Authors: Irene Maldini, Vilde Haugrønning and Lucrecia de León
This paper introduces the relevance of volume-centric research in studies of clothing use. The global production of garments has grown dramatically in recent decades, bringing along significant environmental challenges. However, knowledge is lacking about why people deal with clothing quantities in such varied ways, and what leads some of them to overconsumption. A review of wardrobe research methods shows that there are various approaches to studying garments going in, around, and out of wardrobes. Gathering qualitative insights about specific garments, such as favorite garments, has been quite common. However, in order to advance knowledge about clothing consumption volumes, it is important to look at the wardrobe as a whole and include quantitative aspects. This paper reflects on what approaches and techniques can be used to that end. The reflections are combined with lessons learned from a pilot wardrobe study conducted in Uruguay, Portugal and Norway in 2022 with 20 respondents, concluding with recommendations for volume-centric methods in future wardrobe studies. Rigorous accounts of all garments owned should be combined with registration of items going in and out of the wardrobe over time in order to link accumulation to production and waste volumes. Methods connecting garment quantities with practices of daily use are particularly valuable. One example that has proven successful is piling exercises, a technique where participants are invited to categorize garments in groups according to specific criteria.
13th of April this year an online PhD masterclass was conducted within the scope of the CHANGE work package 5. The masterclass was online and involved the currently eight PhD students working with the wardrobe method or closely related methods and had the purpose of facilitating exchange of shared methodological implications, involved issues of interest, and the build-up of research network for young talents.
The 2-hour masterclass was informed by rapid pecha kucha type presentations of ongoing work and pre-formulated questions to facilitators and peers, and the workshop was hosted by Else Skjold who is PI of work package 5 of the CHANGE project. This work package involves, among other things, consolidation of existing wardrobe research and talent recruiting for new young research talent. Below is elaborated how the three themes cross-fertilized and interesting discussion that will hopefully just be the beginning of future work across the CHANGE partners to come. The presentations and discussions involved three selected topics emerging out of the ongoing PhD studies which were:
Textile Techniques and Use
How can we understand the interactions between wearers and garments within the specific site of the wardrobe both at micro- and macro-level? This has always been the core pillar of wardrobe research since it was established in the mid 2000’s, and it was very interesting to see how young scholars pick up on this and formulate new ideas within the scope of their thesis work. A particular strong focus on local dress cultures and its effect on individual wearers were highlighted in this session, that brought about fruitful discussions on situated and contextual dress practices and how they are affected by climatic, cultural, economic and functional parameters.
How can wardrobe research methods cast a light on the types of mechanisms and value creation that takes place between wearers and their vintage- and secondhand garments? This line of research is an interesting extension of ‘first generation’ wardrobe researchers’ work, in that it investigates what actually happens with garments beyond first use. This way it speaks back to concepts such as design for longevity/circularity and what they entail in the lifespan of garments between generations, body types, dress cultures and shifting ideas of fashion over time. And furthermore, how that informs practices of acquiring and discarding – an issue that has also been central within wardrobe research right from early pioneer studies in the early 1990’s.
Textile Techniques and Use
What types of competences used to be involved in maintaining personal wardrobes historically and how can we learn from this in an era with overproduction and overconsumption? Mending, repair and repurposing are all practices that have been deeply integrated in historical practices of use, as resources were typically scarce and costly – as opposed to now where much knowledge has been lost due to cheap, replaceable products and short use phases. This session looked into wardrobe maintenance practices of embellishment, print or other textile techniques for prolonging the lifespan of clothing, for projecting activist ideas, and generally for informing future practices and aesthetics of scarcity.
The masterclass will be repeated during the fall of 2023.
In a position paper from the Change and Wasted Textile projects, authors Kate Fletcher, Irene Maldini, Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Kirsi Laitala, Jens Måge and Tone Skårdal Tobiasson have addressed the background document from EU’s Joint Research Centre on Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR).
The main theme in the position paper, is that the JRC document Preliminary study on new product priorities lays the basis to increase environmental burdens rather than reduce these. Therefore, in the paper, the authors ask that the work with the ESPR incorporates more empirical understanding about ecodesign, clothing consumption, and textile and fashion design. This in order that the directive will have the effect of reduced environmental burdens (including on climate) and will minimize inappropriate or unintended side effects.
The aim in writing the paper is to support the ESPR process for textiles and footwear in fostering deep and lasting environmental change.
The authors applaud the efforts of the EU in regulating the textile and footwear sector and agree in the priority that has been assigned to clothing and footwear on the bases of high consumption volumes in the EU, potential environmental improvements, and lack of previous regulation. However, it is the view of the authors that the current work with the Ecodesign Directive is based on some assumptions that are not in line with the knowledge that is there, nor is it targeted towards the main and interconnected challenges in clothing and textiles: overproduction and the increasing plasticization of the material content of products.
These two factors are interconnected due to the fact that an increase in production is not possible without the cheap, easily available fossil fuel-based raw material for fibres, materials, dyes and other processing chemicals.
It is therefore questionable whether textiles and footwear should actually be the initial priority for ESPR. Perhaps starting with cement would be better.
Sufficiency advocates from different sectors came together on May 4th at the Sufficiency Summit.
Co-organised by Sciences Po (France) and University of South Australia, and chaired by Dr. Yamina Saheb and Professor David Ness, the Summit brought together governments, NGOs, and academics advocating for sufficiency in transport, the built environment, food, and clothing from different locations globally.
