COS introduces recycled fashion line as H&M continues to try to clean up its image

In the wake of ongoing criticism against H&M for environmentally harmful practices, the company is extending its circular fashion efforts beyond its namesake brand. In its latest endeavor, the Swedish retailer tapped London-based COS for a collection that drops today, using 100 percent repurposed cotton.

Working in collaboration with an existing Turkish supplier, COS used cotton scraps saved over the course of a year to develop the “Repurposed Cotton Project,” a line of sweatshirts for men, women and children. In order to produce the items, COS used a process of shredding and compacting the leftover materials, before spinning, weaving and dying the discarded cotton to create new cotton sweatshirts. The crewneck styles, which come in cream and yellow, sell for $79 for adults and $39 for children, comparable price points to similar COS products, according to COS creative director, Karin Gustafsson.

“We always consider quality an important element of our collections,” she wrote in an email. “The repurposed sweatshirts look and feel exactly the same as other similar items. It was challenging, but also very important that we have been able provide the customer with the same level of quality.”

Though the Repurposed Cotton Collection first launched in London last month, the brand ramped up production for a North America debut. According to H&M’s 2017 sustainability report, sustainably sourced materials make up 35 percent of the the Swedish company’s total material use, and it currently has a goal to reach 100 percent by 2030. To advance these goals, the company recently partnered with Re:newcell, a technology firm that identifies innovative ways to reuse cellulosic fibers, such as discarded cotton, in order to make textiles.

However, while the H&M brand launched its Conscious Collection in 2015 — which included a line of dresses made from recycled plastic last year — circular fashion efforts across the brand portfolio remain limited. Gustafsson, acknowledging the “small share” of recycled products in COS’s own inventory, said the brand is “in the development stages” for future projects that intend “to increase as the technology for recycling continues to advance.”

Still, as the force behind one of the world’s largest fast-fashion brands, H&M Group’s environmental track record continues to give consumers pause. The company took heat in recent months for a report that unveiled it’s currently sitting on upwards of $4.3 billion worth of unsold clothing. Though executives previously stated that unsellable clothing continues to be burned to fuel factories in lieu of charcoal, the stockpiles of untouched clothing remains the source of much ire regarding overproduction and waste.

Whether H&M will meet its sustainability goals remains to be seen, but in the meantime, the company has become more strategic in aligning with brands with a sustainability bent. In November, H&M’s venture capital arm announced it would contribute to a $2 million investment in Aday, an e-commerce company focused on technical apparel, which launched its own collection of sustainable products including items made from recycled plastic last month.

“H&M specifically is a company that has a ton of research and development on the sustainability side of things. As a company that’s still privately owned, they can define the future as they would like to see it,” Aday co-founder Nina Faulhaber told Glossy in November.

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