Washing Clothes

Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Kirsi Laitala

Clothes must not only suit the user and the occasion but also be clean for us to be well dressed. The meaning of cleanliness and the methods to achieve this goal has changed throughout history, but it has been central in our clothing practices. In this chapter, we will show how the understanding of dirty and clean clothes and the work of keeping them clean has changed in the last 200 years. The starting point will be the laundry in Norway, but when we discuss the more current times, the global washing practices will be included. As important as these technical and aesthetic questions are the cultural aspect. How have the perceptions of what is clean and what is dirty changed, and what consequences does this have for being well-dressed and for the work with the laundry? We discuss the growth in the amount of laundry, and after the 1970s also the decline in finishing work, especially related to removing the wrinkles. The technical and aesthetic aspects are important, such as whiteness, stains, and not least, odors. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the environmental impacts of laundry, including consumption of water, chemicals, and energy, and spreading of microplastics.

Book chapter in The Routledge History of Fashion and Dress, 1800 to the Present (taylorfrancis.com)

Call for papers for the special issue of Fashion Theory

Mending matters: cultures and contexts of clothing repair

When the fabric of life is bursting at the seams in different parts of the world, repair seems to be an essential need. We propose approaching clothing repair, or the practice of reassembling what was torn and broken, as a cultural, social, economic, environmental, and political practice that reveals structures and institutions, daily life, emotions, and identities of people in different contexts. 

Repair (or mending) is a fundamentally important concept for fashion studies. It is an indicator of a major paradigmatic shift. For a long time, fashion has been associated with novelty, newness, dynamism, and fast-paced change. The anthropologist Sandra Niessen (2020) criticized early definitions of fashion, for instance, the classical definition by German sociologist Georg Simmel. Simmel highlighted the rapid change of European fashion styles and contrasted them with other fashion systems that did not have a similar quick logic of change. As Niessen (2020: 862) wrote, “the other clothing expressions in the world, from tribal to peasant, are hampered by tradition and exemplify stasis and therefore constitute non-fashion”. Dutch anthropologist M. Angela Jansen referred to another classical definition of fashion by British psychologist John Carl Flügel, who stated that “modish costume predominates in the western world and is even ‘one of the most characteristic features of modern European civilization,’ while outside the sphere of western influence, dress changes more slowly, is more closely connected with racial and local circumstances, or with social or occupational standing and therefore qualifies as fixed costume” (Jansen 2020: 820). These definitions cemented the dichotomy of fashion and fast-paced change rooted in the Western concept of fashion. 

However, today, fashion studies have recognized that the history and theory of fashion, which have been narrated as “quintessentially European” (Riello 2021), led to many problems, among which are the vastly damaging effects of fashion on the environment and on human beings’ lives (Niessen 2020). Scholars of fashion studies have argued that fashion must be delinked from (Western) European epistemologies, or decolonized (Slade, Jansen 2020). This has to be done by both critical assessment of the current Western thought and by active dialogue with scholars from other parts of the world – between Global South and Global North, Global East and Global West.

We suggest continuing this discussion on decolonizing fashion that began in Fashion Theory in 2020 by looking at clothing repair. Repair or mending is an instrument to decouple the idea of newness from the concept of fashion. Repair resists to fast-paced change. It forces us to rethink the aesthetic of newness. Our thematic issue brings repair to the forefront along with other relevant practices, experiences, identities, and aesthetics associated with prolonging the lifecycle of clothing and creating multiple lives for clothes. We expect to receive academic articles that tackle 

  • clothing repair across time and space – geographical, social, and cultural 
  • repair as a form of environmental, cultural, or political activism
  • repair as an act of empowerment
  • repair as a form of consumption pleasure and well-being
  • the role of repair in building and maintaining communities
  • different forms of amateur and professional clothing repair practices
  • shifts in aesthetics of objects associated with repair
  • repair and trauma 
  • clothing repair in formal and informal education


Deadline for the first draft submission                                                01.03.2024

Checking the drafts by editors                                                01.03.2024 — 31.03.2024

First round of external reviews                                               01.04.2024 — 31.05.2024

Revision of the first draft                                                        01.05.2024 — 31.07.2024

Second round of external reviews                                           01.08.2024 — 30.09.2024

Revision                                                                                01.10.2024 — 31.10.2024

Checking the second drafts by editors.                                    01.11.2024 — 30.11.2024

Deadline for completed manuscript submission             01.12.2024

Submission instructions

The journal’s usual Instructions for Authors (tandfonline.com) apply to the special issue’s papers. We would expect to publish between 4 and 5 articles. Please, submit your article by March 1, 2024, to the editors of the Special Issue: Dr. Liudmila Aliabieva (liudmila.aliabieva@gmail.com), Dr. Olga Gurova (olga.gurova@laurea.fi) and PhD Candidate Iryna Kucher (ik@dskd.dk).