Irene Maldini, a researcher in the Change project at Consumption Research Norway (SIFO) at OsloMet participated in the panel about sufficiency and clothing, chaired by Katia Vladimirova from the University of Geneva. Samira Iran (Berlin Technical University) and Yayra Agbofah (Ghana-based NGO The Revival) also contributed. The key note for this part of the summit, was delivered by Lindita Xhaferi Salihu.
The session exposed attendees active in other sectors to research on individual initiatives to reduce textile and clothing consumption in the Global North, the problematic impact of growing volumes of imported second hand textiles in Ghana, and progress and resistance to include production volumes reductions measures in contemporary environmental policy for clothing and textiles. Maldini pointed specifically to the lack of attention to volumes in the policy measures.
Overall, the event placed great emphasis on inequality of resource consumption across the globe and the inefficiency of the market as a system to cover people’s needs. There was an overall consensus that stronger policy interventions are needed to enable reasonable levels of consumption across the globe, and that individual actions will follow.
Holding on or letting go? Why don’t consumers complain more? Why do we hang on to stuff that is flawed? How to make fast fashion out of fashion and actually degrow the textile sector? All these questions will be answered at the PLATE conference at Aalto University, in Espoo, Finland.
At the end of May and beginning of June, Consumption Research Norway SIFO at Oslo Metropolitan University will partake in the biannual PLATE (Product Lifetimes and The Environment) conference with a full menu of all in all six papers, and all in all four presenting findings from LASTING, where one is by authors from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
The project Change will also be presented with volumes of consumption as the appetizer. Studying clothing consumption volumes through wardrobe studies: a methodological reflection is written by Irene Maldini, Vilde Haugrønning and Lucrecia de León. As not all wardrobe methods take advantage of their volume-centric possibilities, the paper explores lessons from a wardrobe pilot study conducted in Uruguay, Portugal and Norway in 2022 with both male and female respondents. Preliminary findings show that a volume perspective on wardrobe research can give valuable insights on the particularities of clothing use in relation to quantities.
Putting on a different set of glasses
In another paper, which is a result of the Wasted Textiles project, this is also explored related only to textiles and clothing: Regulating Fast Fashion out of Fashion, authored by Kerli Kant-Hvass and Ingun Grimstad Klepp. The analysis underpinning the paper is based on a review of 10 textile strategy documents from public, private and non-profit organizations, on whether and how growth and overproduction in the textile industry is being addressed. Merging this with research and findings from the opposite end of the value-chain than these textile strategy documents do (which use design and a focus on “preferred fiber” choices to potentially optimize lifetime), the paper puts forward Targeted Producer responsibility (TPR) as a means to curb volumes effectively and thus reduce environmental impacts.
Another paper, written by Kirsi Laitala, Lisbeth Løvbak Berg and Pål Strandbakken, addresses consumers’ use and knowledge of the Consumer Purchases Act by asking: Why won’t you complain? Consumer rights and the unmet product lifespan requirements. The paper discusses the reasons for not complaining, based on six consumer focus groups, where in total 36 consumers described furniture, electronics, and textile products that they were dissatisfied with and hadn’t necessarily taken the trouble to claim their consumer rights.
Clearer guidelines in order
There is a need for clear guidelines on what the consumer rights are for the specific products, the authors write, to make it clear what is considered unacceptable abrasion and normal use, but also to differentiate between commercial warranties and legal rights. Complaints are, after all, an important avenue for businesses to gain information about the performance of their products, and thereby improve them.
In Norway, the right to complain is extended to 5 years for some durable goods, which exceeds the EU requirements of 2 years. This creates confusion about which products and which duration is valid, where consumers often link this to price, rather than the type of product. In addition to clearer guidelines, there are possibilities for new technical solutions to facilitate the storage of receipts and purchase information related to each product, which was especially problematic for low-priced items. Digital product passes, which is on EU’s menu of policy instruments, may be developed with this in mind, and could also include information about consumer rights.
Focus groups offer insights
Two other Lasting papers, are both about what we keep or discard and why, and are based on focus groups, but also some interviews with business representatives. The overarching theme was product longevity of three product groups: electronics, textiles, and furniture. In Flawed or redundant: products with long lifespans against the odds, co-authored by Harald Throne-Holst and Kirsi Laitala, the theme is explored related to reasonings behind keeping things – by only storing them and not using them – or trying to use them even though they are broken or flawed. Five groups of reasoning were presented: Economical, Ethical, Social, Emotional, and Intentions.
In Holding on or letting go? Conflicting narratives of product longevity: a business vs. consumer perspective, authors Lisbeth Løvbak Berg and Marie Hebrok have found that technical and emotional durability are the two dominant ways of understanding product longevity by business representatives, and as such what they aim to embed in their products. Consumers, however, tell a different story, of living with their things, of use, of time passing, and life events triggering change – factors that are external to the product itself. The authors argue that corporate narratives of product longevity divert our attention away from production toward consumption, keeping questions of volume and growth at arm’s length.
Stockings as stress
In relation to durability, the Reduce project will present The devaluation of stockings. Tone Rasch, Ingrid Haugsrud, Kirsi Laitala and Atle Wehn Hegnes (Tone is associated with the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology) explore nylon stockings for women as an example of a product that first was recognized as high fashion, but later has been devalued and is now seen almost as a single-use product. Thin stockings represent a good example of how we value and take care of delicate items has a significant contribution to their lifetimes. Looking into the historical context is beneficial for learning about the points in time when changes occurred and how they contribute to consumer practices.
