3 pioneering sustainable labels share their own take on the industry’s most urgent topic
Before next week’s Copenhagen Fashion Week, we speak to three brands from the official schedule on their next steps forward.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
August 04, 2021
In January last year, Copenhagen Fashion Week unveiled an ambitious three-year plan on sustainability, Reinventing Copenhagen Fashion Week, which will see tough minimum requirements for brands included in the official show schedule from 2023. However, the event already includes large initiatives to promote a greener industry. One of them, Zalando Sustainability Award, sees three finalists admitted to the SS22 show schedule — Teatum Jones, Mother of Pearl, and Nikolaj Storm Copenhagen.
Creative director Amy Powney started at Mother of Pearl 15 years ago.
— Even at the very beginning sustainability was a life-long passion of mine and I’ve been on a mission for us to reduce our impact on the planet ever since. I believe fashion shouldn’t come at a cost to the planet on which we live. But we also shouldn’t have to compromise style for ethics either. This is my vision, she states.
Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones are London-born with British and Irish heritage.
— We truly believe in the power of fashion to present a pro-social message of inclusivity and positive identity and creating socially conscious fashion that puts the craftspeople and the customer at the heart of our creation, the duo tells.
Nikolaj Storm is educated from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, with a master’s degree in menswear. Since he entered the fashion industry in 2013, he has worked with various brands such as Tusnelda Bloch Copenhagen, Saks Potts, and the bag company SILFEN, before he started his own brand in 2019.
The entire industry talks about sustainability. What’s your take on the topic? And how do you work differently compared to other brands?
Nikolaj Storm: In 2021 I do not believe that you can found a fashion brand without doing it with a sustainable mindset. The industry has a huge task to lift and in my opinion, everybody can make initiatives right away. First of all, we have so many sustainable materials on the market, and if all brands pushed the suppliers for more, more fabrics and materials will follow. I think there are a lot of big brands that should take action and start using these materials — if a small brand like mine is able to source small quantities of sustainable fabrics, then we can all do it.
— For me, one of the biggest issues with sustainability is our consumers. I believe we must do more to educate our customers in how to maintain a sustainable wardrobe. What items should they look for? What fabrics should they buy and why? But most of all we should end the traditional fashion seasons and start educating customers in our collections and how they can be styled and used across collections. We are working on various projects, including a style gallery for our customers, where they will be able to see both other customers styling of the products and our stylings of different products across all our collections. I believe a lot of our customers need that little nudge to get inspiration to style the old with the new.
— We already have a more sustainable production set-up, but I am also well aware that we have to do so much more and every day I am looking to find the balance in new initiatives and sustainable solutions, while making the company grow. My journey in the industry has just begun.
Catherine Teatumand Rob Jones, Teatum Jones: We view sustainability as being distilled down to a few crucial important factors; fibres, fabrics, and humans. We are passionate about all three.
— We have strong beliefs that creating collections from a Zero Waste approach and first and foremost using what is already in existence, is vital to reducing waste and reconsidering the often unnecessary creation of tonnes of new fabrics every season.
”We are providing a solution to the industry’s issue of excessive waste”
— We have recently launched Re-Love, our Zero Waste Initiative. It’s an idea we’ve been building on since 2018. As part of the initiative, we will join forces with different partners to create collections from waste textiles and clothing. Focusing on innovation and crafts-person-ship, we are spearheading this initiative to provide a solution to the industry’s issue of excessive waste. For Re-Love Part Two, we’ve joined forces with iconic London retailer Liberty + Save The Children to create a zero-waste collection, launching in-store Summer 2021. We are moving away from creating everything ”new” and focussing our efforts on developing bold, beautiful, sustainable, and ethical products. Part of that is re-evaluating the outdated seasonal fashion business model and placing our faith in the belief that creating socially conscious and sustainable fashion is better for humans, better for the planet, and better for commercial business.
”It’s fantastic that the conversation is becoming more mainstream”
Amy Powney, Mother of Pearl: It’s fantastic that the conversation is becoming more mainstream but we have to be careful that serious and considered action is being taken and it’s not just green-washing or fashionable talk.
— For me, creativity and ethics sit equally in our brand philosophy. I believe in delivering beautiful clothes without compromising on integrity. There is no handbook on how to make a brand sustainable, but I wanted to know from start to finish where our product was grown or derived, who was making it, and the social impacts along the way. I’ve journeyed, and continue to journey, to find the best factories, suppliers, and farmers who care about the planet and its inhabitants as much as we do.