Jansen M. A. (2020) Fashion and the Phantasmagoria of Modernity: An Introduction to Decolonial

Fashion Discourse, Fashion Theory, 24(6), 815–836.

Niessen S. (2020) Fashion, Its Sacrifice Zone, and Sustainability, Fashion Theory, 24(6), 859-877.  

Riello D. (2021) Worlds with No Fashion? The Birth of Eurocentrism, Paulicelli E., Manlow V. & E. Wissinger (eds), The Routledge Companion to Fashion Studies. NY: Routledge, 11-22. 

Slade T., Jansen M.A. (2020) Letters from the Editors: Decoloniality and Fashion, Fashion Theory,

24(6), 809-814.

Thriving without growth

The Amsterdam Economic Board launches a learning journey for clothing companies to reduce their production volumes.

Amsterdam has been a pioneer in recognizing the limits of growth and the need to reduce consumption levels in policy. In 2020, Amsterdam was the first city in the world to commit to the principles of the Doughnut Economy framework, including the notion of sufficiency in consumption volumes. Other cities have followed, such as Brussels, Copenhagen, Berlin, and Cambridge. Although the impact of such strategic decisions on the overall consumption levels of the city is questionable, the fact that local public servants have included a focus on consumption volumes (what really matters to reduce the local impact of the sector) are remarkable.

On 27th September, in the context of the kickoff of the Amsterdam Economic Board’s program (a commission by the national Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management), our OsloMet colleague Irene Maldini introduced the importance of setting production reduction targets to local companies in her talk “Taking sustainability to the next level: how and why to reduce production and consumption volumes in the clothing sector.” Building her argument on the lack of evidence of the efficacy of well-known strategies in reducing production volumes (such as product lifetime extension, reuse, and shared use), Irene called the audience to overcome fear of economic decline to implement measures that can help confronting overproduction and overconsumption in the sector.

Irene Maldini

Companies participating in the program are committing to reduce their own production by 5%, a target set by the Amsterdam Economic Board. Participants were left with a few questions to reflect on, such as: Where to start? How will the board, staff, and clients react? Who are the right partners, such as suppliers and retailers, to implement a sufficiency-based strategy? How to establish KPIs for production reductions?

The learning journey is only at the start, during the next three months participants will read relevant texts, carry out given activities at the company, and share their progress and struggle in four sessions. The number of companies engaged is limited. However, the fact that this program is a commission of a national government to promote a post growth mentality among local businesses is groundbreaking. In keeping a focus on production volumes reductions and setting a quantitative target in line with scientists’ advice, the Amsterdam Economic Board has dared to do what the European Commission has consistently avoided in the development of the EU Sustainable and Circular Textiles Strategy: to openly discuss production volumes, the elephant in the room, and further starting to show the elephant its way out.

Irene Maldini – Comparative study of personalized and ready-made wardrobes in the Netherlands

Irene Maldini, at the time (2017/2018) affiliated to the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences as a PhD candidate. Background in industrial design, design for sustainability, design history and theory.

Picture showing the shared wardrobe of respondents 14A (left) and 15A (right), both users of custom-made clothing.
Shared wardrobe of respondents 14A (left) and 15A (right), both users of custom-made clothing.

Aim of the study: scientific knowledge creation

Definition of terms:

  • Personalised garments: garments involving the user in their design, and being produced on demand (resulting from bespoke tailoring, made-to-measure, mass customization, home or self-production and do-it-yourself)
  • Ready-made garments: garments produced without user input
  • Personalised wardrobes: Wardrobes including at least ten personalised garments
  • Ready-made wardrobes: Wardrobes including only ready-made garments


  • Personalised wardrobes are smaller than ready-made wardrobes
  • Personalised wardrobes’ inflow is smaller than ready-made wardrobes’ inflow
  • personalised items are used more often than ready-made garments
  • personalised items are kept for a longer time than ready-made garments

Inspiration: Available wardrobes studies at the time including the methods in the “Opening up the wardrobe” book.

Novelty: comparative and quantitative approach.


