Be the change you want to see in the world - Gandhi

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

H&M and The Pareto Principle

Two weeks ago while I was blissfully enjoying the spring air, riding my shiny new red bike to work, unbeknownst that I would become a victim of a hit and run and the recipient of a broken arm/wrist. Hence my sad absence from writing; it is unbearably slow typing with one hand! However, my rage has subsided and I have come to terms with the fact that I can now only really wear about 20% of my wardrobe due to my cast. Which, oddly enough is not too different from the percentage of clothing that I normally wear from my wardrobe. I kind of am a uniform girl and constantly gravitate to a certain set/style of clothing. In fact, the majority of people adhere to the 80/20 Pareto Principle when it comes to their wardrobe. We really do wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time and the other 80% we only wear 20% of the time. For me, the challenge is how do I eliminate that 80% that is taking up so much room for such little face time?

Normally this elation and freedom I feel of really not having to put too much thought into what I wear only comes around when I'm travelling. Backpacks only hold so much room and I'd rather save the space for treasures and goodies I pick up along the way. This cast along with my 1 year pledge to not buy clothes in the Free Fashion Challenge ( has left me feeling out of the loop but also perhaps a bit more free and happy (it is a little painful and hard at times for this fashion junky I will admit). The pain is dulled because I do have the option of making clothes for myself and hopefully use up some of the material taking over my closet. The biggest reward I think will be the fact that I won't be adding to the 80% of my wardrobe that I seemingly don't wear. Oh, and the money savings.

So what does this have to do with H&M? Well, with the launch of their 2012 Conscious Collection a few days away, I couldn't help but analyze their great effort (which so happens to also be part of my thesis). I have to pat them on the back for their efforts because putting yourself out there in the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) game unfortunately opens you up to criticism on your efforts. So yes, H&M's CSR activities are courageous and a huge step in the right direction. There are, however, a few things to think about.

I don't really understand why their 'conscious' efforts cannot extend year around, running through all their regular seasonal collections? I've seen a few random pieces here and there but not much at all compared to what they produce regularly. The big hoopla over one or two collections per year may be perceived as more of a media ploy than anything. I also feel that a truly 'conscious' collection would be one that caters to that dear 20% that we wear 80% of the time, not more 80%er's. Frankly, when you look at the majority of H&M's product, oh let's say 80% is seemingly catering to that 80% we buy but rarely wear. They are the 'it' guys for disposable clothing/looks.

H&M has answered my questions through a recent webinar hosted by NICE (a Nordic sustainable fashion initiative) that while they do produce a lot of product, it is the CONSUMER'S RESPONSIBILITY to choose wisely. That I can agree with, we are responsible for the choices we make. However, H&M can also be a responsible producer by offering a better product that will last longer and making less of it, they shouldn't promote conspicuous consumption and unnecessary spending. Fact is, if it's out there to be sold, someone will eventually buy it. I understand they are a fast fashion company but fast fashion is starting to get old itself. The trend cycles are so fast I swear I've bought the same cheap sequined top three times over in the past decade. Fast fashion is all about the 80% and maybe it's time to banish Pareto and come up with a new principle for fashion clothing because there is just way too much of it around. I think consumer's need to be wiser and more responsible and so should the producers. 

Don't get me wrong, I do think there is importance to that 80% but after having looked at my 80%, it definitely doesn't need to be 80% of the clothes I own. The cocktail dresses are necessary for those random functions, the interview outfit, your 5" party stilettos etc. These are important staples for the random 20% time you need them. The acid wash skinny Cheap Monday jeans that I wore for all of 6 seconds, not so much a keeper. Should really not have bought them but oh there they are, taking up space because I feel guilty about getting rid of them. That, those acid wash jeans, are the 80% that need to go and NOT be replaced. The challenge continues. I would like the 20% that I wear 80% to be more like 90% of my wardrobe that I wear 90% of the time and 10% for those random 10% times I need them. 

So here are some shots of the upcoming H&M Conscious Collection and well maybe not this year but if i think that's it's a 20%er, it might be worth the investment. It definitely is not worth it if i think it will end up being an 80% (or for me hopefully - 90/10 rule). Don't buy it though just because it's eco and you never have any intention of wearing it; it's just playing into the same game. Either way, they have done well and should be acknowledged and applauded for doing what a lot of other companies are not doing at all.