The weakest link: How technical lifespan extension can be counter-effective for climate goals looks at scenarios for kitchen durables (fridge, dishwasher, stove, and kitchen cupboards) to explore lifetime extension, and investigate the extent to which these interventions could in fact be counter-effective for climate goals set for 2050. The authors, Kamila Krych and Johan B. Pettersen, found that the extra resources invested to ensure more durable products that anyways can land in waste bins prematurely, can be counter-effective in reaching the climate goals set for 2050.
Faster environmental benefits, the authors write, could be achieved by increasing the repair rates by extending product warranties, subsidizing repair services, supporting the development of innovative repair businesses, demanding the availability of spare parts at affordable prices, and increasing the convenience of repair. The paper also points to policy addressing “problematic” products as more effective, such as dish-washers that fail more frequently. A belief in design-focused interventions, is clearly questioned, as the authors see this as taking longer to bring effect.
So, all in all, attendees should be well-satisfied and full of new knowledge, considering this rich menu, which is of course only a small part of the three-day proceedings in Finland. The research papers will be published after the conference.
First of all, we would like to welcome you as a colleague! This is a very happy development for Consumption Research Norway (SIFO) and our clothing research group, alongside of course, the work in the projects you have the lead of work packages. So firstly: welcome!
For such a long time, we have associated you with London College of Fashion, and now you are affiliated with three Scandinavian institutions. Is there a special affinity to this region that has resulted in this tripling of your affiliation?
Well, it is a very beautiful region! Seriously, there has been a steady – and growing – presence in sustainability, design, fashion and textiles work in the Nordic countries over the last twenty-five years and I am now honoured to be able to connect with this work in three different institutions.
Are the other two positions very different from your role at SIFO?
All the roles are fairly distinct, drawing on different parts of my knowledge and skills. Some are more design-based, others more strategic, while the work at SIFO is more specifically linked to research projects.
Your research project, Craft of Use, brought in a new perspective on how we use our clothes in a myriad of ways; that has inspired many to rethink their relationship with clothes. How did this research lead to for example Earth Logic and your input to new research? Can you give us a ‘thread’ that weaves through your research?
The Craft of Use project started out in 2008 as a way to glimpse what ‘fashion’ might look like ‘post growth’. The idea was that in a world beyond consumerism when clothes are no longer bought mindlessly, the skills of using garments well, with dedication and care, take on new significance. These skills would become the currencies of post growth fashion, they also emphasise practices not just products and users, not just garments. Through a hybrid ethnographic-design research project the Craft of Use project connected the everyday (the lifeworld of the user), systemic questions about taken-for-granted economic and social structures, and relational potential of design to act and connect differently. Earth Logic is, I guess, an obvious continuation of this approach. It also uses a similar action research methodology and is similarly radical.
In the two projects Lasting and CHANGE, where you lead two work packages, you are looking outside the Global North concept of consumption and fashion/clothing practices with a new lens or kaleidoscope. Is this challenging to you personally and also research in general?
It is both personally challenging, and challenging to research, and necessarily so. For too long the dominant ideas in fields like fashion and sustainability have been assumed to be universal, with the assumption that no one sits outside of these ideas, beyond this epistemic territory. But with this assumption comes erasure, and denial of other perspectives, realities, possibilities etc. Looking to more plural perspectives tackle some of the biggest subjects like Western hegemony, human exceptionalism, patriarchy, but it also asks about small practical things like how writing items in a list introduces a hierarchy, which in turn introduces an inadvertent priority or power relation.
Some of the focus in Mathilda Tham’s and your Earth Logic, is about a more localized and diverse approach to clothing and fashion. I personally find this fascinating, and it resonates with so much of what needs to be in place in order “repair” our current system, if we can even repair it. Do you have any thoughts at all that you are willing to share, on systemic change within the current economic system?
Community based action is seen, time and again, as the radical basis of sustainability change. For it is in local places that lives are lived. One of the strands of work that is ongoing within Earth Logic is an exploratory project around a local fashion government. In Earth Logic, when we talk about government and governance people often think about big government, like what happens at national or pan-national levels, but what Earth Logic is interested in is at a different level. Our interest is the small sets of individual, household, community and regional decisions around organising and regulating clothing provision and expression. To be clear, this is not about what can be produced in a region, but more about how to meet needs with the clothing that we already have. This for me is systemic change. I’ll let you be the judge if it sits within the current system or not.
What do you feel should be further explored at SIFO, what themes do you see as unaddressed?
One of the critical challenges for fashion and sustainability is to tackle rising consumption volumes. I would like to get straight to heart of this challenge and to explore consuming less, and to do that with colleagues with expertise from across the SIFO family.
Do you feel research councils understand what the actual problems are? Do you have a wish for a call you haven’t seen?
In general terms it seems research councils prefer funding projects that are similar to existing ones, that use related thinking, and aligned with established economic priorities. What I hope for is that bolder, riskier, farsighted projects will also be funded. Such projects generally create the compost that other projects then go on to sow the seeds of change in. And without the compost, other seeds of future projects will not germinate. So, this is ultimately an investment in the future.
Consumption, as a word and a concept; what do you find the most problematic and what do you find to be valuable?
Etymologically, I find the term consumption problematic, meaning, as it does, “to use up”. And in the fashion context, its strong association with the culture of consumption is antithetical to ecological balance. Yet inspired by the words of the poet and farmer Wendell Berry, I am also seeing consumption, as about husbandry. That is, the name of all practices that sustain life by connecting us conservingly to our places and our world. It is the art of keeping tied all the strands in the living network that sustains us.
During a meeting earlier this year with a team from the European Commission Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans’ office, the authors of this new paper were asked to supply more background on the Targeted Producer Responsibility they presented.