 DefinitionDescription and recruitment
Respondent group PSubjects whose wardrobes include at least ten personalised garments (personalised wardrobes)20 subjects recruited from our network. 10 respondents are consumers of custom-made clothing and 10 make clothes for their own use.
Respondent group RSubjects whose wardrobes do not include personalised garments (ready-made wardrobes)Control group. 20 subjects with similar demographic characteristics to (and mostly indicated by) participants in respondent group P.

The wardrobe studies included 40 subjects living in different provinces of the Netherlands. The group is varied in terms of age (22 to 71 years old), gender (24 females and 16 males, equally distributed in groups P and R), household composition (living alone, in couples, with children, or in shared households) and income (from <20,000 € to > 80,000 € annual gross income per household). Most of respondents live in cities, but ten subjects live in villages and towns; these are equally distributed in groups P and R.


Includes a complete wardrobe audit and registration of all garments coming in and out of the wardrobe in a 6-month period (the latter completed by 25 of the 40 participants). In group P, two garment types including both personalized and ready-made garments are chosen by respondents, for instance all sweaters and cardigans, or all trousers. They are requested to organise such items in 5 categories based on usage (used always, frequently, average, rarely and never) and age (old, relatively old, average, relatively new and new).

Picture showing the storage space in respondent 11B’s bedroom, including bags with clothes, which were integrated in the wardrobe study.
Storage space in respondent 11B’s bedroom, including bags with clothes, which were integrated in the wardrobe study.


The number of items owned by both respondent groups were statistically compared, as were the number of items coming in their wardrobes in a 6-month period.  No statistical differences were found.

For the comparison of age and usage in personalised and ready-made garments (same user and garment type), the number of personalised and ready-made items in each of the five categories listed above were documented, we assigned a value to each category, and divided the total value by the number of items in the garment type (keeping personalised and ready-mades separately). Lastly, we statistically compared the resulting score for personalised and ready-mades items in the same garment type, further using data visualisation to discuss the qualitative findings.

No statistical difference was found for garment usage. For garment age, and contrary to one of the study hypotheses, the age of ready-made garments was bigger than that of the personalised garments, meaning that ready-mades were kept for longer.


None of the hypotheses of the study was confirmed, but we expected that to be the case. The hypotheses were based on the assumptions of other people in the field, and we suspected that these did not meet reality.

Unexpected finding:

The results of the inflow-outflow exercise made me realise that the whole idea of reducing the demand of clothing based on product lifetime extension did not apply in reality, because clothing consumption dynamics do not follow a logic of replacement. Keeping a garment in the wardrobe, even if it is actively used, does not stop people to purchase other items. Inflow and outflow are only sometimes and indirectly connected. This finding, which was not considered in the design of the study, has been central in my work since then.

Picture shows weaters and cardigans owned by respondent 11A (a knitter) organized according to use frequency (from used “never” to “always”).
Sweaters and cardigans owned by respondent 11A (a knitter) organized according to use frequency (from used “never” to “always”).

Development of methods since then:

Wardrobe audits (counting the number of garments owned) have been used by others before and after this study.

Methods partially based on the inflow-outflow registration are being used by Vilde Haugrønning in her PhD (which I co-supervise). Moreover, I am planning a new research project using such an approach for all consumer goods in the household. This method can give insights about clothing consumption dynamics, the relations among garments and the causes and consequences of wardrobe movements (inflow and outflow).

To my knowledge, the quantitative comparison of garments used to assess age and usage has not been further developed or used. This (more complex) method can have a variety of uses. For instance, to compare the use value of garments made of different materials or shapes. This method was developed after testing other ways of understanding garment age and use frequency that did not work. People do not remember how long they have owned things or how often they use them. However, comparing is much easier for them and they are more confident about their responses. That was a main reason to use this method, next to the possibility of analyzing the data quantitatively.

Use of results since then: 

This study has been referenced by others to question the environmental value of product personalization. The limitation of durability (the secondary finding of the study) has had more repercussions, due to the importance given to product longevity in clothing environmental policy. We (OsloMet colleagues and I) have referred to this study in numerous policy briefings, reports, articles, and talks to explain why the focus needs to be placed on production volumes rather than product durability, expecting that volumes will be reduced in an indirect way.


