The core challenge: Overproduction and growtharchy

During the Fashion & Sustainability (lusafona.pt) conference in Cascais, Portugal, Irene Maldini gave the key note speech entitled Overcoming growtharchy: why we need limits to (clothing) production volumes, concluded three days of exhibitions, parallel sessions, project presentations and keynote speeches in the first edition of this biannual event.

In her talk, Irene Maldini stressed that overproduction and overconsumption are core challenges in aligning the fashion sector with the limits of our planet. However, strategies aimed at reducing clothing production volumes at company and policy levels tend to focus on indirect methods, with questionable environmental benefits. Actions aimed at reducing production volumes directly, are avoided, as they challenge the idea of endless economic growth and the interests of those who benefit from it.

Therefore, overcoming growtharchy (a society ruled by economic growth) is a condition for enabling less impactful ways of living for humanity. This entails that we acknowledge cause-effect relations between volumes and speed, different levels of power and responsibility in driving necessary changes, and the role of the economy as a means for wellbeing rather than an end in itself. Given its characteristics and the crisis of meaning that fashion is going through, this sector can drive this transition, opening doors for other sectors to reconsider their dependency on growing production volumes.

Irene Maldini is one of the key partners in the CHANGE project, and her work will be addressing this issue.

IWTO Wool Roundtable

Thursday 1. December, 14.00-15.15, NM Hotel Nuremberg, Germany

IWTO | Wool Round Table 2022 | Programme

Programme
Venue: NH Hotel Nuremberg, Germany
Day One
Thursday, 1 December 2022
Time Session
08.00 – 09.00 Registration
09.15 – 10.00 Opening Session
Wolf Edmayr – Welcome from IWTO
Klaus Kraatz – Welcome from German National Committee
Klaus Steger – Welcome from Suedwolle Group
10.00 – 11.00 Market Intelligence
Dirk Vantyghem – EU Textile Legislation
Joachim Schulz – German Textile Industry Overview
Isak Staats (Committee Chair) – Global Wool Market Indicators
11.00 – 11.30 Coffee Break
11.30 – 12.30 Wool and Retail
Peter Ackroyd (Committee Chair) – Retail Market Overview
12.30 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 – 15.15 Wool Sustainability
Emma Gittoes – Make The Label Count
Heinz Zeller – Wool Retail & Sustainability
Ingun Klepp – Norwegian Consumer Agency Ruling
Paul Swan – Sustainable Standards
15.15 – 16.15 Health & Wellness
Nick Davenport – The Air We Breathe
Natalie Harrison – Wool & Cosmetics
16.15 – 16.45 Coffee Break

16.45 – 17.30 Campaign for Wool.

Click here to see the whole programme (iwto.org)

CHANGE in Denmark

The CHANGE researchers met in Copenhagen the last week of September. CHANGE is an international project with clothing researchers from all over the world. Liudmila Aliabieva (Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences), Irene Maldini (Lusófona University, Portugal), Lucrecia de León (Escuela Universitaria Centro de Diseño, Uruguay), Kate Fletcher (The Royal Danish Academy), Else Skjold (The Royal Danish Academy) og Iryna Kutcher (Design School Kolding) participated, together with the clothing research group from SIFO and Tone Skårdal Tobiasson. It was a wonderful week, with a lot of fruitful meetings and discussions.

Almost all of the CHANGE team!

The wardrobe seminar at the Royal Danish Academy was the main event, with around 90 in-person participants and 40 online participants. After the workshop Else Skjold launched KLOTHING – Center for Apparel, Textiles & Ecology Research (kglakademi.dk), a new centre under the Royal Danish Academy. We look forward to following the work!

In the following, you will see a summary of a political lunch meeting, a mending workshop and finally some reflections from our team member from Uruguay, Lucrecia de Léon.

The lunch-meeting

During the day spent at the Royal Danish Academy, Else Skjold had arranged a lunch meeting with a nice mix of academia, policymakers and trade organizations. The participants were from the Danish Energy Agency, the Danish Lifestyle & Design Cluster, Continual, Danish Fashion and Textile, the Danish Consumer Council TÆNK, Danish EPA and several Danish universities, alongside the CHANGE team. The European Environmental Agency turned up for the workshop and more informal discussions later on.

