In-tune with growing eco-awareness, H&M brings vegan fashion to the high street

Last week, Swedish fashion giant H&M launched its Co-Exist Story Collection, a 100% vegan and 100% PETA-approved collection. Vegan fashion – which shuns the use of any animal-derived materials – has been steadily on the rise in recent years. In combination with plant-based foods, skincare and cosmetics, the growing popularity of vegan fashion brings an increasingly holistic approach to living an environmentally-aware lifestyle to mainstream culture.

For its latest collection, H&M has replaced animal-derived materials with plant-based innovations, such as an alternative goose down made from wildflowers. The collection is the third instalment of the company’s Innovation Stories, comprising themed collections highlighting more sustainable materials, technologies, and production processes. 

H&M describes the on-trend collection as a ‘homage to the rebellious fun of the late ‘90s’. Crossing the online/offline divide, the company has also recreated eleven pieces from the collection in virtual form to be showcased in a fashion show in Animal Crossing, played primarily by 20 and 30-year-olds. 

Notably, H&M has sought backing for the range’s vegan/animal-friendly credentials via animal-rights organisation PETA. Although this is not the first time the company has explored animal-substitute fabrics, the retailer notes this is the first full collection devoid of animal fibres. Speaking about the target audience, Ann-Sofie Johansson, creative advisor at H&M, describes as muse ‘an urbanite who enjoys the parties, restaurants, and nightclubs of city life, but who can put on rubber boots and head out into nature when they are seeking calm.’

The new collection comes at the right time and for an interested audience, with an August 2021 report by the Vegan Society finding that 95% of UK respondents would welcome more vegan-verified fashion. A recent Deloitte study affirmed that environmental protection is a top concern for Gen Z and in the top three concerns for Millenials. According to the survey, these groups are also actively holding themselves and others, be that employers, retailers, or other organisations, accountable for finding sustainable solutions to these concerns. 

By bringing more PETA-approved fashion options to the high street, the new H&M collection is an important step towards making vegan fashion visible and accessible. With its current campaign, the company has opted to highlight what the garments are not – made using animals. While PETA’s backing of the animal-friendly aspects of the range is an endorsement that attracts headlines, discerning shoppers could be left desiring more information and transparency on the environmental, ethical, and social impacts of the new production processes involved.

Although the Innovation Stories projects separately consider these aspects, a more holistic, long-term, and inclusive campaign combining the three instalments may be more enticing to those seeking more aware fashion options. 

Considering animal-friendly fashion’s broad appeal, it will be interesting to see whether H&M rolls out the innovations across its wider portfolio by adding more sizes and more staple wardrobe pieces rather than catering primarily to younger audiences with a one-off collection of on-trend pieces. 

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