruit and Mall of the North in Polokwane.


For more information on H&M’s garment collecting initiative, click here.