To open up the discussion, Ingun and Tone had prepared a short presentation showing the increase in clothing volumes directly related to the increase in synthetics, an overview of the value-chain with percentage impact (only 12% for fiber stage) and the obvious data-gaps (also at the fiber stage, but of course the use phase and the end-of-life phases). Ingun and Tone also addressed how hard it is to capture meaningful information with the data-gaps, with the complexity of the value-chains, global average data and the mismatched boundaries of natural and synthetic fibers. After the short presentation, the floor was open for questions and discussion.

We were positively surprised at the openness and interest in research that we met, and how the research can actually contribute to policy – specifically the volume issue. There was also a genuine surprise related to how ‘un-democratic’ the process is in the technical committee for PEF, and there later emerged a discussion around the more democratic consumer protection laws in Norway – which make it much easier for civil society to actually make complaints against global textile giants (as seen with the ruling from the Norwegian Consumer Authority that brought down the Higg consumer-facing label). EEA’s representative facilitated a discussion with the representative from the Danish EPA in the Nordic Council of Minister’s new textile project, and also advised that the EU parliament needs to understand the points Ingun and Tone made during the lunch about volumes, and what actually makes a difference and will impact climate and environmental impacts.

The usual frustration around ‘if we can no longer base our decisions on Higg, what do we do?’ also arose, and this discussion needs to be addressed in a better way. Why these tools, that are proxy both for trust and for the total lack of material and fiber knowledge on properties, have gained so much power, needs to be tackled in a more proactive way. When they are used and misused by those with no or very limited understanding of data (including LCA experts) and later by buyers and those sourcing materials who have no idea what properties the fibers actually bring to the table; it’s a disastrous set-up with equally disastrous results. 

Mending workshop

Mending is about love, care and fun!

On the final day of the workshop, the CHANGE team was invited to take part in a 2-hour mending activity organized by Liudmila Aliabieva and Iryna Kucher. To make that happen we asked everyone to bring one clothing object with holes, tears, stains, or other kinds of damage which they would like to repair.  At the beginning of the workshop, we asked everyone about the item they brought, why they brought it and why they decided to mend it, if they had an idea how they would like to approach the damage – that served as a very productive starting point not only to begin the workshop itself but to initiate a very lively discussion of the stories, skills, senses and emotions behind the clothes and mending as a practice of care. Some of us brought their mending kits with them which turned into a fun activity of its own as we explored the mending tools some of which might look mysterious these days for example a darning machine (see the photo) which was in great use in the times of scarcity in the USSR when people, limited in their clothing consumption practices, had to take much greater care of the things they had in their wardrobes.

Darning machine

We also asked the participants where and when they learnt how to repair things: it turned into a very intimate flow of telling stories with a lot of fun details. Storytelling plays a huge role in co-creative and community building activities such as mending workshops which help people mend away their fears and anxieties.

We hope we can mend it!

Reflections from Lucrecia de León

Words from Uruguay.

CHANGE has been a transformative experience for me.

Little could I imagine in mid-2020 and in the midst of a pandemic, that an email from Irene Maldini with the intention of linking Uruguay to what appeared to be an ambitious research project, would end up being consolidated into what is CHANGE today. For this reason, on my way back from this project meeting in Copenhagen, I allowed myself to write these few words. 

I can only be grateful for having been able to share conversations, discuss methods, and problematize new concepts with the best researchers in the field of wardrobe studies. I also embrace the emotional connection made with a group of wonderful women: generous, committed, activists.

I have absorbed everything and more. Additionally, I have also tried to contribute to this community from my Latin-American perspective, with a focus on cultural decolonization. I come from a public university whose main characteristic is the great social commitment based on education, extension and research. Therefore, I get deeply engaged, as a way of living.

From now on, the diffusion, spillover, and expansion of this learnings -and, above all- the construction of knowledge, will continue. In a context where clothing design is increasingly centered on people and planet’s needs, wardrobe methods will definitely be a new tool for Uruguayan students and researchers.

Let’s keep changing together.

Plastics in Fashion

Webinar 14. October 2022, 9:00 am PDT

What kinds of synthetic fibers and chemicals are woven into the clothes you wear — and what impact does this have on your health and on the environment? What are the different stages of the lifecycle of the clothes and fabrics, plastics and additives? From production, marketing, consumption and disposal, fashion products based on synthetic fabrics eventually become plastic pollution. What are the alternatives? What policies are needed?

