The Wardrobe of the Future.
What will the future wardrobe look like? Elin Larsson, Sustainability Manager at Filippa K has a very interesting approach to find it out: In self-experiments she plays with new ways of consuming fashion while keeping the importance to express individuality in mind. The 40 pieces wardrobe is one of them. 40 pieces? Sounds reasonable, doable. But when we look at our own wardrobes and about what we don't "need", we realize: It ain't that easy. So we were curious to hear how she does it and of course what drives her.
THE 40 PIECES WARDROBE.
During on year she decided to try out what the optimized, perfect wardrobe would look like. During this year she only has 40 pieces in her wardrobe and each time she buys something new or old something else must go out. The challenge: Anything taken out must either be sold to somebody else or passed on to a dear friend or if it is too worn out or has stains it has to go into recycling.
Elin started at Filipa K. twenty-one years ago—the company had existed for about three years and there were five people working for them—as an assistant, taking orders, answering the phone, driving to the stores to take back claims. She was within the Logistics in the national Sales to build up new markets and then in the Sales support into Logistic Manager and then became Supply Chain Manager. It was with that position that she detected the need to address Sustainability in a different way.
And this was just the beginning...
If people would really know how much effort and passion and how many hands actually touch each garment, how many resources were needed to create this one piece, I think people would love and respect their clothes much more.
THE DETAILS. SWEDEN, FEBRUARY 2017
Elin, what means Fashion for you?
Fashion for me is a way of expressing yourself and to be able to express yourself individually, so maybe it is more a style than a trend. In some way, I can love fashion, because it is like an art form, but we need to find a way of respecting that as well. It is an art form, but also a handcraft.
Fast Fashion promises satisfaction by buying new stuff as much and often as possible. Do we really need so much Fashion?
I think there will always be a need for us humans to update ourselves, because clothing and fashion is the way of expressing who we are, who we want to be or how we want people to see us. Different people have different needs and some change slow and some need faster change so for some of us it is okay to wear a jacket for a few years, but for some this is even not considerable.
The way we consume fashion today when it is about fast fashion is bad, you buy something new you wear it – the average time in Sweden to wear a blouse is approximately between 5 to 7 times - and then it goes to the disposal. Looking at it from that perspective, it is not good, but there is one way of looking at fashion and, how the system looks today. You can update yourself fast, either buy something new that can last for a long time and once you get tired of it, make sure it doesn’t end up in the disposal, but rather be sold or given to someone else or to charity so it can keep living. If you buy second-hand or swap clothes with your friends, then you can have a fast rotation with fashion without being really bad. That is here and now. If you look at it in the future prospective I think we will be bale to satisfy different needs but within the planetary boundaries or doing it in a sustainable way.
How can fashion satisfaction be achieved?
Through different rhythms for different people. When talking about communication and media and brands doing marketing, we need to be much better in creating confidence in people rather than making them insecure and giving them the feeling that they need to adopt to the latest trends in order to be accepted. What I would love to see is a much more individual personal style and fashion, so that people can be confident in who they are and buy the things they need in their prospective.
What will the future of fashion look like in your opinion?
I would compare it with magazines and books, you have those daily newspapers, you read them and then it goes in the recycling for newspapers and that’s fine, because that’s a satisfying need for us. On the other hand, you have those beautiful books that you put on the coffee table, almost like show-off pieces. There is so much effort put in to make them look beautiful and that satisfies another need. We can see that kind of mixture in the same way for clothes in the future.
What is counted into the 40 pieces wardrobe?
The 40 pieces are only clothing, no underwear, no sportswear, shoes or outdoor clothing included. For me I ended up with quite many t-shirts for instance and a colleague of mine who is following this project said, well it’s interesting, because if I ended up seeing which type of garments I had it would be very few t-shirts, as I almost never wear t-shirts. That also shows how individual it is what you feel comfortable in. You also realize that for me t–shirts are essential, but also denim, slacks, suit jackets and at least two or three shirts.
Which kind of items do you allow into your wardrobe?
The criteria for clothes to join my wardrobe is that they need to fit for different occasions, this is really important otherwise it is just a piece that hangs too long in the wardrobe without usage. Quality as well as the fitting is really important too, because you need to feel confident in your clothes. I also try to picture with what pieces I can combine this garment when I buy a piece. It needs to be able to be combined with at least 5 other garments from my wardrobe. So that’s a way to make sure it will have a high usage.
Does it also include how it is made or what is it made of? Do you follow certain criteria for new products you buy?
It is important what it is made of and how it is made, but sometimes - that’s the difficulty with fashion it is so emotional, for example when you are in the grocery store and there is the conventional and organic ketchup it is really easy to resist, it is rational, it is logic, but with clothes, it is about the fall, the draping, the feeling…so sometimes even if I know that it is not the most sustainable product I end up buying it. I still think that it will live with me for a long time, so still it is an improvement. Otherwise I usually try to be very conscious with what I buy, either recycle materials or Tencel, I love Tencel. I also love wool, I am a person who freezes quite a lot, but I love wool as a fabric quite well. I am a little bit frustrated that the industry classifies wool to be a less good material.
With all the love for your garments, that stay over years with you, do you also take care of them in a special way?
The care of the garments is for example really easy with wool, because it cleans itself, you just air it and it becomes fresh again, I also do a lot of spot cleaning rather than putting it in the washing machine. I also have those old-style brushes, so I brush the clothes. If you brush your clothes at an early stage, it will be nice and smooth again without creating those pills, if it already has created pills, I have this fantastic sweater stone, a pimp stone, that really removes all the stuff. I also have a second-hand cardigan, that was ripped by the colour and I sew it together. What I would like to do what I haven’t done yet is that if you have a light-coloured dress and you got a stain and you could work with applications and put a patch on it, kind of remake the design. Repairing techniques can be so beautiful, I haven’t gotten into it yet, I think I am afraid that I am not talented enough, but we will see.
