It’s a cold, sunny day in Paris and we’re on the way to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs for a preview of the 2016 H&M Conscious Exclusive collection. The Swedish fashion label’s eco-minded collection is taking over the venerable French museum for a special showcase—which coincides neatly with the opening of the H&M-sponsored exhibition, Fashion Forward – 300 years of Fashion—to bring its key message of sustainability in fashion to the public. And, as we wander through the four rooms in which the exhibition is held, the message certainly hits home—both visually and on a more cerebral level.
Take for example, the brand’s commitment to zero waste and recycling. Working with several artists, this translated into a soaring display of multi-coloured clothes, collected through H&M’s in-store recycling program, hung according to the colour spectrum over a static display of clothes that were made from those self-same clothing, very Margiela/Vetements-like. On a deeper level, the brand rep revealed to us, the label is also making use of technology to extract fibres from the donated clothes they collect and rework them into new pieces of clothes as well. In the brand’s terms, this “closes the loop” in fashion and makes use of all existing materials instead of producing more raw materials, thus straining our fragile environment.
Another witty installation showed the materials that H&M has innovated and is currently including into its collections—Tencel, an organic material spun from eucalyptus bark; recycled glass for embellishments; plastic bags and bottles reformed into accessories; and Denimite, a new material recently invented from leftover denim that can be fashioned into various accessories. The visual process of seeing the end product from its humble origins was a thought-provoking exercise that showed off the brand’s creative approach to assimilating sustainability into the core of its business.
Of course, every exhibition has a wow factor and, although this one has its fair share of visually stunning installations, the one that truly made us stop and stare was the magical light installation set up in collaboration with Korean artist Tae Gon Kim. It recreated his famous Dress of Memory installation with the ethereal wedding dresses from the 2016 H&M Conscious Exclusive collection and turned them into otherworldly wisps of light and shadow. Totally Instagram worthy.
“Working with innovative sustainable materials and ornate embellishment, the collection is a layering of references, shapes and textures topped off by intensely decorative accessories and deco-inpired bijoux,” Ann-Sofie Johansson, Creative Advisor at H&M, explained. And within the beautiful surrounds of the museum, the design ethos behind the collection met social responsibility in the best possible way.
Watch the behind-the-scenes video with Julia Resotin-Roitfeld below.