Kirsi Laitala is among the speakers at the webinar.

Register here (zoom.us).

Feedback on the Sustainable Products Initiative (EU)

Kirsi Laitala and Ingun Grimstad Klepp have submitted feedback on the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation proposal on behalf of Consumption Research Norway. In the following, you can read the introduction. Click this link to read the whole feedback document (eu.com). The clothing research group also sent feedback on the Sustainable textiles strategy to Miljødirektoratet (under the Ministry of Climate and Environment), click here to read the feedback.

Feedback from Consumption Research Norway (SIFO)

Consumption Research Norway (SIFO) would like to thank the European Commission for the opportunity to give feedback on the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation proposal.
Our feedback concerns textiles that are very complex products, socially, aesthetically, functionally, and technically. The main problem lies in overproduction, and therefore setting requirements for eco-design can have unintended effects. For example, when setting criteria for more physically durable clothing, longer-lasting products will first and foremost contribute to greater accumulations and when they are discarded, they still retain the potential useful lifespan. Only about 37% of garments are disposed of because they are worn out or broken. Therefore, it is important that the directive also takes into consideration the other design aspects that impact length of product lifespans, such as changes in fashion, and poor fit of garments.


EU policy places great responsibility on consumers to bring about the reductions in environmental impact by choosing the least polluting products. However, within clothing, the difference in environmental impact between products is not large enough, and secondly, there is a lack of reliable information available about these differences. There are no «sustainable clothes» – rather there is rampant overproduction. The main problem is related to the quantity and not to the individual items.
In connection with product passports for textiles, access to information about production year will ensure a greater opportunity for consumers, authorities, and the waste industry to map how long things are used and last. The fiber labeling should also be updated to include information about the content of environmentally harmful chemicals.


Most clothes can be mended, and the majority of repairs are quite easy. When they are not repaired, it is usually because they are so cheap that this does not “pay off”, either in terms of using time or money for the repair. Therefore, determining repairability should be connected to the value of garments. Examples of non-repairable clothing include those with non-replaceable batteries or fabrics with Elastane. Elastane in fabrics can make them more durable, but when the Elastane has lost its elasticity, the clothes can no longer be repaired.


We recognize the urgency of building a larger second-hand market and a textile recycling industry in Europe. This will prevent landfill and the export of waste to countries without proper waste management. However, this entails the danger of continued spread of chemicals and materials including plastics. The requirement of using recycled fibers can in some cases lead to products with poorer use properties.
Due to the global overproduction of clothing, there are many products that are not needed or wanted, and that must go away somehow. What are the alternatives if the destruction of unsold consumer products is prohibited? We believe that this problem should be tackled earlier in the value chain, for example by using financial penalties against overproduction/import, measured for example by the number of unsold products, or that are returned, go on sale, or otherwise clearly are not desired.


We wish you all the best with this important work and hope to contribute to that the knowledge of consumption will be used actively in the design of the directive to avoid unintended adverse effects of good intentions.

Local clothing: What is that? How an environmental policy concept is understood

Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Vilde Haugrønning & Kirsi Laitala

The textile industry is characterized by global mass production and has an immense impact on the environment. One garment can travel around the world through an extensive value chain before reaching its final consumption destination. The consumer receives little information about how the item was produced due to a lack of policy regulation. In this article, we explore understandings of ‘local clothing’ and how the concept could be an alternative to the current clothing industry. The analysis is based on fifteen interviews with eighteen informants from Western Norway as part of the research project KRUS about Norwegian wool. Five ways of understanding local clothing were identified from the interviews: production, place-specific garments, local clothing habits, home-based production and local circulation. We lack a language with which to describe local clothing that covers local forms of production as an alternative to current clothing production. As such, the article highlights an important obstacle to reorganization: local clothing needs a vocabulary among the public, in politics and in the public sector in general, with which to describe the diverse production processes behind clothing and textiles and their material properties.

