• THREE CENTURIES OF FASHION H&M Conscious Exclusive is released the same day as the exhibition Fashion Forward: Three centuries of Fashion opens at Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The collection was presented at the museum a few weeks ago.

  • LIMITED EDITION DRESSES. From the left: The lace jacquard dress is made in silk and tencel. The dress in the middle is made in pure silk and embellished with recycled glass beads. The dress to the right is the most traditional of the three wedding dresses and is made in organic linen and silk.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CONSCIOUS EXCLUSIVE

H&M's greenest and most glamorous collection celebrates the greatest moments in art, architecture and fashion history. H&M Life breaks down Conscious Exclusive.

THE KEY ITEMS. The slippers, the sleeveless coat and the trompe-l'oeil dress are H&M Creative Advisor Ann-Sofie Johansson's favourite pieces in the collection.

H&M Conscious Exclusive is a unique project that pushes the boundaries on what fashion is and what it could be. Every spring for the past five years, the capsule collection made from organic and recycled materials has been released in H&M stores around the world. Why? To prove that there’s no contradiction in loving beautiful clothing and living a sustainable life.

Tomorrow, 7 April, the new collection arrives. For the first time ever, H&M has used beads and embellishments made from recycled glass and made earrings in Denimite, which is a solid material made from compressed recycled denim. 

Every item in the whole collection is made from either recycled or organic materials. There are dresses and tops made in 100 percent organic silk, long-sleeved jumpers made in tencel (which is an organic material made from eucalyptus trees), trousers made in organic hemp, a wedding dress in organic linen, shoes with organic leather details – and dresses, tops and bottoms with embellishments made from recycled plastic soap and shampoo bottles. Of course there is a lot of organic cotton too.

WHY DON’T H&M MAKE ALL THEIR CLOTHES IN THESE MATERIALS?
“One reason that we’re making Conscious Exclusive is because we want it to reproduce into other concepts and collections in the company. We aim to use these materials more and we are one of the world's biggest buyers of tencel and organic cotton and recycled polyester in a lot of items,” says H&M Creative Advisor Ann-Sofie Johansson. 

There is a coat that I absolutely love – we were inspired by a 200-year-old riding coat.


H&M CREATIVE ADVISOR ANN-SOFIE JOHANSSON
 

Making a sustainable collection is more difficult than making a conventional one. That's partly because a third party has to authorise all materials, and partly because the design team often needs to develop the fabrics themselves since the supply of conscious fabrics can't measure up to the supply of conventional ones. Despite that fact, no compromises have been made in the design process. As a matter of fact, it's quite the contrary. 

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES WITH THIS COLLECTION?
“Of course there are challenges in creating a collection that is both fashionable and environmentally friendly. Some of the materials we work with have some limitations – but that’s the fun part too, to show the world what’s possible and to overcome all limits,” says Ann-Sofie Johansson.

The design team behind Conscious Exclusive have worked with the collection for one year. The line has drawn inspiration from an upcoming exhibition at Paris' Musée des Arts Décoratifs called Fashion Forward, Three Centuries of Fashion. The H&M designers have spent hours in the museum's archive, browsing through beautiful garments with illusive needlework from the 17th century and onwards. While looking and browsing, they had to wear silk gloves and weren't allowed to take photos. 

“We’ve drawn inspiration from the works of art, the architecture and – of course – all the clothes and century-old textiles at Musée des Arts Décoratifs. We’ve looked at paintings by Gustave Moreau and Sandro Botticelli, and patterns from 19th century fabrics,” says Ann-Sofie Johansson. 

The collection consists of 22 garments, eight accessories and two pairs of shoes. 

THE EMBELLISHMENTS. All embellishments are made by hand by seamstresses and sewers in India.

WHAT ARE THE KEY ITEMS IN THE COLLECTION?
“Dresses, long dresses. Many of them are simple in their form so the big prints can stand out and stand alone. We have worked with deep V-neck cuts on many of them, which is a classic look now,” says Anne-Sofie Johansson.

A few dresses are made with the art technique 'trompe-l'oeil', which is when images are used to create optical illusions. For example, the team has draped a dress on a mannequin, photographed it and then printed the photo of the dress on another dress – one that is part of the collection. 

On another dress, 15th century artist Botticelli's masterpiece Primavera has been covered with floral embroideries, photographed and printed on a silk dress. The technique creates a three-dimensional illusion on the dresses – and of course the printing has Mother Earth in mind too. H&M has used a digital technique that doesn't waste any water. Despite the collection's historical references, it's most definitely made for our time with modern silhouettes and innovative materials. 

WHAT ITEMS ARE YOUR PERSONAL FAVOURITES?
“There is a coat that I absolutely love – we were inspired by a 200-year-old riding coat we found in the museum archive when we designed it. Also the earrings in Denimite and the slippers, they are perfect for parties,” says Ann-Sofie Johansson. 

THIS IS A GLAMOROUS COLLECTION. CAN IT BE WORN ELSEWHERE THAN TO COCKTAIL PARTIES AND RED CARPET EVENTS?
“Sure! It’s easy to style Conscious Exclusive in a more casual way and we want it to be wearable. Which it is. Of course, we have created a collection we feel is incredibly beautiful and I want whoever who owns the items to want to keep them in their wardrobe for a very long time.”
 

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THE COLLECTION IN NUMBERS


300 Years of fashion, art and architecture history that the design team has been inspired by

174 Number of stores that will carry the collection globally

22 Number of garments

16 Number of stores that will carry the limited edition dresses

8 Number of accessories

2 Number of earrings in Denimite

2 Pairs of shoes


Conscious Exclusive is available in selected stores and online from 7 April. The collection is sold in limited quantities – so act fast. Read about H&M's conscious actions here.

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