Andy Torres (and her blog Style Scrapbook) was the second blog(ger) I ever found, and first I read religiously. I remember spending hours on end going through years of her blog's archives, soaking up her content, ideas, personality, and style. Her move to Amsterdam with nothing but aspirations was inspiring, and her style was relatable (of course, a few months later I would discover my first Muslim fashion blog, as a pleasant surprise to little Hoda growing up in Oklahoma without other Muslim friends).

Two years after finding Andy's blog for the first time, much time spent naturally reflecting on my experiences growing up as Muslim hijab-wearing girl in the south, several frustrations with bloggers I followed and their collaborations with unethical brands, and many encouraging friends later, I decided to start my own editorial space and JooJoo Azad was born.

All this to say I owe Andy a lot when it comes to filling a sartorial void in little 17-year-old Hoda's life. But her seemingly-innocent latest collaboration with H&M works to erase war crimes and human rights violations in more ways than one. Let me explain.

Greenwashing: A Problematic Fast-Fashion Branding Trick 

H&M is not a new name to the JooJoo Azad Boycott list -- or human rights violations. Their over-stuffed factories in Cambodia (in which thousands of garment workers faint on the job annually due to poor working conditions and extensive hours on end) are nothing less of sweatshops. Four years after signing the Bangladesh safety accords after the horrible 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse, H&M's factories remain unsafe.

And yet, despite all this, somehow H&M is consistently able to paint themselves as progressive in their industry and dedicated to making a difference, with a focus on being 'conscious' or 'sustainable' fast-fashion. How? By creating collections labeled just that. The H&M 'conscious' collection prides itself on using materials and production methods that are better for the environment and mindfully sourced: organic cotton, recycled wool, and organic silk are just a few of the sexy/trendy buzzwords that make me think less of a fast-fashion clothing line and more of the gluten-free non-gmo vegan detox gentrifying cafe joints I made fun of on Snapchat while in Berkeley, CA.

Of course, while H&M's efforts at exploring and experimenting with sustainable fabrics and materials is commendable, my applause is (very) short.

Oxymorons of 'ethical' fast-fashion aside, H&M's conscious collections--which they are currently in their 6th year of producing--constitute 'greenwashing': an attempt to use self-proclaimed environmental sustainability to wash (or attempt to hide) the human rights abuses that the rest of their clothing is complicit in.

Because logically, if H&M has constructed an entirely separate 'sustainability' collection, what are they then implying about how the rest of their clothing is made?

Garment workers organizing with 'Labour Behind the Label,' demanding better wages and safety conditions / Photo: Labour Behind the Label

By creating a (very small) collection centered on sustainability, H&M is able to use this line to market themselves as 'green,' 'ethical,' and incomparable to other fast-fashion brands. They are able to take away the focus of their human rights violations of mass deforestation and use of sweatshop labor-like conditions by diverting attention toward a marketing tool: a 'conscious' collection made with organic products.
(yet somehow you can still buy a $5 'conscious' t-shirt, which definitely raises my thick Middle Eastern unibrow eyebrows)

Greenwashing is a strategic marketing/branding tool for fast-fashion companies: you are able to divert attention from the violence of your brand and market yourself as what you are not: ethical, sustainable, and conscious.

(Today, while greenwashing is still a practice that is alive and well, 'revolution-washing' (help me think of a more creative name pls) is quickly becoming the latest iteration of this problematic practice. And fast-fashion brands (including H&M) love using hijab-wearing models to do it.)

Not Just for Fast-Fashion Brands

The fun part about writing a political fashion blog is that everything is related: this practice isn't just designated to the fashion industry.

Israel, similar to H&M and other fast-fashion brands, is also great at washing things -- that and running an apartheid regime set on ethno/religious-supremacy. Except after washing, Israel's laundry comes out pink.

Among other types of 'washing,' Israel is most notable for 'pinkwashing': think greenwashing, except with all things queer/LGBTQI+. And, especially relevant to discuss right now given it's pride month, and you might have seen a few of these pinkwashing flags at your parades/marches.


Israel tries to brand itself as the "queer haven of the Middle East," and uses anti-Muslim and harmful portrayals of Muslim countries' relationships with LGBTQ issues in order to brand themselves as a safe sanctuary. The truth is, queer and trans Muslims very much do exist in the Middle East, and their complex experiences cannot be so easily simplified into good or bad.

