Nikolaj Storm explains the lessons learned from developing a completely circular capsule line
The new drop also includes material innovations and the Danish designer’s first steps into digital fashion — caused by frustration.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
February 27, 2023
Storm, who’s educated at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and is the founder and creative director of his eponymous fashion label, explains how the recent negativity around the fashion industry and sustainability has surprised him.
— I wish people would start to value the people who try to push us in the right direction and that customers see that a lot of innovation and new techniques are on the rise.
Also working as the responsible designer for emerging Danish sportswear 7 Days, Storm has experienced a bunch of hectic months lately.
— A year and a half ago, I won Zalando Sustainability Award, and since then, I have received new interest in the brand, he explains. We have done various collaborations with other brands where sustainability is the common denominator between us and I have had the chance to dive further into the sustainability aspect of my brand with all the extra knowledge from the people I have met. I’ve also been in podcasts and panel talks and teaching at the Zalando Academy. Now, the capsule collection marks a new chapter.
Yes, can you tell us about your new Zalando capsule?
— We have developed my first circular collection, guided by circular.fashion’s Circular Design Criteria — for which Zalando has been an active partner in developing — and have made styles that are either made for longevity, made to be recycled or made to be made again. I have used recycled materials all the way through, down to the recycled thread and recycled zippers. I have played around with pattern-making to create pieces that are multifunctional and can be used throughout the year due to the fact that you can remove certain parts if not needed. We have created products made from chemically recycled clothes, so we have really been all around with circularity to make the capsule possible, says Storm. He adds:
— I’ve never done anything circular before but when I dived into it, and by taking it step by step, I figured that it would be something that I could handle. And now, after working with it for the past year, I have learned a lot about circularity, how to design for it, and what to focus on. Now, I try to implement as much as possible in new collections. I still find it sometimes being a bit restricting from a creative point of view but then, you just have to take it as a challenge yourself. So, now I hope people will start associating me with circularity. Let’s see!
The drop also includes fabrics from WeaReSpindye, a fashion-tech startup which has innovated how to do synthetics.
— To save energy, chemicals and water, they have created a new dyeing method for synthetics, Storm explains. For conventional synthetics, either recycled or not, the dyeing process is made when the fabric is finished. Since synthetics are made from plastic, one can imagine that plastic is quite hard to colorate, requiring a lot of water and the use of hazardous chemicals. WeaReSpindye’s technology has turned the process around. They colour the synthetics when they create the fibres, by melting the colour directly into the fibres. This gives lucent colours that are durable and strong, and it takes out the long process of coloring. I hope we can keep working with these materials as they really change the game of recycled synthetics.
For the new capsule, Nikolaj Storm and Zalando have also commissioned the independent sustainability consultancy Anthesis on a special Evaluation Report to assess the application of the circular design criteria at each stage of the product life cycle and highlight opportunities for improvement. Storm also teamed up with the marketspace for digital fashion NFTs, The Demetarialised, for his first steps into the growing field.
— I loved working with a company like Anthesis that has so much knowledge that they can share and also pinpoint some flaws that you can change or improve. This The Dematerialised partnership actually came up based on frustration from my side. I love to work with special fabrics and textures but most of them weren’t sustainable or I wasn’t able to obtain all the needed certifications to get them approved. This, of course, caused a lot of frustration. So in the end we opened the discussion on doing some of these non-approved styles in a digital world, so people could still enjoy it. This also opened up a much bigger discussion on the digitalization of the fashion industry and how much they will be able to do for us in the future, which I am very excited about. I never thought I would work a lot with digital fashion but since this project, I have only worked more and more with digital programs that really ease the process of creating and testing garments, and I think there will be so much more for me in terms of digital design in the future.
Speaking of the future, what’s next for you?
— I am always on the run. My own brand, Nikolaj Storm Copenhagen, for sure has to grow a lot in the coming years and there is so much more to come from there. We have collaborations coming out this spring and more in the pipeline — and hopefully we can return to Copenhagen Fashion Week with our first standalone show, says Storm. He adds:
— What I’ve also learned, for all the young people aspiring to launch their own label, is to be sure to have a great network of photographers, models, shops and so on. That really helps in the first years. I have a great network now, but it was a struggle in the beginning and if you don’t know the right people, then you can — sadly — disappear very fast. It’s a weird world, and I am still trying to figure out how to navigate it.