A day worth marking for clothing research

April 8th, 2024, Iryna Kucher defended her PhD “Designing Engagements with Mending. An Exploration of Amateur Clothing Repair: Practices in Western and Post-Soviet contexts”.

Iryna was a guest lecturer at Consumption Research Norway SIFO a period as research fellow, she has used wardrobe studies as a method and Ingun was her first opponent. This was therefore not just an important day for Iryna, but also for the clothing researchers at SIFO – and clothing research in general.

Alongside Ingun in the assessment committee, was Senior Researcher Olga Gurova, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki, Finland and Design School Kolding’s own emerita Vibeke Riisberg. The main supervisor had been Ulla Ræbild, and also Amy Twigger Holroyd, who followed online.

The thesis is a broad and deep dive into the culture of mending.  By looking at the history of
clothing consumption in post-Soviet and in the Western world, it describes how different histories have formed ideologies of consumption and clothing repair practices in people’s everyday life. Iryna contributes with lifting the description on repair out of a mainly Western-centred perspective. She has used a variety of literature and sources in Russian, Italian and Nordic languages, so not only English, being so often the case. The thesis has surprisingly no research question, but instead does a deep dive into:

1) Understand how mending practices are conceptualised in Western and post-Soviet contexts.

 2) Understand what kind of infrastructures, devices, and materials facilitate the enactment of mending practices.

 3) Understand what competences are employed when mending practices are enacted and what contributes to successful clothing repair.

Skål for Iryna! Surrounded by Ingun, Vibeke and Olga in the assessment committee.

The methodology is original and rich, and brings design research, the social sciences and wardrobe studies together.  Her wardrobe study has focused on what has been repaired – and what hasn’t been repaired – as much other research. An original contribution here is that this is not only done by the candidate’s main informants, but that together with their mothers or other older relatives, they did a similar exercise with the older generation. This gives the opportunity to look at the informants’ background and training and thus the relationship to repair over time. It is ambitious to draw in both comparisons in time and space. Iryna received a lot of praise for this during the defense, but also critical questions as she has gone to great lengths to summarize and simplify differences. After all, the history of repair is both invisible and full of holes, and it is easy to assert what are, strictly speaking, assumptions.

Contributions from the work that will probably be cited and develop further understanding are the concepts seamless, discreet and expressive approaches to clothing repair, instead of visible and invisible, which are more commonly used. Iryna’s point is that both invisible and expressive (what is often discussed under visible mending) require special expertise, while discreet is what most people try to achieve in private repairs – which is the vast majority.

It is also interesting how different groups do the same thing, e.g. repair for different reasons. «Post-Soviet ‘mothers’, who used to live in the Soviet repair society, which was characterised by scarcity, still associate mending with necessity. In contrast, Western ‘daughters’, who live in a time of eco-anxiety, associate mending with sustainability”.  The quote shows how comparing across generations and consumer cultures (post-Soviet and Western) makes sense. Also interesting from a SIFO perspective is Iryna’s discussion of the importance of home economics – i.e. training in needlework and repair at school. This is an important part of her description of how the infrastructure around repair disappeared in both the Western and post-Soviet context. In order to rebuild repair, a build-up of this infrastructure is needed, which is not only a willingness to teach, but also workshops in schools, sewing machines, textbooks, etc.

Many had found their way to the design school’s premises – and others followed the event online. Iryna’s work is nuanced, particularly well-presented visually and exciting, as already stated, a big day for clothing research.

Fashionscapes for Transformation: EU addresses plastification and a just transition

The main point made during EcoAge and MEP Alessandra Moretti’s joint event in the EU Parliament was to link the increased plastification in the fashion sector with social injustice upstream and downstream in the value-chain.

Livia Firth, founder of EcoAge and moderator of Fashionscapes for Transformation, has relentlessly these last months hammered in the point that these are two sides of the same problem at several high-profile events, namely the massive overproduction of apparel. No less for the second time in the EU Parliament.

