H&M's Ann-Sofie Johansson: "We would like everyone to be able to afford sustainable fashion"
Innovation and sustainability are two of the elements on which H&M wants its long-term strategy to hinge.
However, in addition to organizing the annual Global Change Awards to recognise new technology and innovative ideas, and to promoting a series of sustainable collections under the ‘Conscious’ label, the Swedish fast-fashion giant is now focusing on the ‘Innovation Stories’ format.
These are a new kind of capsule collection that combine both concepts, and are set to be dropped throughout this year. In parallel with the release on April 15 of the second capsule collection, Colour Story, FashionNetwork.com has talked to Ann-Sofie Johansson about H&M's innovative and environmentally friendly projects.
Johansson, creative advisor to H&M since 2015, is very familiar with the Swedish group. She began working as a saleswoman for H&M in 1987, and has spent the last three decades with the group, taking charge of design between 2008 and 2013.
FashionNetwork.com: What exactly is the collaboration with Colorifix and We Are SpinDye about? Has H&M joined forces with these experts for the development of the Colour Story collection or is this a long-term partnership that will involve other projects as well?
Ann-Sofie Johansson: The collection celebrates sustainably produced colours and dyes; it brings to light the beautiful colours achieved through sustainable dyeing practices. We worked with Colorifix and We Are SpinDye on this collection as they both bring such innovation to the dyeing process in different ways. We collaborate with innovators and experts for each of our Innovation Story collections, and in some cases, the relationship continues throughout other H&M collections and projects.
FNW: What specifically are the differences in colour treatment between a traditional and a more sustainable method?
ASJ: It depends on the process or innovation. Colorifix has rewritten the rulebook with its biological process, which produces, deposits and fixes pigments onto textiles. They first find a colour created by a living thing such as an animal, plant or microbe. Then, via advanced DNA sequencing, engineered microorganisms are used to grow and transfer the colour. Whereas, We Are SpinDye works with a low impact version of the traditional method. Their closed-loop system results in 75% less water consumption, 90% less chemical usage and a 30% reduction in CO2.
FNW: How many collections will be presented through the Innovation Stories format, and what percentage of the chain's available offer will they represent?
ASJ: We haven’t put a limit on the Innovation Stories format yet. We’re two collections in and loving the results and process so far.
FNW: Is the idea for the future to keep the sustainable/innovative collections on the one hand and the classic H&M collections on the other hand or to apply these responsible processes to the entire offer? In the second case, what are the objectives and how long will the process take to reach the total offer?
ASJ: Innovation Story is really the nucleus of our sustainability mission. We test ideas through these collections, and in some cases, innovations filter through to other classic collections. It can be a bit of a challenge to scale up some of these concepts, but we’re trying and testing as we go. We have set goals for 2025, 2030 and 2040, and we’re dedicated to achieving them. Our goal is to be a destination where the customers can engage with affordable, inclusive and sustainably focused garments.
FNW: How do you manage to implement all these innovations while keeping prices relatively affordable, in line with the rest of the offer?
ASJ: We work incredibly hard to make sure that we don’t compromise on affordability and quality. It involves many back and forth with our innovators and design team, making sure every piece and concept is just right. In some cases, when we are really in love with a garment or fabrication, H&M will make up the difference so that our customer gets to experience brilliant innovation at the prices they love. We would like everyone to be able to afford sustainable fashion, no matter their budget.
FNW: How does the company involve Global Change Awards participants in these processes?
ASJ: The H&M Foundation’s Global Change Award is our first point of call when looking for innovators. It’s an international award and the top five creatives selected are always such an exciting and varied group of minds. Our previous Innovation Story, Science Story, celebrated the innovators Agraloop, who won the award in 2018. The rentable pieces from Colour Story feature the innovators Imogo who were among the 15 finalists in the 2020 Global Change Award.
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