Always run a pilot of your study and analyze the results before designing the final study

This study has been key in the following publications:

Maldini, Irene, Pieter J. Stappers, Javier C. Gimeno-Martinez, and Hein A. M. Daanen. 2019. “Assessing the Impact of Design Strategies on Clothing Lifetimes, Usage and Volumes: The Case of Product Personalisation.” Journal of Cleaner Production 210:1414–24. (sciencedirect.com)

Maldini, Irene. 2019. “From Speed to Volume: Reframing Clothing Production and Consumption for an Environmentally Sound Apparel Sector.” Pp. 519–24 in 3rd Product Lifetimes and the Environment conference, edited by N. F. Nissen and M. Jaeger-Erben. Berlin: TU Berlin. (researchgate.net)

Maldini, Irene and Pieter J. Stappers. 2019. “The Wardrobe as a System: Exploring Clothing Consumption through Design Fiction.” Journal of Design Research 17(1):3–25. (researchgate.net)

Maldini, Irene, Vilde Haugrønning, and Lucrecia De León. 2023. “Studying Clothing Consumption Volumes through Wardrobe Studies: A Methodological Reflection.” Pp. 610–16 in Proceedings of the 5th PLATE conference, edited by K. Niinimäki and K. Cura. Espoo: Aalto University. (kth.diva-portal.org)

Webinar: Textile ETP Masterclass on Circular and Biobased Textiles

June 29th, 2023, 14:00-17:00 CET, via MS Teams, members only. Click here to find information about becoming a member (textileplatform.eu).

Webinar title: Latest research on textile circularity and sustainable consumption models

The Innovation in Circular and Biobased Textiles Masterclass (textileplatform.eu) was launched in May 2022, and runs until the end of this year, with monthly webinars. The participating organizations come from industry (from start-ups to corporates), associations, universities and research institutes, from all across Europe.

A webinar typically has 4-5 speakers and 2 Q&A moments, where questions can be addressed to speakers.

14:00-14:10 – Introduction

14:10-14:35 – Topic: Characterisation study of the incoming and outgoing streams from sorting facilities (exact title tbc) by Véronique Allaire Spitzer, Re_fashion (FR)

14:35-15:00 –  Garment Quality and Product Lifetime – Kirsi Niinimäki, Aalto University (FI)

15:00-15:25 – Favorite Wardrobe – a research project about wardrobe utilization by Ann-Charlotte Mellquist, RI.SE (SE)

15:25-15:40 – Q&A

15:40-15:50 – Break

15:50-16:15 – Setting the right target: why clothing environmental policy should aim at production volumes reductions by Irene Maldini, Oslo Metropolitan University

16:15-16:40 –  EPR as a silver bullet: How to reduce overproduction by Tone Skårdal Tobiasson & Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Oslo Metropolitan University

16:40-16:50 – Q&A

16:50-17:00 – Wrap-up and outlook next webinars & activities

Reflections from PLATE

We attended the PLATE-conference in Helsinki with 7 papers, you can read more here.

The PLATE conference has over the years brought together very important profiles and institutions that all work with the concept of design for longevity, the use phase of products, systems and processes around products, and this was also the case in Helsinki. The group of scholars in fashion, clothing and textiles has grown considerably, so it felt very much like a ‘family get-together’ where senior scholars catch up with their respective work, and where aspiring junior scholars get to present their new and fresh ideas on the conference topic.

More Critical

Else Skjold from the Royal Danish Academy of Arts, and one of the work package leaders in CHANGE, has reflected on the more critical and said: “What was evident for this particular conference was how there is a development in the field towards a more systemic approach that involves policy framework, assessment schemes for longevity parameters, such as e.g. the use phase, the building up of ‘eco-systems’ of stakeholders and citizens for better resource efficiency, or educational schemes at particularly design schools.

These kinds of approaches seem to predict the work within the field for the coming years, in the shared understanding that the design of products alone will not affect any change in itself – there needs to be a deeper transformation at both cultural, political, and economic level before long-lasting design can become the new normal.”

Irene Maldini, who is also in CHANGE, agrees with this overall reflection, stating that “the PLATE community is maturing and developing more critical research about product lifetimes. In past editions, research focused mostly on how to apply well-known circular economy strategies. In every edition there are more realistic perspectives about the impact and savings of reuse or repair, critical papers on the impacts of clothing reuse, for instance, were quite common in this edition, and good.”

One of these was “Does Resale Extend the Use Phase of Garments? Exploring Longevity on the Fashion Resale Market”, Presented by Mette Dalgaard Nielsen from The Royal Danish Academy, a paper we look forward to reading and using both in Wasted Textiles and “Se min brukte kjole” projects.