As the first step in supplying more research-based data and knowledge, the paper entitled “Critical review of Product Environmental Footprint (PEF): Why PEF currently favors synthetic textiles (plastics)” and therefore also fast fashion was sent to the meeting-participants and published online. This was, however, only the first of three papers promised. The second, “Research input for policy development based on understanding of clothing consumption“, a research briefing, goes into the research behind the proposal. It is now sent to the meeting participants and is therefore also made publicly available.
For this research briefing, additional researchers who are not part of the Wasted Textiles project were engaged, and who have also recently been recruited to roles at SIFO: Kate Fletcher and Irene Maldini. Authors from Wasted Textiles are Lisbeth Løvbak Berg (SIFO, OsloMet), Tone Skårdal Tobiasson (NICE Fashion/UCRF), Jens Måge (Norwegian Waste Management and Recycling Association). Kerli Kant Hvass (Revaluate/Aalborg University); and of course, the main author Ingun Grimstad Klepp.
This briefing paper builds on research and evidence from SIFO’s 75 years of consumer research on clothing and the ongoing projects CHANGE, Lasting as well as the mentioned Wasted Textiles, addressing the problem of overproduction of textiles. It draws attention to the importance of incorporating the latest consumer research in the design of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) – or rather our suggestion TPR – and other textile policies currently being developed in the EU. It is written by a diverse group of academics and practitioners who are seeking to support change in the sector.
The briefing puts forward that the authors see a trend in various policy discussions and documents based on the belief that making garments more durable, will reduce the quantity of clothing produced. Scientific research does not provide evidence for this, which is exactly what this briefing aims to show. The briefing is, however, not only a criticism of the lack of research-based policy tools. The authors also offer suggestions on how to make these tools effective in the challenge that lies ahead of us: Making fast fashion out of fashion.
This week saw the publication of a critical background paper on concerns surrounding the Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules for Apparel and Footwear from a consortium representing the collaborative international research project Wasted Textiles at Consumption Research Norway SIFO at Oslo Metropolitan University.
The consortium were asked to supply more background information to the EU Commission after a knowledge sharing meeting January 25 hosted by Vice President Timmermans cabinet members and other EU officials from both DG Grow and DG Environment involved in the execution of the EU Textiles strategy, the revision of the Waste Framework Directive, and other Green Deal related policies.
As the first step in supplying more research-based data and knowledge, the paper entitled CRITICAL REVIEW OF PRODUCT ENVIRONMENTAL FOOTPRINT (PEF): WHY PEF CURRENTLY FAVORS SYNTHETIC TEXTILES (PLASTICS) AND THEREFORE ALSO FAST FASHION was sent to the meeting-participants this week, and the authors have decided to make the paper publicly available through the Clothing Research website, and can be accessed at the bottom of this page.
During the meeting, which was mainly about Extended Producer Responsibility, Professor in Clothing and Sustainability at Consumption Research Norway SIFO at Oslo Metropolitan University, Ingun Grimstad Klepp, brought up concerns surrounding PEF and PEFCR that could be addressed with the right policy measures to ensure better data collection for the use- and end-of-use phase. These concerns are based on research from three longitudinal research projects at SIFO (Wasted Textiles, CHANGE and Lasting), under the auspices of the Clothing Research umbrella. This research was what led to the meeting with several EU officials, who were all genuinely interested in how academic research can contribute to better policy measures.
This paper is the first in a series of three that will be delivered to the participants of the meeting and will be made available on this website, related to EU’s textile strategy. The research consortium behind the critical papers, welcome EU’s ambitious strategy for apparel and footwear; however, the same research consortium sees that unless one takes a holistic view which includes the use and disposal of products, with a view from what actually ends up in the waste and how quickly – true sustainability-measures are in danger of supplying misleading information. By capturing this research and making it available, it is possible to spur policy measures that address the issue of over-production head on.
In conclusion, the paper states: “In essence, one can therefore say that PEFCR for clothing favors plastic due to a lack of political decisiveness on how to measure natural versus synthetic materials, together with giving the FF (fast fashion) industry power in the development of PEFCR and choice of underlying data. Fast fashion will remain in fashion if those who have the most to gain from it are making the rules.” The first critical paper is authored by Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Kirsi Laitala, Lisbeth Løvbak Berg (all SIFO, OsloMet), Tone Skårdal Tobiasson (NICE Fashion/UCRF), Jens Måge (Norwegian Waste Management and Recycling Association) and Kerli Kant Hvass (Revaluate/Aalborg University).
The CHANGE masterclass seminar held at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen September 30th 2022 hosted another interesting occasion. This was the launch of KLOTHING – Centre for Apparel, Textiles & Ecology Research. The first Danish research center on fashion, textiles and sustainability lead by me, Associate Professor, PhD, Else Skjold, who has been central in developing the wardrobe method since the beginning of my PhD study (Skjold, 2014).
Text: Else Skjold/KLOTHING
In CHANGE, I am responsible for the WP5 regarding the continuous recruiting of junior- and senior researchers for further development and consolidation of wardrobe research, and dissemination of new knowledge to both research, industry, and policy makers. With the newly established centre, wardrobe research will have a strong outpost and knowledge hub in Scandinavia to support and strengthen the WP5, the work being conducted at SIFO in Oslo, and the broadening out of wardrobe research altogether.
The name is a result of the dialogue between myself and professor, PhD Kate Fletcher, who is also part of the CHANGE project, and currently affiliated with the Royal Danish Academy (among others). With the title KLOTHING, the centre is rooted in a Scandinavian context, since the spelling of clothing with a “K” stems from Norse language. The title thereby suggests how research departing from exactly Denmark and Scandinavia might contribute to effecting a CHANGE. Therefore, the founding pillars of the centre are focusing on the core value of the Scandinavian welfare states that everyone should have equal opportunity, which is mirrored in the Scandinavian traditions for user-inclusive and collaborative design that was developed throughout the 20th Century.