Click here to see the article (ingentaconnect.com)

Textile Cleaning and Odour Removal

Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Vilde Haugrønning

Consumers’ textile care practices today are characterized by frequent laundering. The importance of the removal of odours has increased, especially the smell of sweat. This chapter summarizes knowledge about removing odour from textiles. It provides information on suitable cleaning methods for different textile fibres and types of soils. The considered cleaning methods include laundering, stain removal, airing, hand wash, and professional cleaning methods. The cleaning result from laundering depends on water, washing temperature, length of washing cycle, types and amounts of laundry chemicals, and mechanical agitation applied. Textile material and type of soil that needs removal will determine the right mix of these factors.

Inherent fibre properties affect the soiling characteristics of garments. Comparisons of odours retained in textiles have shown that wool has the least intensive odour, followed by cotton, and synthetic polyester and polyamide garments have the most intense odour. Most textiles can be washed with water and detergents, which are more efficient in the removal of many odorous soils than dry-cleaning, but low-temperature laundering and/or lack of chemical disinfectants such as bleaches can contribute to odour build-up in textiles and in the washing machine. These aspects contribute to the environmental impacts of textiles.

Book chapter in Odour in Textiles: Generation and Control (taylorfrancis.com).

The Consumer Perception of Odour

Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Kirsi Laitala

Human olfaction sense is one of the highly underestimated senses since historical times. Fortunately, this has changed in recent times, as the perception of odour or scent by people has received increasing attention through several research works from different scientific disciplines. Our sense of smell and scent affects our lives more than previously assumed, influencing how we think, act, and behave. Odours both evoke and create memories. The perception of odours is also culturally and situationally dependent. However, there is still a lot that we don’t know about the influence of odour or scent on an individual’s characteristics and odour studies are hindered by the lack of vocabulary. The effect of pleasant odour on the shopping behaviours of customers is one highly researched area, while very few studies have focused on body odour perception. Most of the time body odour is related to self-hygiene and cleanliness, but understanding about the complete social aspects behind odour perception by humans is still at an infant stage. This chapter reviews the current status of consumer research on body odour and environmental odour or scent perception. The chapter also addresses the role of textile materials on body odour perception.

Click here to see the book chapter in Odour in Textiles: Generation and Control (taylorfrancis.com)

What does the Minister of the Environment think about apparel and the environment?

Tone Skårdal Tobiasson & Ingun Grimstad Klepp.

This is a translated version of an op-ed first published by tekstilforum.no. Click here to see the original version (tekstilforum.no)

This is not easy to ascertain from two answers sent to Conservative Member of Parliament Liv Kari Eskeland in response to her questions about the EU’s new Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) scheme, which is in danger of labeling natural fibers as the least environmentally friendly.

What we are wondering is simply whether Espen Barth Eide is not worried about the galloping use of polyester and acrylic, with subsequent problems such as microplastics and increasingly cheaper and worse clothes? Is he really for a further increase in the proliferation of synthetic clothing which, after a brief appearance in our wardrobes, is exported lightly used out of the country to an uncertain fate? And in case why? We do not know the answer, but will explain why we ask the questions.

The case is this. There have been repeated questions about PEF, also from the Conservative parliamentary representative Liv Kari Eskeland, who has been involved in the case on behalf of local textile industry. In the first answer, the Minister of Climate and Environment writes that he is familiar with «that synthetic textiles such as polyester are best when it comes to some environmental impacts, while for other environmental categories natural fibers have less negative impact». This was followed up by Eskeland, who is from Stord (the local small town) and who knows the wool industry well.

As a business-savvy person, she is politically engaged, lively concerned about possible threats to Norwegian businesses. The answer to her follow-up question is surprising because it does not discuss which areas synthetic fiber (ie plastic) are environmentally better than wool, but instead addresses the relationship between environmental impact from cotton and synthetic fibers. Why? Does the Minister think that all natural fibers are the same? And Norway has no cotton production, so here Norwegian business interests are not threatened, only Norwegian consumers’ access to a textile material they love.

The next issue in this ‘package of wonder’ is the scientific content. The Minister presents two different sources for the environmental benefits of plastics. One is land use. And yes, it is true that in life cycle analysis (LCA) the square meters of “space” a business takes, is heavily considered. It is almost in the nature of things that natural fibers take up more “space” in production than oil. But this comparison between square meters used, for example, for grazing against oil refineries is easy to criticize. Because there are very different “uses” of land, and grazing has not only negative, but also many positive effects (which are not included), and it is also a question of what the alternatives are.

