Derelicte: Trashy Clothes Are So in Right Now

In the movie “Zoolander,” fictional fashion guru Mugatu focuses his entire clothing line around the homeless. His new “Derelicte” campaign boasts women in trash bag couture, black eye shadow like soot smeared across their faces. Mugatu’s superficial embrace of homeless culture provides a satirical look at fashion’s relentless search for edginess, for fashion that is “so hot right now,” baby.

Last week, revelations that Swedish fast-fashion company H & M was destroying surplus stock rather than donating it to the homeless has offered a look at another facet of the fashion industry.

The New York Times reported that one of the company’s Manhattan stores was destroying and trashing out-of-season clothes. Huge plastic bags were discovered on 35th Street, just around the corner from a collection point for New York Cares, a local charity that puts on an annual coat drive. Although Nicole Christie, a spokesperson for H & M, has since promised that this is not standard procedure and that “it will not happen again,” what does this incident say about fashion retailer?

H&M wants to appear edgy, hip, in with the in and all that junk. They want to make sure that the people who like to buy their overpriced clothing don’t see it on someone they pass by on the sidewalk on the way to their cars.

H&M promotes itself as a high-end discount clothing store. Unlike the typical Forever 21 discount store, H&M collaborates with high-end fashion designers such as Jimmy Choo, Comme de Garcons and Roberto Cavalli. Perhaps these collaborations contributed to the company’s preference to destroy their clothes rather than donate them; you just can’t have homeless people wearing Jimmy Choo’s. The designer collaborations add to the cache of the company, which means that they’d rather punch holes in their clothes than let the impoverished masses wear them on a cold New York day.

What pushes H&M’s actions from socially questionable to downright hypocritical is that the company has recently jumped the green bandwagon. Just this past week, the company announced its “Spring Garden” line. H&M’s marketing campaign pushes that “the romantic garden collection is made using organic and recycled materials” such as organic cotton, organic linen, recycled polyester, and tencel in striving to be environmentally friendly. Huh. Recycling, as in, damaging and discarding pristine clothing? The company seems to be green only when it is convenient.

On its Web site, H&M also claims to be saving paper by shrinking their shipping labels. That makes perfect sense – as long as you make sure your shipping labels aren’t bigger than, say, the holes you are punching into your perfectly fine, unworn clothing, you are being quite environmentally friendly, H & M. Right.

So what really is behind these misdeeds? “Zoolander”’s fashion guru Mugatu used the Derelicte line as an ornate distraction from his ultimate goal of training Derek Zoolander to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia. While we don’t know how the Prime Minister of Malaysia feels about H&M, we sense some hypocrisy.

There are obviously better ways to be green. According to Soex Group’s Web site, the large scale textile recycling company “recycles more than 98 percent of the 300,000,000 pounds of clothing that pass through its factories,” while always looking toward achieving the goal of Zero Waste. This company promotes re-wear, re-use and re-cycle. Look, H & M: Some companies can talk the talk and walk the walk.

Yet H&M is not the only company to claim one thing and do another. Los Angeles based company American Apparel boasts the image of being anti-sweatshop and promotes the ethos of labor rights.

Despite that guise, owner Dov Charney has been sued three times for workplace sexual harassment. If Charney goes to any random branch of his store and he finds a worker less than aesthetically pleasing, he orders that they work back in the stockroom and not on out on the floor. Yet he fights for gay rights and immigration reform. He attributes his mannerisms to an open-minded way of thinking, but how can American Apparel claim it is worker-friendly and still demean its workers in such a way?

How can we reconcile the discrepancies between what these companies say and what they do? What can be the explanation for H&M claiming itself environmentally friendly while still ruining and throwing away its own unused product?

We on the New University Editorial Board have figured it out. H&M plans to kill the Prime minister of Malaysia. We’re on to you, H&M.

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