This new campaign of H&M’s is pretty insane if we’re looking at where the fashion industry, where the people featured in these series are either considered “fringe” or not considered at all. Beyond Mariah Idrissi’s hijab, the video features a young man wearing a simple pencil skirt, full-blown cross-dressers, Japanese lolita dress, traditional Japanese dress, Sikh turbans, mouth guards, a sheikh, and an amputee boxer.
Personally, having attended one of the most diverse universities in the world, where I’ve fostered friendships all across the board, and where the Muslim Girl blog got its beginnings, I actually think there are other characters way more interesting to me. I’d like the US to stop being so surprised that people who look and dress differently exist within their worlds, and I honestly thought we were getting somewhere with Muslim and Sikh dress, but I guess that’s just within the bubble of my university life and my friend group. Figures.
One thing that surprised me a little is that Elnaz Barari maintains that H&M does not take political or religious stands; unfortunately for Ms. Barari, the H&M’s board, and Ms. Idrissi, this, and everything else they’ve been doing to create a sustainable business model, is a political stand. Showcasing fringe and saying that everyone is welcome is taking a stand. At least according to conservatives it would be. And so here we are, where “It might be because hijab fashion has boomed in the last few years and to finally see a hijabi in mainstream fashion is a big achievement.”
Now, H&M as a company has been fairly decent at social consciousness, especially after Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed, killing more than a thousand people and injuring two thousand more. In case the name is misleading, Rana Plaza was a commercial building and housed several different garment factories. Regarded as one of the deadliest garment factory accidents in history, it puts the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire to shame. H&M agreed to sign a binding agreement to work towards worker safety, and would work towards giving them a fair and living wage by 2018. They also do a number of other socially conscious programs including Water Conscious Denim, Sustainable Cotton, and a partnership with UNICEF.
This new campaign is called Close the Loop, and intends to create clothes recycling awareness by asking customers to come into stores and give away clothes to repurpose through their garment collection program.