There are a lot of new services, that companies offer around fashion. What kind of services of a fashion company do you personally fancy–and make use of?
Actually there are only two services I use, it is the handing in, like take back garments systems and then rent systems, for example, last year I rented my ski outfit, because it wouldn’t be very smart to buy one for the few occasions and it would take so much space in your closet. I rent it at Houdini, it is a Swedish Sportswear brand, they actually won the ELLE conscious award this time and are also working towards a complete circular economy. So Tuesday next week we are launching a digital platform together for rental in Sweden, it won’t be available in Germany.
Could there be another service you think of that you would make use of personally, that would be good to have for you perfect wardrobe strategy?
I would love to have a wardrobe service, who would come to me and help me to put things together and sort out to show me new sways of putting my garments together. What I would also like to experience were evaluating a subscription models, because the lease model we have today that can’t satisfy, because it is mostly for special occasions when you rent, but if you become a member of Filipa K. or somebody else and you have a subscription that you get like 2 pieces every month; Not only new pieces and they end in the waste, because that already exists, more like a sharing wardrobe that rotates between different users that are also part of that subscription model.
Some costumer have negative associations with second hand or shared usage, as they had to share garments with their brothers and sisters – what is the difference today? What are today’s reasons to appreciate shared wardrobes?
I think it depends on how you do it and keep up the level of freshness and luxury or most important the quality feeling, because we need to make sure that the clothes that are in rotation are of high quality and of high standards. I also think that there might be different needs as well, so the more sensitive customers might be first time user of the subscription and they would always get the new clothes, maybe at a higher price, but then you can take those clothes and send it to them who pay a smaller amount per month and don’t mind if the clothes have been used before and rotate within the group. And after all you sell it as second-hand.
With these services companies can take care that things are used as often as possible?
The high usage of fashion, each garment is the key to sustainability.
Why is it so important?
Then you get the value for the effort that has been put in each garment, because it gets used over an over, so it doesn’t become a dust collecting piece in your wardrobe, then it wouldn’t have served its purpose.
Is all about understanding the value of the garments?
So looking at the older generation is maybe one extreme, but looking at the very young that change style and find their own identity and express it through garments, is another. For them the idea of buying garments for a long time would just not suit, so how would their ideal wardrobe would look like?
A smaller wardrobe in which you invest in basic pieces that you do wear and that stay with you for a long time and then have a bigger portion of that wardrobe that comes from a clothing library where you got a membership. So that’s a way of adding different styling to those basic pieces you have in the wardrobe instead of buying. I think that the people unwilling to wear pre-used things or clothes are changing, at least in Sweden, because everybody matures awareness. People are more open for new ways of consuming.
It might be a relief to have far les stuff to care for, too and you have a better overview of your belongings?
It definitely is a relief to only have things you use and care for. Another phenomenon also is that I would walk up to my cramped wardrobe every morning and didn’t even know what to wear, while right now it’s rather like light and airy and I feel like wearing this and that. It makes me happier and I save so much time and frustration I think. As a matter of fact, the pieces all are somehow emotionally related and bring a story with it.
And almost all pieces are very personally and kind of emotionally touching and somehow favourite pieces? Was it difficult to say goodbye?
It was indeed really hard to say goodbye to some clothes, actually I sold one long, black Gala dress I had only worn for once, it was from a limited collection from Filipa K. from 2013 I think. It was made in Stockholm from a seamstress, out of silk, just amazing, but you know I have only worn it once so I had to sell it, so I sold to Filipa K. it will be part of an auction where they sell limited products.
What is the key for change – a changing mind-set of the user or change of the industry?
Creating a good feeling about it, making it more sexy, more fun, don’t talk about sustainability even, make inspiration and also, people need to see actual solutions because we have been talking for quite some time, but they need to be shown, this is how you can do it, so I think that I one of the keys.
What is key for the user of fashion to understand?
The only thing they have to do is to take back the garments so they can be recycled or re-used and if they get rewarded for that, if they have incentives to hand the garments back they will do it.
As a final question: Fashion and Textile often have been the driver for change, like in the first industrialization, or the jacquard weaving system being the start of the computer language, do you also think fashion now, if we get it to a healthy system can become a driver again?
In different ways, both in terms of materials, what will be the future material we will be working with? It is not going to be the palette that we have today, so of course a lot of recycled materials, but right now we know how to get green house gazes out, extracted, harvested from the air and can make oil out of it again, since we already do this and they make plastics out of this carbon, then you could probably make textiles out of it and you would have a climate positive jacket for instance that would be great. So I think working with algae’s, working with cleaning wastewater, we have a lot of things in our waste water, what if we can harvest the things there, either the micro plastics in the future; or I also know that this fantastic young woman in Sweden, she started her own algae company where they use algae’s to clean wastewater and it is a whole circle model and what is happening is you get the clean water but then you have by-products which is kind of bio waste oil, so what is waste for others might actually be resources to us. We already have seen this with the coffee grounds or making textiles with oranges or pineapple waste…I am also interested in looking to for instance the whole farming industry, you have a lot of cellulose that is wasted when you harvest corn or whole-grain, can we use that?
Production methods will dramatically change, the way we consume and distribute fashion, as well as the whole 3D printing and the hubs where you can make your spaces, if you can print a t-shirt, are we selling the pattern? We are only in the beginning of the transformation phase, so I am so excited where we will end up in like 10 years, quite possibly fashion can be a driver to change!
Interview by Friederike von Wedel-Parlow, founder of the Beneficial Design Institute. Photos by Andreas Öhlund.