Conscious. The Salon 58 x H&M experience.

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When asked how consumers can start to make a difference themselves amid such a culture of consumption, H&M design alumni McCartney has publicly said the key lies in being more mindful. “We’ve forgotten we make the choices. When you’re consuming, ask questions… With fashion, look at the product and its price point. Look at its environment too – see if there are 700 others on the rail, or three on the rail. Look at how it’s made to understand what’s in it. Think of it like a recipe list, as you do with food,” So, small wonder then that Jackie Burger and H&M collaborated on Salon 58’s latest soirée that focussed on sustainability in fashion this Saturday past at Cape Town’s Gallery Momo. Burger opened the day, in her usual understated but powerful reflection, “looking and feeling good is not about empty-headed consumption, it is all about creative liberation and empowerment. It starts with being comfortable with your personal and authentic self-expression. Fashion should never dictate what we can or cannot wear.”

So, as you’re reading this ask yourself the question, how much did your outfit cost? Chances are, much more than you think. The clothing industry is the second-largest global polluter – after oil – and its complex production techniques and supply chains create a myriad of environmental issues. It takes 2,700 litres of water, according to a recent article on HuffingtonPost to make one t-shirt. As many of us are seriously worried about the drought that is plaguing our country, this simple fact already should give us pause for thought. But slowly education curriculum are incorporating sustainability theory and practice, and encouraging ethical behaviour, amongst its learners. But just as we are all guilty of satiating our ever growing demand for the latest, newest, freshest fashion it was a refreshing experience to attend an event where one of the world’s leading fast-fashion brands is boldly advocating the way forward with their own conscious collections and corporate commitment.

“H&M’s Conscious Exclusive collection shows how the best style can be mindful of the planet to help protect it for the future. It’s such a desirable collection, with pieces made from sustainable materials that you want to wear for seasons to come” said Natalia Vodianova, the face of the campaign and founder of Elbi, a philanthropy digital platform that is offering unique ways for people to support charities beyond traditional monetary donations. To illustrate how easy it can be to take a more sustainable approach to fashion, guests were asked to bring unwanted clothes and drop them into the recycling bins provided by H&M’s global Garment Collecting Initiative. Since its launch, over 35 000 tonnes of garments have been collected. In exchange, shoppers are rewarded with vouchers to use towards their next H&M purchase.

And this was the point of today. Ms Burger, a strong proponent that actions, rather than just using our words, are what is needed to move to a conscious way of thinking in everything we do every day. Also putting their money where their mouth is, the Swedish retailer has committed to radically alter its practices in its 2016 Sustainability Report (read here). The range of trousers, shirts, dresses and skirts is all made from recycled and/or sustainably produced fabrics and materials. Centre stage was a gossamer pink evening gown made from soft chiffon that once was plastic bottles washed up on a beach.

In addition to this trademarked Bionic fabric, H&M is the world’s biggest user of cotton certified by the Better Cotton Initiative. Their goal is to use only recycled or sustainably sourced fabrics by 2030 and to be climate positive through the company by 2040. This undertaking starts with using only renewable energy in the production chain. Burger and H&M’s Amelia-May Woudstra were joined by select panellists for the conversation around conscious living and what it means for each of them. As SARIE editor Michelle van Breda put it, “there is a way of doing things differently in life. There is a way of thinking differently in life.” From a fashion point of view, fashion researcher and anthropologist Erica de Greef pointed out that this requires slowing down instead of constantly racing to keep up. “The industry will change with us if we choose more carefully, responsibly, consciously.”

Seven-year-old Phoebe Ahrens and Kateline Swanepoel added their young voices to the mix and their concern for the welfare of others as well as the planet was a hard-hitting reminder to the adults in the room. Tarryn Oppel, Marie Claire’s fashion director; architect Ilze Wolff and photographer Gerda Genis all highlighted different aspects of this “new way of thinking” – Oppel by reclaiming her off-duty time, Genis by eating to nourish and feed her body and Wolf by reconsidering what spaces included and excluded in her designs. This last point was underlined by creative director Alwijn Burger of Blomboy who used pared-down décor with undecorated white plastic chairs as a reminder that we do not need as much as we often think.

It wouldn’t be a Salon 58 soirée without exquisite drinks in this case provided by The Duchess Virgin Gin and Tonic, Graham Beck MCC and Juicebox’s fresh fruit juice. Johnny Hamman of Slippery Spoon fame served raw vegetable rolls and nourishing broth, and set-up the Snap, Crackle & Pop cereal bar – all served in eco-friendly bowls. This soirée also doubled as the official launch of the H&M Conscious Collection in South Africa and the highlight for many was the pop-up shop where guests could buy their favourites well before the range’s in-store launch on April 20th.

Ms Burger also shared, in confidence of course, that her next salon will be on 24th June and thereafter she will launch a series of smaller, tailored Salon 58 events that will focus on personal style. So you have no excuse not to join and be a part of the magic, wonderment and spherical experience that these soirées truly are.