Very few – and certainly not Barth Eide – think it would be exactly the same to have an oil refinery or a polyester factory versus pasturing sheep, as the nearest neighbor? And when the area it once took for dinosaurs and others to live and die, and then turn into oil, is not included, it is because time is not included in the calculation. Neither how long it has taken to produce the oil, nor the time it will take to break it down again. The comparison of the space to cultivate something against the space industry takes, shows first and foremost how such tools as LCAs fall short when nature and synthetics are compared directly. This is also the core of the criticism of PEF. And one of the reasons why over 60 EU politicians have now sent letters to the Commission, because they are concerned about the way this will be done in the planned labeling scheme (https://www.makethelabelcount.org/).

The other basis for his evaluation that the minister points to, is water consumption and again the comparison is polyester against cotton. There is a heated debate on this issue. It is almost a bit shocking that the documentation to which he refers is a report from SIFO from 2012. It is of course nice that SIFO’s work is valued, but this report is based on figures from 2007, which in turn are based on figures from the previous millennium. Knowledge about environmental impacts has changed a great deal in these years, and in general LCA is considered to be ‘fresh produce’ with a perishable date, and then we are talking about a few years before they lose their value. LCAs should be repeated at least every five years, many say every three.

Both we, Barth Eide and the report he refers to that compares fibers believe that the difference between the fibers is very small, global average figures taken into account, and that the most important thing is that clothes are made from the fibers that are best suited for the purpose. Then they are used for a long time and a lot, and then we appreciate them and take good care of them. The problem is that as PEF now develops, there will be large differences between the fibers, and it is the natural fibers that come out the worst. Many people actually like natural fibers, national costume shirts in linen, sweaters in wool, and maybe even a silk shawl or tie, but wool is no longer wool, but full of acrylic and polyester, and cotton is increasingly “polycotton”.

Polyester national costumes will hardly be inherited. In many products, plastic is best and the synthetic fibers are also much better than other fibers. However, the rapid increase in the use of synthetic fibers, and the even faster increase planned by the industry, has not come because synthetics are the best. Developing a labeling scheme that will label plastic as green is like pouring gasoline on the fire in a world that needs to cool down. Polyester is today over 60% of textile fiber production and the only way the fashion industry can continue to grow. This is also why the industry puts so much effort into greenwashing plastic. They can do this job just fine without the help of a Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment or a European labeling schemes.

That’s why we’re wondering. Does Espen Barth Eide know what was actually in the letter he signed? We have a hard time believing that he is an ordinary plastic pusher, even though the government’s oil policy surprises more than us. Is his highest desire really to remove the few clothes that are still found in natural materials from the market? And make it even more difficult to make a living from wool production and the wool industry in Norway? Liv Kari Eskeland and the others in the Conservative Party are probably also wondering the same. That is why the Conservatives’ Mathilde Tybring-Gjedde, Sandra Bruflot and Mari Holm Lønseth presented a representative proposal in the Storting on 17 February for stricter requirements for the textile industry. The government is thus squeezed from both the right and the left in politics, and interestingly enough mainly by female representatives. The Conservative Party’s proposal includes PEF, and both the problems with plastic and microplastics are mentioned. If Barth Eide really wants a future clad in plastic, he now has the opportunity to say it loud and clear. We are waiting in anticipation.

UCRF: Themed Local Assembly in Oslo

8 March, 08:00-09:30, OsloMet, Stensberggata 26, Oslo

A twist on the usual Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion Local Assembly format, this themed Local Assembly will concentrate on textile fibres. Points for discussion can be tabled by any UCRF member in advance or raised on the day.

Theme: Textile fibres, key themes and challenges

Date: 8 March 2022
Time: 8am – 9:30am local time. Light refreshments will be available.
Location: OsloMet, Oslo, Norway
Address: Stensberggata 26, 0170 Oslo

The Local Assembly gathering will be in-person, but the themes for discussion can be tabled by UCRF members world-wide to ensure that fibre-related concerns in all locations are present.

All participants will be invited to share their fibre knowledge, these will include UCRF members and fibre and LCA experts Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Kirsi Laitala. A summary will be circulated following the event.

Register your interest by 28 February by email via this link.

Click here to read more about UCRF (concernedresearchers.org).