But even more so, similar to fast-fashion brands' 'revolution-washing' (using hijab-wearing models for surface-level inclusion yet exploiting Muslim garment workers) or 'greenwashing,' Israel's pinkwashing and claims of inclusion is just as surface-level: Israel's military occupation of Palestine does not exempt queer Palestinians, they continue to blackmail gay Palestinians into becoming informants, and queer people continue to be stabbed and killed in gay-pride protests in Jerusalem.

Simply put, it's a strategic marketing tool for brands and regimes alike.

So, given a shared history of attempting to distract from their human rights violations using various 'washes,' H&M and Israel's come-together* for a travel campaign collaboration with the acclaimed blogger Andy Torres is just another spin in the old washing machine.

*While it is not confirmed that this was an intentional collaboration between H&M and the State of Israel (although such a collaboration would not be unprecedented), the fact of the matter still stands: H&M is complicit of whitewashing Israel's apartheid regime through this campaign. They are violating an international call of solidarity by Palestinians for the international community -- one that countless musicians, academics, scholars, and creative/cultural makers have signed on to -- and work to normalize what is far from normal: an apartheid state centered on ethno/religious supremacy. 

In their collaboration, Andy explored Tel Aviv, "the city that’s always down to party" wearing H&M head-to-toe. The editorial describes Israel as the "Land of Milk and Honey" -- an idiom generally understood to mean a land of richness where all is well and people are happy, but also a reference to the Old Testament (yes I've read it) and its descriptions of 'The promised land,' which is a religious root of some Jewish people's claim to Palestinian land. Under political Zionist ideology, Israel is a God-given land to Jewish people, and that means uprooting/destroying the indigenous Palestinian population in order to create a Jewish majority in 'the promised land' (and evidently, violating international human rights for fifty years in the process) 

In short, H&M's latest collaboration with Andy Torres works to portray a violent apartheid state as the world's next best travel destination.

Just as H&M tries to get away with branding itself as a 'green' fast-fashion brand, Israel also tries to brand itself as feminist, progressive, home of sexy soldiers, a safe-haven for LGBTQI+ people, and now with H&M's support, a top tourist destination. Never mind that many of the stops on Andy's travel were built atop the destruction of Palestinian homes and villages -- she wants to party and look cute doing it wearing H&M's $7 off-the-shoulder blouse!

Dance the night away, Andy!

And yet, just as you cannot be apolitical as a white person doing an advertisement campaign in South Africa during apartheid (given power structures that are built for white colonists at the expense of the indigenous Black population), this trip to Israel cannot be played off as apolitical.

There is nothing apolitical about a fashion editorial story that works to wash out (whether intentionally or not) war crimes and make normal what is not: Israeli apartheid. 

The infamous Israeli Apartheid wall, heavily militarized and controlled by Israel, continuously ever-expanding into Palestinian land. / Photo: South Africa BDS Committee

Of course, for avid readers of JooJoo Azad (I see you!), you know I'm always of the argument that all fashion is wholly political, period. So, this campaign acts as a further hyper-politicization of an already powerful form of visual communication.

And this isn't the first time H&M's love affair with Israel is being called out by international human rights activists: in 2010 the company decided to open a flagship store in Tel Aviv and 6 other major stores on stolen and illegal land, including in the 'Malha Mall' in Jerusalem:

"Malha is one of the Palestinian villages that were ethnically cleansed during the 1948 Nakba and whose original Palestinian inhabitants are refugees denied their UN-sanctioned right to return to their lands. Israel, to this day, continues its policies of ethnic cleaning in Jerusalem by evicting Palestinians from their homes and replacing them with Jewish colonial settlers and by constructing tens of thousands of housing units for those settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory. All Israeli colonies are regarded as war crimes under the Fourth Geneva Convention."

Not only is H&M complicit in erasing Israeli international war crimes, but they are actively building upon illegally-attained land and working to re-shape the brand of Israel to what it is not. So, whether through greenwashing sustainability or whitewashing war crimes and international human rights violations, H&M's spot on the JooJoo Azad Boycott List has been rightfully earned.  


Join us for an 'Instagram Live' discussion on this piece July 2nd at 11am CST! 

In order to make JooJoo Azad more accessible & engaging, I'm hosting an Instagram Live conversation as a complement for each piece as a time/space where you can agree, disagree, ask questions, and join in on the real-time!

Instagram: @hodakatebi

For the conversation on this piece, I'm excited to be joined by my good friend Leila Abdelrazaq, Palestinian graphic novelist, & community organizer. You can read more of her work, which has been featured and on display internationally, here.

See you soon ;)


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