Earth Day is, by definition, a 24-hour period on April 22, but the eco-awareness really extends to the entire month — especially for H&M. Last night, the Swedish retailer celebrated the launch of H&M Conscious Exclusive Collection and the first ever World Recycling Week, with support from eco-activist Olivia Wilde. Along with partner Barbara Burchfield, the actress runs creative agency Conscious Commerce, which collaborated with H&M for a second year in a row to help bring awareness to the fast fashion giant's eco-friendly programs.
"We've partnered with them to just celebrate this initiative that they've taken, and I'm such a fan of all the effort they're putting toward this more sustainable fashion future. They really are redefining what it means to be fashion forward," said the actress, who recently wore a lace-ruffled bridal dress from the Conscious Exclusive Collection on "Late Night With Seth Meyers" to discuss her latest TV costume: a '70s-era unpruned merkin.
Launching on April 7, H&M's most recent eco-friendly capsule collection was created from sustainable and recycled materials and inspired by pieces from the Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs archives. The Swedish retailer also tapped M.I.A. to kick off World Recycling Week, a garment collection program that urges customers to bring unwanted pieces of clothing into 3,600 H&M locations worldwide from April 18 to 24.
"Not only [is H&M] investing in more sustainable materials and technology, they're also encouraging people to dispose of their clothing responsibly — which is wonderful because when we think of fast fashion, we don't think of the companies as having any regard for what people do with clothing. We equate them with waste," added Wilde, while marveling at the statistic that an average New York family throws away approximately 280 pounds of clothing a year. "H&M has chosen to take that head on and say, not only do we want to change the way we manufacture the clothes, we want to change the way that you dispose of them and we want to put way less into landfills."
The actress-slash-activist also walks the talk, bringing eco-awareness into her own shopping habits. "I like to buy from brands that invest in sustainability and I like to wear a lot of vintage," she said. "It's obviously the most sustainable way we can shop. It’s difficult to wear head-to-toe vintage, but I like to incorporate vintage pieces into my wardrobe, whether it's T-shirts or dresses or jackets or a lot of accessories, and I have learned a lot about vintage shopping since being on the show 'Vinyl.' It also allows you to have a little bit more of a story with what you're wearing."
Conducting a 100 percent sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle is a really huge commitment, but the Conscious Commerce co-founder is realistic about how much of her eco-values can be incorporated into her regular fashion and shopping habits.
"I mean, I wear a lot of denim and I wear a lot of leather and those are two industries that are incredibly wasteful," Wilde said. "Denim wastes a lot of water, but now there's the opportunity to buy recycled denim that H&M is working with, or buy organic cotton that's less wasteful and uses less pesticides, which obviously have an enormous environmental impact. None of us are perfect. I try to just incorporate as many pieces as I can into my existing wardrobe. I love my leather bomber jacket. I wear it almost every day, but I'll wear it with a vintage shirt or an H&M Conscious Exclusive dress and know that incrementally I'm making a difference just by slowly investing in pieces that are less damaging overall."
Wilde is known for wearing sustainable fashion on the red carpet, too; last year, she wore an H&M Conscious Exclusive T-shirt and abstract printed ballgown skirt to the Elle Style Awards. But during awards season, she knows she has to play the game. "The awards season is really intense and, I think in terms of fashion, it's an opportunity to wear some of the most beautiful clothes in the world," she said. "And as actresses, we're so lucky to have access to these one of a kind pieces, so I try to see it from that perspective and maintain the enthusiasm for fashion as art when it comes to those big events. But it is exhausting."
Too bad she can't just wear cushy, comfy and flat sneakers on what seems to be the interminable awards red carpet season — like someone very near and dear to her. (OK, fine, Jason Sudeikis, who's kind of known for his red carpet athletic shoe game.)
"I think it's cool [to wear sneakers on the red carpet]," Wilde said. "My fiancé does it all the time. If I could wear sneakers more on the red carpet, I would. I have short legs, so I always wear heels. But I think sneakers are always a good idea."