The mix of speakers and participants was impressive, with representatives both old and young, from industry and research, as well as political heavy-weights, and voices both from the Global South and North. The voices heard during the event were diverse, but unison in their messaging: The massive overproduction, based on cheap synthetics, cannot continue. This has even sunk in with the policy-makers, who echoed the same concerns in well-prepared speeches, in line with Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius key-note, stating “fast fashion must become past fashion”.

SIFO’s Ingun Grimstad Klepp, who had been – together with Irene Maldini – a speaker at the last EcoAge event in the Parliament, had no official role in Fashionscapes; however, Livia Firth asked her intervention after the panel had presented and discussed multiple aspects related to social issues missing from the Textile Strategy, and what instruments could encourage deplastifying. The much-repeated idea that quality or durability are the silver-bullet that will instantly degrow the sector was, however, debunked by Klepp. But before getting to this, let us dive into the proceedings.

MEP Beatrice Covassi in the foreground. Right before Ingun Klepp (seated to her right behind) was asked to intervene.

It was to be sure, an intense two-hour wake-up call, related to EU’s Textile strategy and Green Transition. MEP Alessandra Moretti, as hostess of the event and key note speaker Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius both high-lighted how ambitious these plans are, and had many good points in what they brought forward. Where disagreement surfaced, was around fiber-to-fiber recycling of synthetics – presented as a potential for a thriving new European industrial bonanza. As several pointed out, this will only increase the use of synthetics, continue to bring down prices and result in even more microplastics. As China produces 95% of today’s synthetics, why should they sit back and see Europe take over the market? That is not how market economics work. This is a blind alley, or as we say in Norwegian ‘believing in Santa Claus’, as several in the audience reiterated.

The main theme was divesting the fashion industry of its fossil fuel reliance, of course also in the fiber area, with waste colonialism and degradation of nature in the global south to satisfy the constant craving for newness in the global north, resulting in massive overproduction. This is of course based on fossil fuel input, but as just pointed at, recycling the same material is not the answer.

Livia Firth, MEP Alessandra Moretti, Commisioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, Simon Giuliani from Candiani Denim and CEO Laurence Tubiana, European Climate Foundation (ECF).

“This shows how the issues cannot be dealt with in isolation, but we need to look at them more holistically than is currently done in the 16 (or more) legislative pieces forthcoming from the EU,” was echoed by several participants after the meeting.

Laurence Tubiana, CEO of European Climate Foundation, who was the last speaker on the panel, claimed she was rather shocked that social issues are not better integrated into the Textile strategy where 80% of the work-force, we were told, is female and does not receive a living wage. However, these workers are also the ones facing the brunt of climate change, toxic chemicals in the soils and waterways, alongside being at the receiving end of our textile waste.

“Children in Ghana grow up not knowing what the ground looks like, as it covered with a permanent layer of textile waste,” Matteo Ward, Co-Founder of Wrad Living, told the audience. He was echoed by Yayra Aghofah, Founder of The Revival in Ghana who pointed out that they have to pay for this same waste that pollutes their environment and that will eventually end up as microplastics. This sad fate, several came back to.

MEP Beatrice Covassi immediately followed up Ingun Klepp’s intervention, requested by Livia Firth, Yayra Aghofah, founder of The Revival, online, in the background.

Black Friday was also a theme, as Yayra Aghofah suggested that they would be inundated with the results of this frenzy very soon, so action is needed now, not in 2026 or 2030. This, of course, underpins the need of immediately labelling season and year products go to market, so that Duration of Service can be captured when the items go into the diverse waste streams. Panelist Paola Migliorini from DG Environment claimed the EU “is helpless in regulating Black Friday”; ignoring that there are ways to legislate or counter-act such market forces with so obviously devastating outcomes. However, it was positive that overproduction had such a central place in the proceedings, both related to how they tie in with the plastification of fashion and with waste colonialism.