Kerli Kant Hvass, a member of the Wasted Textiles consortium, adds that the strength of the conference is its approach to addressing products from a systemic perspective, where sessions dedicated to products and strategies for their longer life and better design were complemented with policy approaches, consumer interface and engagement strategies, business model innovations and technology advancements, such as Digital Product Passport. One of the highlight sessions was Multi-level Policies for Longer Lifetimes chaired by Jessika Richter and Carl Dalhammer, where for example Michela Puglia from Dyson School of Design Engineering presented Circular Economy Policy Canvas, an interesting mapping on EU policies from the fashion industry perspective. This is very timely research as the EU legislation will have a huge impact on both the products and product systems in the coming years.

Limitations of durability

Irene focused on ongoing work in CHANGE around the limitations of durability and noticed that the conference’s view of consumption as replacement-based is still the norm. Only one of the papers she attended, focused on accumulation, namely the paper “Cutting the life of reusable products short: Understanding overconsumption behavior for refill at home FMCGs”, Presented by Catriola Tassell and Marco Aurisicchio, Imperial College London.

Irene reflects: “The most usual way to refer to the difference between how we expect circular strategies to work, and how they actually work, is to use the concept of rebounds, there were several papers on rebounds, and I am looking forward to reading them all.” In the study “Backfire risk in decarbonization potential of 10 circular economy strategies: A meta-analysis of LCA studies on Product Service Systems”, Ryu Koide (University of Tokyo) and colleagues found that 64 % LCAs assume that any “circular offering” displaces “linear products” in a one-to-one basis without even discussing it, a further 17 % assume a displacement rate without empirical basis, 6 % use secondary data to estimate displacement rates in LCAs and only 13 % of all LCAs for all products, all kinds of offerings, conduct research to estimate an empirically based displacement rate. In short, we really don’t know if new ways of producing and consuming offer any improvements.


In terms of methods and approach to research, we were all impressed about Rotem Roichman’s work on fashion returns, also presented in Tamar Makov’s keynote speech on product returns. Their findings also reinforce a few points important in ongoing SIFO research both in CHANGE and Wasted Textiles, Irene argued: 1) that there is a big difference between demand and production volumes, the second being much bigger, with overproduction driving overconsumption, 2) that no matter how complicated retail, distribution and storage are, production has a far more significant impact, and therefore production volumes deserve much more attention than they get in the field.  The paper is “The hidden environmental costs of consumer product returns”, by Tamar Makov, Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management.

Lisbeth Løvbak Berg, from our Clothing Research team, agrees: “It gives further ammunition to our arguments concerning the need for reducing production volumes”. This work was also impressive because trying to map returns is difficult, and because the researchers here used other sources and methods that gave a better picture of the situation. When asked by the audience how the situation with volumes could be improved, Tamar Makov had no suggestions but pointed out that this was not the researchers’ task.

Clothing was a subject of many of the conference papers, and a lot of it was very interesting. Ingun Grimstad Klepp particularly appreciated Ana Neto’s paper, where theories of love are utilised to understand the relations between clothing and people. This perspective shows how important the use phase, and especially a long use phase, is for the development of emotional relationships with clothes. The clothing researchers also participated in a Sustainable Fashion Consumption Network meeting. The network is led by Katja Dayan Vladimirova with the aim of the network of bringing together academic researchers and practitioners working on the issues of fashion consumption in the context of sustainability.

Gender and methods discussion among the PhD students

The PLATE2023 conference included a pre-event for doctoral students working with product lifetimes to discuss commonalities in methods and topics. About 30 doctoral students, including Anna Schytte Sigaard, joined the event which was led by Mikko Jalas who is a professor at the Department for Design at Aalto University. Many of the PhD students working with clothing were using methods similar to wardrobe studies, while also expressing that they were struggling to define their method concretely. They were very happy to hear about the wardrobe studies method and felt that it made sense for them to include a similar framework in their own PhD work. Anna found it very useful to meet and talk to so many doctoral students prior to the conference, especially those with similar academic interests and working on similar topics to mine.  
Vilde Haugrønning also enjoyed the discussions and presentations around the topic of gender. Research on fashion and clothing consumption has mostly involved women, which has resulted in much knowledge about women’s clothing consumption patterns but less so about men and the differences between men and women. It is therefore very timely with the study from Stephan Wallaschkowski, who presented on “Gender roles as barriers to sustainable fashion lifetimes: How a deconstruction of norms can extend the use phase of garments”. His research will be an important reference for the CHANGE project and Vilde’s PhD, which aims to look at how social constructs of gender have an influence on the material flow and volume of clothing in wardrobes.

