We recently published a piece breaking down our brand evaluation process and why some kick-ass brands have received our Seal of Approval. Now it’s time to discuss why other brands did not make the cut. There are a handful of brands leading the fashion industry in different ways and, unfortunately, most of them are not doing so responsibly. Fast fashion retailers are churning out clothing like there is no tomorrow and there may not be if we don’t change this industry for good. However, it’s not only fast fashion that we disapprove of– luxury designers and higher-quality retailers aren’t blameless either.
These three brands below rule the fashion world in various capacities, though all have one thing in common: they need to do more. Our brand evaluation process gives each company points out of 100 for their efforts towards transparency, environmental sustainability, maker well-being, raw material knowledge, and responsible leadership. H&M Conscious Collection, Rodarte, and J.Crew all have worldwide exposure, yet most of their operations stay hidden in the background. We’d like to bring all the information to light!
H&M Conscious Collection (9 points)
H&M is almost the largest fast fashion retailer worldwide (only second to Zara) and infamous within the sustainable fashion community for its misleading marketing. The corporations greenwashing has become so bad that Ecotextile News recently reported an independent organization called Norweigan Consumer Authority (CA) is calling them out for ‘illegal marketing.’ CA claims:
H&M’s portrayal of its collection’s sustainability credentials breaches Norwegian marketing laws and alleges that the brand uses symbols, statements and color to mislead buyers.
We’ve given H&M Conscious Collection zero points for transparency and traceability, knowing that we can’t trust the vague information they feed to consumers. Our resident brand evaluator Jessie Ampofo was taken aback when processing this collection: ‘I have never seen so many words that tell you nothing.’ From maker well-being to environmental sustainability, H&M uses jargon to convince the public of their investment in all areas of their business. The truth is, however, there is absolutely no concrete evidence backing up any of their claims! The H&M corporation relies on unaware consumers to sell clothing which continues to harm garment workers, the environment, and no doubt customers themselves.
H&M Conscious Collection only receives points for their weak promises for more sustainable materials and ethical initiatives – they gain points for discussing these issues, but not for taking any action on them.
Rodarte (12 points)
Rodarte is a designer label established by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy. Praise for their collections focus on the duo’s ‘wildly imaginative designs,’ according to The Washington Post. However, that creativity may be coming at a price.
Rodarte is a relatively small designer brand, they score some points knowing where and how their products are made. Their designs come to fruition in Los Angeles factories where employees earn a living wage. And the traceability ends there. The high-fashion brand doesn’t provide any information on efforts towards sustainability or tracing the supply chain to raw materials. It seems the sister-made brand has no idea where their clothing actually comes from. It’s great to know who finishes the seams on a new evening gown, but what about the farmers who grew the cotton, makers who spun the silk, or garment workers who dyed the taffeta that unique hue? In addition to all this, Rodarte has been in some hot water before for tone deaf designing. Jezebel reported in 2010 on a collection the brand presented inspired by women factory workers in Ciudad Juárez. Juárez has been one of the most violent places outside of war zones. Instead of raising awareness for these women, the collection commodified their horrific experiences.
Is creative drive enough of a reason to create clothing with no regard for the planet? Or the people who bring these designs to life? We don’t think so.
J.Crew/Madewell (29 points)
While Madewell’s Eco Denim Collection has received Remake’s Seal of Approval, the larger brand, and their parent company J.Crew, have not fared so well. There have been rumors circling around that Madewell is planning to split from J.Crew, and we hope that means its working towards a more responsible future. We can dream!
For now, the companies are making it incredibly difficult for us to root for them. The brand scores no points for transparency and traceability, nor does it for information on raw materials. J.Crew (and Madewell) gain a few points for working in LEED certified offices and making efforts toward waste reduction, though those things seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the massive scale of the company. Where the corporation surpasses the previous two brands mentioned is in the maker well-being category. Factory visits, strict contracts, and membership with the Fair Factories Clearinghouse (FCC) help lead us to believe their genuine investment in supporting those who make their clothing. While we applaud some of their efforts, we’re still waiting on much more information from J.Crew and Madewell. We cannot give them a Remake Seal of Approval until they’ve looked at their business holistically.
Cover Image: Yogendra Singh/Pexels