Going Green With Recycled Polyester

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How dire is the situation surrounding higher commodities prices? Maybe enough to see more retailers take plastics likely destined for the junkyard and turn them into polyester.

Marketed as a green fashion line, H&M launches its "Conscious Collection" today. It features 96 pieces for women, men and children made with environmentally and sustained materials—such as recycled polyester.

The collection has already gone Hollywood ahead of its official launch. Racked.com shows actress Natalie Portman wearing a $49.95 H&M recycled polyester dress at a Vanity Fair party in February. There's a similar one on H&M's new advertisement for $19.95.

The Swedish fast fashion retailer is getting its recycled polyester from pet bottles or textile waste.

It's a concoction that could reap profits for H&M and keep cost-conscious consumers in the game. Going synthetic could be a way to keep prices down in an environment where cotton and energy prices are soaring.

Britt Beemer, chairman of consumer behavior survey research firm America's Research Group, says H&M has been the most bold with its marketing of recycled polyester.

Recycled polyester dress
Source: H&M
Recycled polyester dress

He believes as long as the fabric is durable, easy to clean, chic and cheap, it will be an easy sell to consumers.

"What will happen is that as cotton goes up, it will force more retailer to turn to alternative fabrics—especially for their private label brands. All of H&M are private label brands. How soon until Macy's has a product like this and other companies with private labels?" asked Beemer. He said answer could be very soon.

Ironically, at the same time, H&M is also featuring organic cotton in its new collection. Despite the meteoric rise in cotton prices, H&M says it is sticking to the niche crop.

"Instead of passing on these cost increases to customers, we chose to strengthen our price position in order to build further on our strong market position long term," said Jennifer Ward, H&M spokesperson.

The overall impact on the retail industry from record cotton prices is expected to be more visible by autumn. By then, consumers may get their fill of polyester. Recycled or not.


Stephanie is Squawk Box producer. Follow her on twitter @StephLandsman

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