We all returned home with more knowledge and contacts, and will probably also prioritize PLATE in years to come.

Wardrobe inventories combined with inflow and outflow of garments in 15 Norwegian households

Vilde Haugrønning, PhD Candidate, Consumption Research Norway, Oslo Metropolitan University

My story of using wardrobe studies is based on the study I conduct as part of my PhD project, which is based in the CHANGE project. The aim of my PhD is to study how women’s and men’s clothing consumption in everyday life impact the material flow of garments in wardrobes and clothing volumes. The study is anchored in consumption studies and combines various methods that builds on the methodological approach of wardrobe studies. My project builds specifically on the hypothesis of the CHANGE project, which is that the specialisation of clothing for occasions and the expectations of variety are two aspects that are likely to have a big impact on the volume. To explore this hypothesis, the main objective is to study the constitutive elements of practice that influence clothing consumption and how this is influenced by gender.

Photo: Lea Gleisberg

The fieldwork is conducted in Norway and involves home visits to 15 Norwegian households with a man and a woman. Participants were recruited through various channels on social media and through personal networks. Potential participants were asked to fill out an online form and from this a sample of 15 households were selected. Since the overall perspective in this study is clothing consumption in everyday life, the participants were not recruited based on an interest in clothing or fashion, even though some had a stronger interest than others. The most important recruitment criteria were that the household consisted of a man and a woman, as the study aims to compare social constructs of gender. In addition, it was aimed to have a variety of informants in terms of age, occupation, location, and interests. The final sample consists of a variety of households from four different counties on Norway, from both urban and rural areas. Ages varies from late 20s to early 70s, some of the participants are retired, some live in houses and some in apartments, and some have children living at home.

The data collection has two phases and two visits in total to each household. The first phase involves a wardrobe inventory combined with a semi-structured interview. In this visit, two researchers, myself and my colleague Ingrid Haugsrud, are present. The participants are asked to count all the clothing they have access to, including underwear, socks and accessories but excluding shoes. The counting takes place with one participant at a time in front of their wardrobes, storage spaces or other places in the home where they store clothing. We use a template form to count the clothing based on garment categories and for each garment we ask what it is used for or what occasion it belongs to. After this, the counting form is transcribed and gives an overview of each participant’s wardrobes and its content. For example, the number of dresses for summer or number of trousers for the everyday.

Photo: Lea Gleisberg

The second phase starts at the end of the counting exercise, and the participants are asked to download an app that they will use to document inflow and outflow of garments for the next 6 months. This includes all the garments they acquire, make themselves or are gifted and garments that are donated or disposed of. The participants take photographs of the garments and upload them in the app, which also has a reminder function to keep them engaged. After 6 months, I conduct a final interview with the participants to talk about the garments they have documented.

The analysis and presentation of findings is yet to be done in my project, but the preliminary findings from phase 1 show that female participants have more clothing than male. By comparing the wardrobes and the different occasions attached to the garments, it is possible to see tendencies for why the women had more clothing. For example, several of the female informants have more clothing for everyday occasions and for party and formal occasions. Therefore, one of the reasons for the difference in the amount of clothing is likely to be related to the different expectations and conventions of gender roles in dressing for occasions and in varying between clothing for the same occasion.

From phase 2, I hope that the results can give insights into the dynamics of wardrobes from a volume perspective to better understand clothing quantities and the turnover rate of garments going in and out of wardrobes. For future research, I believe that doing a wardrobe study that involves a quantitative aspect, such as counting the whole or parts of the wardrobe, can give important insight to the content of wardrobes from a volume perspective. This could also be combined with a use frequency aspect, to investigate the connections between clothing quantities and the daily use of clothing.

As a final note, I would emphasise the data richness that wardrobe studies provide and the peculiarity of this way of doing field research, as people open up their wardrobes to complete strangers. There is something unique in being able to access people’s most intimate spaces through their clothing and hearing stories about good, bad and ordinary clothes.

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

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!

The KLOTHING team, Else Skjold far left, Kate Fletcher, far right. Photo: Johanne Stenstrup

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.

Happy participants, from left Tanja Gotthardsen, Lars Fogh Mortensen and Arne Remmen. Photo: Johanne Stenstrup.

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.