Swedish fashion house Filippa K are leading the way one green footprint at a time. Producing eco-conscious clothes on a global scale is no easy task, but against the odds and with grit and determination, Filippa K is proving that mass market design can be produced in a more holistic way. They are turning fashion's voracious appetite for more on its head by encouraging a "shift in industry perspective from fast slow". By putting out classic designs, they show that "sim-plicity is the purest form of luxury."
And it's not just sustainability that the brand with a £62 million annual turnover are channeling but equal rights too. Jodi Everding, the Fabric and Trim Manager and Sustaina-bility Coordinator, and Emilia Castles, the Menswear Designer, are just two of the 240 employees, 79% of whom are female. In this interview we get to talk to Filippa K about their astounding effort and about what having a transparent nature means for them. All other fashion brands, take note.
Top left: Photo from campaign by Filippa K
Top right: EMEILIA CASTLES
Bottom right: JODI EVERDING
Filippa K is one of the only designers to be equally regarded for their symbiosis between design and sustainable creation. Did you initially conceive of the brand as environmentally aware or was this something you learnt about a few years down the line?
Jodi: Since 1993, Filippa K has been creating long-lasting and timeless garments; our values of style, simplicity and quality have been with us from the start. We have never had a separate sustainability team, so making mindful decisions is the responsibility of every person working at Filippa K. Over the years, we've put some frameworks in place to help us make more sustainable choices. Since 2012, we have had a Fibre Tool to help us select more sustainable materials. And then in 2014, we initiated our circular fashion framework (Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle), which factors into all aspects of our business.
Do you think it’s ever possible for a brand to be 100% sustainable when ultimately, you're encouraging the customer to want more, need more and buy more?
Jodi: We are trying to drive a movement of mindful consumption by promoting a lifestyle of buying and using fewer pieces for a longer time — so we're trying to break this cycle of overconsumption and slow things down. Of course, people still have a desire to wear seasonal and occasion pieces, but we try to encourage them to feed this need by buying secondhand or leasing garments. We have had our own secondhand shop since 2008, and we have online partners who also sell our secondhand larlents, as well as provide an option for people to lease our clothes. Because our clothes are timeless and made of high-quality materials, we plan for people to keep them a very long time. And research shows that extending the life of a garment by just 9 months can reduce the environmental impact by 20-30%.
You quite rightly have a long-term plan when it comes to supporting the environment alongside running a successful business. What do you hope to achieve in the near future? And how will you implement these goals?
Jodi: Right now, we are focusing on traceability and collaboration within our supply chain and with other brands. We are using a blockchain-powered online platform to help us have full traceability on more of our products. With this set-up, we are also trying to encourage collaboration among our existing suppliers (by sharing new fibres or more sustainable processes with our key suppliers), as well as with other brands. We are also working to increase the share of our core collection, which are the seasonless garments that never go on sale. And we continue to push for long-lasting quality — but from new sources, like wool coming locally from Sweden.
How would you define your 'Collect concept', '2nd hand store' and lease concepts? When did you set them up and where are they based?
Jodi: We have had our own secondhand store in Stockholm since 2008, and it's been profitable from the day we opened! We have been collecting old FK garments from our customers for a few years now (they get a 20% coupon when donating old garments), and we either sell these online through our partner, Varie, or we donate them to charity. We are feeling very inspired these days to see what other things we can do with the old FK garments we collect, because we know that these are still beautiful and worthwhile pieces. So, in the fall we will investigate that a bit more with the design team. With our plan to lease clothes, we had a pilot project in a few of our stores in Stockholm, but after we found a great online partner (It's Re:Leased) to manage the rentals of our FK garments we decided to have it exclusively available online.
What do you mean in your 2018 sustainability report where you mention that you select "less carbon intense modes of transport"?
Jodi: For our incoming Asian consignments we always aim to use sea transport. We only air freight when production is delayed, or high demand means we need a rapid turnaround for the supply of goods. For our European goods, we use road transportation but evaluate other solutions when possible. We have increased European production overall but have decreased the total distance goods are travelling. We are also researching train transport as a new shipment option for goods coming from Asia. We feel this could be a good alternative to air shipment in many cases.
For our CO2 emissions, we measure performance metrics in terms of the amount of CO2 released per distance travelled (in tonnes per kilometre). In 2018, we were able to decrease the number of incoming deliveries shipped by air compared to last year. The increase of our online export sales affects the number of air freighted deliveries for outgoing goods.
What are your aforementioned 'environmental requirements' within your Travel Policy?
Jodi: We require employees to take the most sustainable method of transport, encouraging taking the train instead of flying when feasible.
What is the 'Eternal Trenchcoat'? Why did you decide to make it out of polyester — a material that is usually considered to be harmful for the environment?
Jodi: The idea behind the Eternal Trenchcoat was to create a super long-lasting and slow garment — and polyester is one of the most durable and long-lasting materials available, even though it is so often used in "fast fashion" clothes. We partnered with a Swedish company called We Are SpinDye to create a solution-dyed fabric made of 100% recycled polyester. This means that the fabric was not traditionally piece-dyed, but that the colour is actually put in at the fibre stage, which uses much less water and fewer chemicals than fabrics coloured in the traditional way. We have been working with researchers at
the Research Institutes of Sweden to test the material in regard to the microplastic shedding, as it has been hypothesised that solution-dyed, recycled polyester sheds less than a virgin polyester dyed in the traditional way. We will have these results later this year. Until then, we sell the Guppy Friend washing bag to help reduce the microplastic shedding when washing these and other polyester garments.
Your 'Throw Away Dress' is a fantastic answer to a hyper-consuming consumer. Do you hope to roll this out in all of your designs in the near future?
Emilia: The Throw Away Dress was an interesting way of exploring how Filippa K could tackle the idea of fast fashion. The pilot allowed us to explore people's buying habits and why many people feel the need to buy fast fashion. We were also able to see the resources currently on the market to make sustainable short-life garments. We believe that this could be one of the solutions to the fast fashion problem. However, the project would need to be refined further before we would be able to put it on the market. We have always been a slow fashion company and believe that it is better to focus on our sustainability efforts rather than trying to do too many things. But it would be a fantastic concept for a start-up brand to take on!
Extending the life of a garment by just 9 months can reduce the ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT by 20-30%.
Tell me about your 2020 target for 60% of your collection to be repairable, compared to 2018's 50%.
Jodi: This goal is part of the Global Fashion Agenda 2020 commitments. Of course, we will keep pushing for high-quality materials and purposeful designs that can be repaired and cared for. It's hard to put the durability and repairability of our garments in measurable terms, but these are values that are integral to the clothes we create.
Obviously you're a big company with a big budget. Do you think it's harder for an up-and-coming brand to be as sustainable as you? What advice would you give to them?
Jodi: Honestly, our size is both a benefit and a challenge! We are not as big as many other brands on the market today so we struggle to achieve the minimum order of sizes needed for certain sustainable fibres, for example. But this smaller size also gives us better flexibility — to make quick decisions and work faster toward the things we believe in. For up and coming brands, I think the keys are focus and collaboration. Focus is important so new brands don't stretch themselves too thin and try to do too many things. There are so many brands already in existence, so a newer brand must have a clear understanding of why they are producing new things, as well as their responsibility to produce them in a sustainable way. And collaboration is key to finding suppliers who are working in a sustainable way, as well as to increase the knowledge about sustainability among brands and suppliers. We're all in this together!
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