During the panel discussion, Livia Firth used the phrase “the Plastic Elephant in the Room” referring to the very back-bone of the fast fashion industry, synthetic fibers and their exponential growth, giving a nod to Consumption Research Norway’s recent report The Plastic Elephant: Overproduction and synthetic fibres in sustainable textile strategies.

Three from the audience were asked to intervene at the end, the first was Urska Trunk from Changing Markets Foundation, talking about the source for polyester for several fashion companies is still Russian oil.

Ingun Klepp, MEP Alessandra Moretti, and to the far right MEP Beatrice Covassi. The woman in the middle of th MEP-bouquet we haven’t yet identified…

Then Ingun Klepp was asked to comment on ‘quality’, and she explained how the only information consumers receive is price, and this isn’t necessarily directly related to quality. She then went on to say that with the EU’s strategy focusing on durability, plastics will win. This in light of the reality that people do not discard textiles because they are ‘used up’, and this is the problem facing the Global South and receivers such as The Revival. Especially as there is more and more polyester, and will be more, and these materials, when exported to the Global South rather than incinerated, will eventually end up as microplastics.

This was immediately picked up by MEP Beatrice Covassi, who clearly was frustrated with the fact that the consumer has so little information about the products available and thus struggles to make good choices, and wanted to applaud professor Klepp’s input.

The last person, who was asked to comment, was Nicholas Rochat, Founder of the plastic-free sportsbrand Mover, who said that with more recycled polyester – even fiber to fiber – will only contribute to more microplastics. He described being in the mountains at 2000 meters, and still encountering microplastics, and no longer being able to eat fish, as they are contaminated.

But the main take-away was that the Commission seems to have a belief that all the 16 plus different policy instruments will ‘even everything out’, but the reality is that they are in danger of making things worse in tandem, actually promoting synthetics, if the focus on durability continues alongside eco-modulating fees based on weight.

As the participants filed out, one of them sidled over to Klepp and said, simply: “Norway, douze points”.

Removing the silk gloves and pulling a (historic) punch

Wardrobe and Climate was the over-arching theme for a CHANGE event at the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo: how we can convey historical knowledge about resource thinking, crafts and wardrobe joy in the museum’s costume collections. An academic hybrid conference morphed into a hands-on evening.

“How did they do it?” was the big question posed during the hybrid seminar during the day, where around 25 attended in person and the same number joined us virtually; and where Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Ingrid Haugsrud, both from Consumption Research Norway (SIFO) at Oslo Metropolitan University, spoke about two forthcoming papers. These are: Variety in dress: Norwegian and Swedish clothing 1780-1880, co-authored by Bjørn Sverre Hol Haugen, Marie Ulväng, Pernilla Rasmussen, Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Ingrid Haugsrud, and Towards a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear: Wardrobe planning regimes in women’s weekly magazines 1908-2023.Here the authors are Ingrid Haugsrud, Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Vilde Haugrønning.

Ingrid Haugsrud presented findings from Norway’s oldest women’s magazine.

The headline was “Unused resources for CHANGE: Fashion, history and sustainability”, and the question was why does history matter? Why do we need to talk about historical practices in the discussion around the environmental impact of textiles and clothing? asked Professor Ingun Grimstad Klepp, before she then went into how dress-practices from Norway and Sweden during the 100-year period spanning from 1780 till 1880, could offer clues to variety without excessive wastefulness. The red thread being that when we have less clothes, we take much better care of them and assign them high value.

This was followed by Ingrid Haugsrud speaking about “A closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear. Wardrobe planning in Norwegian weekly magazines 1908-2023”, where her analysis of three time-periods in the history of Norway’s oldest surviving women’s magazine which is KK (Kvinner og klær), that started out as Nordisk Mønstertidning. The three main themes that emerged for early 1900s, 1970s and 2020s were: Making do with what one had and at the same time creating variety, mix and match wardrobes (creating an illusion of having more than one actually does) and finally “the capsule wardrobe” and cleaning out/ridding oneself of unused things. The latter having led to a waste colonialism issue in the global south as an unforeseen problem.