The center is placed at the Royal Danish Academy which covers the Design School, the Architect School and the Conservation School. This implicates that the knowledge production of the center has a basis in the three respective areas of research, artistic development work, and practice. This means that the center will produce knowledge in the shape of both academic writing and research-led design development work at the highest artistic level, thereby testing and validating how a circular and sustainable future might appear in physical design artifacts and prototypes.
KLOTHING is affiliated with the Institute of Architecture and Design that represents the full scale from ceramics to clothing and textiles, and to furniture, interior, and architecture. It is thereby embedded in a research- and education environment strongly affected by the iconic Danish Modern Furniture traditions deriving from the 1950’s and 1960’s, and represented by designers such as Børge Mogensen, Kaare Klint, and Finn Juhl. It is particularly in this modernist movement and its functionalist tradition for investigating user-behavior and -needs and the use properties of design objects for various occasions (i.e. storage for clothing etc.), that there is a strong tie to the CHANGE project and its interest in occasions and categories of clothing designed for specific purposes.
These traditions for a sensitivity towards use and use properties of design are interpreted in KLOTHING as an important foundation for restoring the fashion- and textiles sectors’ ability to deliver products of high and long-lasting use value. Going back to the aspirations of the welfare state of providing equal opportunityfor everyone, it is obvious that in a current context this will imply a deep sensitivity for various user groups and their needs and aspirations, across gender, race, age and other important parameters that are not recognized in the current fashion system.
It is here that wardrobe research is a key driver for understanding how design creates value in practices of maintenance and use, and in circular services such as resale, rental, re-design, adjustment tailoring and similar. Wardrobe research could be seen as crucial in the years to come, as there is a need for building eco-systems, logistics and new practices for a more circular and sustainable fashion- and textiles sector that is centred on long-time use of resources. Basically, wardrobe research is key because circularity requires skills, practices, understandings, logistics and value systems that are based around use rather than on fashion trends. But the ecosystems political and economic incentives for establishing this do not exist and are complex to build up.
This is why KLOTHING will be tied up to traditions for collaborative design approaches and co-design developed from the 1970’s and onwards in Scandinavia that go well in hand with the cooperative business model represented by large Danish companies such as COOP and Arla. These business models were built on the idea that together we can do more. Typically, they consist of many small enterprises and stakeholders with a shared infrastructure for knowledge-building, know-how and revenue creation. Like a small welfare state within the welfare state. This template for collaborative research means that the center will primarily work action-based and in collaborative settings across sciences and sectors/stakeholders. This work has already started, as KLOTHING is embedded in the politically funded research partnership on circular economy for plastics and textiles affiliated with the Innovation Fund Denmark, TraCE. Here Jesper Richardy is part of the team.
Ultimately, the ambitions of the CHANGE project of creating an actual impact at more systemic level is also embedded in the ideas behind KLOTHING. This is found in the strong inspiration of the movement propelled by the manifesto of the Nordic Cuisine from 2004. What they basically did was to reject the focus on French cooking tradition that had pushed local produce and culinary practices into almost oblivion. They believed in a much more locally rooted practice that respected natures’ boundaries and seasons. In welfare and balance for both human and non-human species. In elevating local resources and in making them precious through skilled craftmanship at the highest level. All in collaboration between citizens, politicians, researchers, industry, and other stakeholders for the common good.
This could seem as a highly protective and inward-looking project. But what happened was that they inspired local craftmanship and resourcefulness – a decentering of what good cuisine was all about – and thereby stimulated tools and supporting philosophy for a more caring and rooted practice together with chefs all around the globe. Just like this movement, KLOTHING seeks to inspire new landscapes of fashion and textiles that are decentered, inclusive and respectful of plural voices and aesthetics, whilst respecting planetary boundaries and principles of biodiversity. This line of thinking was initiated in the master programme that was launched September 2020 at the Royal Danish Academy; Fashion, Clothing & Textiles; New Landscapes for Change.
The hope going forward is to reach out and invite fellow researchers and students from other learning environments, as well as industry partners, policy makers and other stakeholders, in the understanding that no one can make a CHANGE on their own.
In the middle of Advent 2022, Vilde, Kirsi and Ingun traveled to Uruguay. Irene was already there with her family, and the trip was well planned in collaboration with Irene, who lives in Portugal, but is from Uruguay, and Lucrecia who works in Montevideo. Part of the background for the trip was the testing of the wardrobe method that had been carried out in Norway, Portugal and Uruguay. This was with good help from students there who also actively participated in a seminar. Text Ingun Grimstad Klepp
Warm reception in a warm country
We spent the first weekend planning the seminar on clothing and the environment which was to take place on Monday and Tuesday, as a collaboration between CHANGE and the local university. On Sunday we went for a long walk in the city where large parts of the streets were filled with a market. Here, most things were for sale, from pets such as rabbits, hamsters and tropical fish, to objects that we would hardly have found a market for in Norway, such as remote controls, parts for electronics, eye glasses, etc. There were some new clothes, mostly of a simpler nature and many used clothes. There was very little textile craftsmanship to be seen with a couple of exceptions of crocheted stuffed animals and toddler clothes.
We also visited various shops for used clothes, both permanent and pop-up shops. The system for reselling clothes was quite different from Norway, where humanitarian organizations’ collection stations are everywhere. There is no public collection of textiles, nor “textile towers” by private humanitarian organizations. In contrast, used clothes are sold in the markets. Some of the clothes that were sold in the second-hand shops were bought at the market and then they were resold somewhat more expensive.