— I believe in transparency and in giving access to the full story behind our products, showing the customer exactly what we’ve done with each garment via our online sustainable attribute filter. This puts the power into the consumer’s hands to make informed choices about the clothes they’re purchasing. Sustainability is not an emerging topic for me, it’s been my passion for 15 years.
How does it feel being one of the three finalists and why do you think you were chosen? And what will you show at next week’s Copenhagen Fashion Week?
Amy Powney: It’s an honour to be recognised for all the work we have done. I like to hope we have been chosen because we have a strong sustainability strategy and our dedication to more sustainable and ethical advancements and innovation is unwavering.
— At CPHFW, we will be showing our pre and mainline summer collection, which will arrive in store through December to March next year.
Catherine Teatumand Rob Jones: It’s brilliant! It’s really exciting to be showing alongside two other great brands. I think we were chosen because we are pushing the boundaries with Zero Waste and modern fashion.
— We’ll be showing the mentioned Re-Love Part Two for which we have worked closely with Liberty London on selecting fabrics from their imperfect stock archive that are usually reserved for crafting initiatives. We’ve decided to re-purpose these unused Liberty prints by hand painting, over-dying, and patchworking them together with our own deadstock and waste fabrics. We wanted to create a bold, rich colour palette and pair together our signature graphic patterns with Liberty’s prints. The Re-Love Zero Waste Initiative also brings together our partnership with Mary’s Living and Giving, as part of Save The Children. Teaming up with Mary Portas and the Save The Children team, we have created a capsule collection using the charity’s unsold denim and re-loved these items with textile waste from us and Liberty Fabrics. As part of the partnership, we’ll also be donating proceeds of each item sold to the charity.
”Buckle up and be ready for the tea party of your life!”
Nikolaj Storm: I am more than excited — as a young emerging designer, you put a lot of work and hours into your brand, so to get that kind of recognition from the industry, one can only be flattered. I would lie if I said I didn’t cry a bit when I got the announcement. The past year has been strange with the pandemic, and even more so when you are a young brand trying to build up your business.
— For the show, I have created a collection that plays on texture, colours, and prints — all within the range of sustainable materials. I have used sustainable materials before as well as doing a lot of upcycling of old collections from our stock room, but this is the first time that all styles are created in all sustainable materials. It was an exciting challenge to go into, keeping our brand signature of colorful and innovative materials. I have been inspired by Victorian Tea Parties mixed with the underground club scene from Berlin, with just a touch of Alice in Wonderland. I am the type of designer who lets the fabrics create the base for the collection and then I sparkle a bit of hand-drawn print on top. The result is a living collection of green, blue, and yellow hues in classic oversized 90s silhouettes.
— It is my first time doing a show on the official schedule at Copenhagen Fashion Week in my own name and we are planning a show that you will definitely remember. A show that shows sustainable clothes, in a sustainable setting and maybe with an even bigger message — so buckle up and be ready for the tea party of your life!
What else do you have coming?
Nikolaj Storm: We just released our 4th collection, titled MIDNIGHT SKY, which is a tribute and celebration of all that we have missed doing lockdown. It’s a homage to the nightlife in the big cities, playing on a futuristic Studio 54 vibe and inspired by the song MIDNIGHT SKY by Miley Cyrus. This summer, we’ve also hosted an evening with the ceramic studio SLOW STUDIO, where we do pottery together with influencers and friends of the studio. An evening to dive into clay and create figures. This collaboration is very close to my heart, as it works meditatively and slows down the pace for all involved, which we all need. We do clay pottery because it makes you feel relaxed. With time we will expand these workshops to do upcycling of clothes as well, to yet again, inspire our customers on how to maintain a sustainable wardrobe and learn simple techniques to bring life to the clothes you don’t wear but that has a whole lifetime ahead of them.
Catherine Teatumand Rob Jones: As mentioned, we have recently launched Re-Love, our Zero Waste Initiative where we will join forces with different partners to create collections from waste textiles and clothing. Focusing on innovation and crafts-person-ship, we are spearheading this initiative to provide a solution to the industry’s issue of excessive waste.
Amy Powney: We recently launched rental directly onto our site to create The Full Circle, giving our pearly queens the chance to try out products before they buy them into their forever wardrobes. By offering this, we’re breaking the traditional linear retail model and take into consideration our garment’s entire life cycle. We’re trying to switch impulse purchase behaviour to something that is more considered and slower
— This is the first stage in the next phase of our business which aims to integrate the three ”R” pillars ”Rent, Repair, Resale”, across our brand. By gradually introducing these options to our community, we’re helping to take responsibility for our garments once they are created.
The Zalando Sustainability Award SS22 winner will be announced on August 12