Else Skjold led the panel, engaging both the physical and the digital audience.

After the two talks speakers were done, they were joined in a panel by Bjørn Sverre Hol Haugen, Marie Ulväng and Pernilla Rasmussen, monitored by Else Skjold. Here Marie Ulväng pointed out that in the 19th century, a household-budget for apparel was as much as 1/4th of the total. Which is a far cry from today’s share.

Later the same day, many of the participants joined others for a hands-on behind-the-scenes deep-diving into old wardrobes and textile know-how. Participants guessed what materials were hidden in jars based only on how they felt to touch, and also the weight of two garments, an old wool skirt which had belonged to Åse Roe from Tinn in Norway and a silk dress woven in the 1750s, with several reincarnations in the 1800 and 1900s.

Hands-on research: Is it silk, viscose or…?

The audience was also invited to talk about their own wardrobes and clothes with Ingun and Ingrid in what evolved as a deep-dive in a theme that was brought forward during the hybrid seminar: a need for a better language about our wardrobes and what makes them sustainable. Watch and listen to the hybrid webinar by clicking here

Engaged participants discussing with Ingun and Ingrid.


Exploring design and nature

A new, limited-edition publication, edited by Kate Fletcher, Research Professor at SIFO, and Louise St. Pierre, Associate Professor at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, has been published, exploring design places, practices and senses – all in the context of how we relate to nature.

According to the book-blurb, Nature Relations (Occasional Press, 2023) explores light, sensory and vicarious experiences that deepen the relationship between design and nature. Its focus is a body of practices of design and nature that examine nature relations as a form of inquiry for designers and that build understanding and terminology along the way. It draws on some of the workings and findings of the Nature Relations Platform pilot project and its experiments around key themes of design and nature.

The publication is playful, colorful and easy to read – teasing out new way of seeing and understanding one’s surroundings and how to interact in a more meaningful way with nature. How we walk on the ground, how we talk to a tree, how we feel the elements – and thus how we can design better for those interfaces. The book opens up the field, without closing it down with examples of design-solutions, which could easily limit the reader’s understanding.

Demanding an open mind, alongside an expanded understanding of decentering, witnessing and embodied research, the publication is slightly mind-boggling. But offering visual candy in the form of fonts and electric colors, a sensory over-dose because of the paper-quality and a page-turning appeal based on surprises around each corner – a lot is packed into 70 pages.

The Nature Relations Platform project was a research project led by Louise St. Pierre and Kate Fletcher. Field researchers spent time in nature, and reported their findings in various modes such as audio recordings and sensory workshops.

The Team comprised:
Field Researchers: Louise St. Pierre (Vancouver, Canada), Kate Fletcher (Macclesfield, UK), Caro McCaw (Dunedin, New Zealand), Zach Camozzi (Naniamo, Canada)
Design, Development, and Workshop Creation: Melanie Camman, Giulia de Oliveira Borba, Yejin Eun, Eden Zinchik.
The Nature Relations book is currently available in print as a limited edition.

Unused resources for CHANGE: Fashion, history and sustainability

We need to activate knowledge to unravel today’s environmental tangle, and we need to come together in these trying times. On Thursday November 9th, the SIFO Project CHANGE and the Norwegian Folk Museum will collaborate and will be visited by our talented Swedish and Danish colleagues. There will be an academic seminar (physical and digital) and later the same day a whole evening with a hands-on approach both to the museum’s archives and to research. In between the two, there will be opportunities for mingling, food and drink.

We need you to register, as there is limited space. If you want to take part in everything, you must register both for the seminar, the mingling and buy a ticket for the evening (two separate links). When registering for the academic seminar, you can also choose to have a link sent to you for digital participation.

Hybrid academic seminar:

Unused resources for CHANGE: Fashion, history and sustainability

14:30 – 14:45
CHANGE – why does history matter?