The extensive reuse of most things that we experienced on this first day was confirmed again and again in everything from interiors and buildings to bicycles. We were given various explanations that ranged from a mentality among most people, to politics and economics. Being content with what you have and not always wanting something else and more, was central. Uruguayans are, in their own and others’ eyes, a pragmatic people who are satisfied without a lot, as long as they have their “matte”, the local green tea that is drunk hot everywhere, most carry a thermos under the arm.
Another explanation was that the political investment in sustainability, for example in the form of large-scale conversion to renewable energy, was so central. The last explanation has to do with economics and economic differences. More poverty, and also more difficult economic conditions for the middle class, was repeated by several. That lower costs for labor compared to new products affects the amount that is reused and repaired is almost self-evident, but it was interesting to have several and more complex explanations for the same phenomenon.
CHANGE Seminar at The Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urbanisme FADO
On December 5th and 6th, the Uruguayan partners in the CHANGE project organized a seminar in Montevideo. Prácticas de diseño y consumo de indumentaria: Miradas y acciones hacia un desarrollo sustentable. (Read more in Spanish here.) Some of the project’s researchers from Norway and Portugal exchanged experiences with the local community. The seminar took place at the beautiful building of the Faculty of Architecture, UdelaR, and was organized by Lucrecia de León and Lucía Lopez from the local Industrial Design School.
Just coming to this building was an experience in itself. FADO is one of the sixteen faculties that make up the University of the Republic. The building is from 1948, its headquarters were inaugurated on Artigas Boulevard, in the Rodó Park of the city, it is one of the most characteristic buildings of the city of Montevideo, designed by the architects Román Fresnedo Siri and Mario Muccinelli. They had just completed an extension and we were in a newer part of the faculty. Among other things, apparel was taught – and therefore not fashion as in many design schools. This probably also contributed to the fact that professionally it was easy for us to “find the tone” with teachers and students there.
During the first day, speakers shared local experiences and efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the sector. These included perspectives from the academic, public, and private sector. There were both teachers, students and entrepreneurs among the approx. 50 the audience.
Federico Baráibar from the Ministry of the Environment talked about local data and policies and the lack thereof. As many other places, there is actually not much focus on clothing in environmental politics. He spoke mostly about textile waste in the management and policy of waste in Uruguay. He presented what they know about different types of textile waste. An estimate is 20-30 000 tons of textiles household waste in Uruguay per year. Not surprising, there is more focus on plastic packaging. Compared to other waste streams, textiles as a product group, is small and does not receive particular attention, policies usually emerge based on actual problems. In his opinion, it is difficult for a country in development to let a government interfere in private consumption to reduce consumption and waste production.
In 2019, they had a new policy where they wanted to apply 1000% tax on certain disposable objects, but it was not passed, so they there will be added 180% tax in a law (not yet applied). Tax was also the way import of second-hand textiles was regulated. It is not banned to import second-hand clothes to Uruguay, but just that the taxes paid are the same as for new clothes. We did hear from others several times that only Chile allowed import of used clothing, but it is possible that this was import without tax they then meant. There is doubtless a lot we do not know about the policy for used apparel in Uruguay, South America (and other places), and very interesting that ban is not the only way to restrict and reduce.
Lucía López, EUCD (Institute of Design, University of the Republic Uruguay,) presented her Project #textourgente, which uses textile upcycling and print as a way to activate social change and attitudes towards clothing. Her focus is upcycling as a way to activate the user as opposed to the passive user. She used text printed on clothes as a means to upcycle and generate reflection, in order to help people to wear a previously owned garment with pride. She explained how emotional design depends on the personal approach of the designer and the target group, what is emotional cannot be standards, but must emerge from the community that is engaged.
Sofía Dinello presented her thesis about active life of clothing and emotional design and Gabriela Pintos (FCEA) shared her view about consumer behavior in a circular economy from the perspective of economic theory.
In a second session focused on action, Renata Casanova presented the circular economy program of Ceprodih, an NGO dedicated to support women in a vulnerable social position. They use donated textile in teaching sewing and entrepreneurship. Much of what they work with is reutilization of PVC plastics. This was done in textile workshops, making accessories that they sell through the workshop and collaborate with a network of entrepreneur women in circular economy programs. They work with businesses and hospitals, and the waste they generate. What their partners could not themselves use, was transformed. In this way logos and colors could be kept and used. We visited this company a few days later and had the opportunity to discuss with her. More under Day 2.
Josefina García and Laura Moreira shared their efforts towards circular design in the local denim brand Rotunda, This was ambitious work with creating guidelines for circularity in design with jeans. Based on design and circularity principles from Ellen MacArthur. They emphasize durability: first guideline of denim is to be in perfect condition after 30 washes. Screen print washing instructions on the pockets instead of tags to not lose the information. 80 % of fibres are organic cotton and 20 % is recycled cotton. They emphasize trims, not using the processes that requires chemicals, raw colors of the metals, the latter is hard without changing the look of the jeans. Trying to overcome the things that are associated with jeans, but not necessary. This includes buttons and other things that can be taken off. They had a pilot project with a RFID label with a QR code for information for the consumer stage and forward. Aim is for each item to have a personal code.
Alejando Esperanza presented their rapidly growing resale business VOPERO, an app used for resale of second-hand clothes that look like new. The most surprising with this concept is how it differs from other reuse-apps. Here there is little «ideology», rather an emphasis on volume. VOPERO employs 140 people. They approve about 50% of garments that are sent to them. The remainder is either returned to the owner or donated to local companies, if the owner does not want it back. They add about 1500 new garments to the app each day. Everything they sell must go through a quality check, but the inspection of each item must take less than 30 seconds to be cost-effective. The company does not wash or have time for significant repairs. One of the reasons for not accepting garments is related to smell. He explained that many customers are people that do not normally buy second-hand items but can save a bit of money by selecting things that still look like new. Quality photos of the accepted items is important and the price is about 20-30% lower than a similar new item, so they prefer brands that are recognized.
After his presentation, there was a lively discussion. Many people thought a lot about whether it was right or not to sell only clothes that looked new – as used. There was a great deal of what they received that they did not want to sell and which they then donated further internally in Uruguay. The discussion and the temperature in it were interesting in themselves. Why does this arouse so much opposition? Why must used clothes also be part of a “used” style? It is also a question of whether similar concepts exist elsewhere and whether this will eventually be exported.
During the second day, focused on wardrobe studies as a tool to understand clothing consumption in the context of the environmental crisis, international and local CHANGE researchers shared their past and current research supported by wardrobe methods. These included:
Lucrecia de León (Wardrobe metabolism) presented her Master’s thesis work that was started by analysis of the wardrobe metabolism of two women, herself and another student. Later, the analysis was continued to a larger sample of similar women. 20 women started but only 8 finished. Some findings were that the new clothes were used more frequently and about 10% of items were unused. During the second week, wearing the clothes was planned, and inactive garments from the “RAM memory” were tried to be taken into use. Some garments were not possible to get activated, for example due to size.
Ingun Klepp (Wardrobe studies: History and variations) talked about the history of wardrobe studies as a method and gave examples of different methods that had been used at SIFO.
Kirsi Laitala (Wardrobe audits: Asking people what they don’t know) presented a method for the quantitative version of wardrobe studies, often called wardrobe audit. She introduced some advantages and disadvantages of the method and presented suggestions for improving the quality of collected data. Some examples from the international wardrobe audit were given to illustrate some of the points.
Vilde Haugrønning (Wardrobes in Change: Counting garments based on occasions) gave an overview of the field work she is doing in her PhD.
Irene Maldini (Assessing the impact of sustainable design strategies through wardrobe methods) held a lecture that many design school would find highly useful.
The next session was dedicated to Wardrobe methods in Uruguay, which included both already carried out studies, and plans.
Micaela Cazot, Lucrecia de León and Valentina Viñoles talked about the work with the pilot for CHANGE in Uruguay. Micaela Cazot and Lía Fernández (Identifying good practices of use: Reflections on the consumption of Slow Fashion in Uruguay) explored the plan for field work among people who themselves define their consumption as sustainable. The two were concerned with the wardrobe method’s possibilities also for self-reflection. Finally, Valentina Viñoles spoke about plus-size women’s wardrobe (Analysis of the coexistence between functional requirements, personal identity and social expectations).
The rest of the day was organized as a workshop with tables set up, where we could all choose different topics for discussion. This worked very well, despite the fact that talking together took time due to the different language skills we possessed. Spanish and English had to be translated back and forth constantly. But with a good mood and will, important topics such as politics and clothing for deviant bodies, and the development of wardrobe studies in Uruguay, were lively discussed.
This event contributes to the professionalization of wardrobe methods internationally, a central objective of the project, more specifically its work package 4. Students and junior researchers shared their experiences and initiatives using wardrobe methods, and more experienced researchers reflected on recent developments in methodological approaches and opportunities for future studies in the context of the growing social relevance of clothing consumption’s environmental impact.
Book presentation in an artisanal market
In the evening we participated in a book presentation at “Ideas +” a popular artisanal market that takes place every December in Montevideo. It also has a book launch every day, and some local music. There was a presentation of one of our colleagues’ work “Atinando al ojo del ciclope. La remanufactura y otros modos de accionar nuestras prácticas del vestir”. A well-organized market with books, arts and crafts and much more in one, of the city’s central parks. On the outskirts, there were also more unorganized markets. After the presentation, we got to see a bit of everything, and again the lack of textile craftsmanship struck us.
Locally produced textiles from many Latin American countries are dominated by indigenous woven and embroidered colorful clothing. In Uruguay, there is no knowledge of, or traces of, those who lived there before European colonization. It was said that they all died of disease.
Visit to Manos de Uruguay
Wednesday 7th: Manos del Uruguay is a non-profit social organization that since 1968 has given work to women artisans in rural areas of Uruguay. In Manos garments are designed and woven, mainly from wool yarns, for the local market and for prestigious international clothing brands.
Their premises are located in Montevideo, where they have workshops and offices. A lot of work is put into developing new products, as well as controlling the quality of their products, training and administration. There was a large number of different products, both yarn types and woven textiles. The yarn was mainly Merino. It was seen as a problem that there was no major spinning mill in Uruguay. Much of the yarn was hand spun, and some imported. A part of it had a curled-up look almost like unraveled yarns. This produced soft and airy woven textiles. Much of the yarn was hand dyed. We were told that they wanted to produce yarns from coarser, local breeds. The market, especially for hand knitting yarn, was very good, according to our tour guide.
The main product is a simple poncho and the most sold is undyed white. The market for this was both in Uruguay through the companies, but also for export. In addition, they sold to luxury brands as part of their profile. This market was growing and had also changed a bit. Today, companies were more interested in making it clear to customers who was behind the production. Manus de Uruguay added not only to the craft itself, but also confidence in the product.
The market for the products is good. What was a problem, however, was knowledge of crafts in younger generations and also access to suitable looms and yarns. After the tour, we visited one of the shops in the center of town where there was both a sale of leftovers, etc. and a more ordinary shop.
CEPRODIH is a non-profit civil association, founded in Montevideo in 1998, with the mission of assisting and promoting the most vulnerable families, especially women with children in situations of high social risk: unemployment, domestic violence, helplessness during pregnancy. The main objective is to generate concrete alternatives for socio-economic inclusion, so that women who are going through situations of risk can overcome them and manage to effectively join the labor market; managing to be able to support their families with dignity and autonomy.
Here we again met Renata Casanova Sanchez, who had given a lecture on upcycling at the seminar two days before. She gave us a nice tour of large, nice premises with lots of people and resources. There were courses in everything from sewing to running a business; kitchens, childcare and premises for various types of recycling of glass, paper, textiles and plastics. They had their own shop, or “showroom”, which displayed a selection of the products. They mostly worked with gifts and profile products for various companies and often with recycling of materials from the companies themselves. As the materials were constantly changing – and also the end product – a great deal of work was put into product development and utilization of materials. It was rarely possible to make many similar products.
The company’s finances were supported by non-profit organizations, and thus only part of the income came from the sale of the products. Nevertheless, the competitive situation for these, very time-consuming products, against mass-produced versions of the same products, was difficult. It was impressive to see how much beauty they were able to get out of waste that we don’t normally think of as valuable: Synthetic textiles, plastic and cardboard packaging, and much more. Part of the material consisted of donated clothes, they were also sold partly as resale and partly directly. When we were there, there had been a fire in a warehouse and large quantities of underwear with soot had come in. A group of women went through the goods to check for the possibility of laundering and reselling the underwear. Some of the items had tags cut off, as a way to protect the brand. This also meant that information about fiber and care of the clothes was missing.
Visit to Wool Mill: Engraw
We were given a tour by Frederico Raquet, who runs the family business. He started by explaining investments that have been made to make the factory climate neutral and self-sufficient in everything from energy to water purification. He also talked about all the various environmental certificates that he uses, everything from C2C to Climate Accounting. The water was purified in a separate facility and the remains of lanolin and dirt that could not be used in agriculture nearby were used as water/fertilizer for a planted forest that served as a final purification. Outside at the back of the factory, we saw the various water baths for purification, windmills for energy, all within their own property. Frederico strongly believes in long-term planning and leaving the company – and nature – in better condition for future generations. He also emphasized the well-being of the slightly over 100 employees.
Frederico explained that a large number of different types of grass grew in Uruguay, and that most of the country consisted of grazing land (natural pasture), i.e. not cultivated meadow or plowed land. The large areas were primarily used for cattle, i.e. meat production, but the cattle could not utilize all the grasses. In order to maintain good pastures, the farmers therefore released sheep onto the areas after the cattle had “had their share”. Trees were also an important part of this system. Trees provided shade for the animals and helped bind CO2. In this way, meat and wool production in Uruguay will fare well in terms of climate calculations. The animals graze outside all year round, there is no need for buildings or feed-production. Very little of the country’s vast plains has been cultivated. With this in mind, it was not surprising that one of the questions he had for us was why land-use is so important – and comes out so badly – in LCA/PEF comparisons. He wanted to know why it was not positive to use the area in a good way, and what would possibly be an environmentally better alternative for using the areas. Good questions.
Things were in good shape in the factory. The building itself was impressive with an incredible brick roof structure, neat and clean. He explained the various processes, from the wool entering in large trucks. Much is Uruguayan, both Merino and other breeds with coarser wool, but they also scour wool from other countries, mostly from South Africa. The Uruguayan wool was classified according to a separate wool classification system. Which he himself had learned well and thoroughly before he could move up the ranks in the company. The production itself was always based on specifications from the customer, and could consist of various mixtures. We got to see wool from many countries, and work plans where all customers figured only in codes. But… on this particular day, wool for carpet production in the Middle East whizzed through the machines. What we got to see of Uruguay’s own Merino was impressive. Fine, long fibers with good crimp. He believed that there was poor provision for the coarser qualities and that farmers were generally paid too little for wool. He was concerned with new market opportunities for the part of the wool with the worst prices.
We saw how the wool was mixed, scoured, carded and combed to tops. Some were also super-wash treated. When we got there, he said he would answer ALL questions about super-wash when we sat down afterwards. He thus assumed that we had a lot of questions about exactly this. When we actually sat down afterwards, we talked about this through Ingun rather saying what she usually answers to questions about this treatment. He himself thought it funny that a treatment with inputs that are both well-known and not unusual (chlorine, salt, resin (the same that makes paper glossy) arouses so much attention and resistance.
We used the rest of the time in Uruguay to see the country and talk about the further work in CHANGE. We allowed ourselves to be enthralled by the vast plains, endless beaches and the people’s pleasant and relaxed demeanor. The temperature quickly rose to well over 30 – so clothes… well there was a lot of bare skin to be seen and not just on the beach, but also the use of clothes as protection from the sun – a function we rarely have use for here at home.
Drums, often in large groups of men, are one of the country’s prides, and here too textiles are included in the form of huge flags which are preferably kept flying in time with the music. Another good use for textiles was mosquito netting around the beds. Paradise for mosquitoes, dogs and grass-eaters. Cattle, sheep and shiny, slender horses walked slowly around in large herds and could choose between open, warm plains, some shade from trees, or drinking from ponds of rainwater. We also experienced playful seals, walruses, people and not least waves at the beaches. Something for every taste, in other words.