Why talk about historical practices in the discussion around the environmental impact of textiles and clothing?

Professor Ingun Grimstad Klepp Consumption Research Norway (SIFO) at OsloMet.

14:45 – 15:15
How did they do it?
Variety in clothing without excessive wastefulness, Reflection on today’s environmental strategies inspired by dress practice in Norway and Sweden 1780-1880.
Professor Ingun Grimstad Klepp Consumption Research Norway (SIFO) at OsloMet.

(Based on Variety in dress: Norwegian and Swedish clothing 1780-1880 Bjørn Sverre Hol Haugen, Marie Ulväng, Pernilla Rasmussen, Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Ingrid Haugsrud)

15:15 – 15:45
A closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear.
Wardrobe planning in Norwegian weekly magazines 1908-2023

Ingrid Haugsrud Consumption Research Norway (SIFO) at OsloMet.

(Based on Towards a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear: Wardrobe planning regimes in women’s weekly magazines 1908-2023. Ingrid Haugsrud, Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Vilde Haugrønning.)

15:45 – 16:00

16:00 -18:00 Mingling and opportunity for physical attendees to buy refreshments (registration required).

Click here for participation in the academic hybrid conference, either physical or digital).

For participation in the evening event (6:00-8:30 PM) you need to buy a ticket directly from the Folk Museum (only physical participation possible). Click here for tickets.

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.

EcoAge Roundtable in Brussels: A fair phase-out of fossil fuels from the fashion industry

The ethical issues are often discussed separate from environmental issues, it is high time they are discussed in the same room. Therefore, a huge thanks to EcoAge who arranged an important roundtable, and in the Parliament in Brussels, with the heading Calling for a fair phase-out of fossil fuels from the fashion industry.

Livia Firth, founder of EcoAge, introduced and moderated the roundtable. The will to find a common solution for the two issues was the most important element in the meeting, namely a just transition and the phasing out of the over-reliance on synthetics or fossil fuels in fashion. This was manifested with an alternation between people who worked in the different fields and with different ways in to the themes on the agenda. The seminar’s first two presentations were both from the Global south, Betterman Simidi Musaia and Yayra Agbofah, from Ghana and Kenya, virtual presentations that so obviously show the necessity of talking about a plastic reduction, and system change towards more global justice as one and the same. It was very clear from their talks that the environmental and health consequences are grotesque in the countries who receive our unwanted clothes and footwear.

While the fashion industry is heavily reliant on fossil fuels for energy and transport, what is less known is that most of the clothes we wear are also made from oil and gas. Synthetic fiber production uses the equivalent amount of oil per year as the entirety of Spain, and polyester production alone produces the equivalent of 180 coal-fired power-stations annually. What is more, synthetic fibers and plastics are emerging as the fossil fuel industry’s cash-cow – accounting for up 95% of future growth in demand for oil.

There is broad agreement and many good perspectives that the change we need is a systemic change and not a change of individual products. The systems perspective combines the need for change with a global equality perspective, and the need for reduction in quantity and plastification.

The presentation from SIFO was the one that most directly included a criticism of the EU strategy. Irene Maldini explained why the durability discourse falls short for clothing, by referring to research on clothing consumption as a system. This is based on Irene’s own work with clothing consumption and the ongoing work in Change. Ingun Klepp took over the baton by presenting the findings in Plastic Elephant (link here), with an emphasis on how the EU strategy’s emphasis on improvements at product level supports plastification and avoids addressing the main problem: Quantity. In conclusion, she explained how it is possible through regulation to target quantity, and used TPR (link to Targeted Producer Responsibility here) as an example of this. For all good regulation, knowledge is needed. It is therefore urgent to understand the problems better and develop methods suitable for this.

Through the EU’s focus on material durability (synthetics are stronger, and durability leads to accumulation if production volumes are not addressed), weight (synthetics are much lighter) and recyclability (plastics are easier to recycle, and recyclability promotes monomaterials, hence more plastics used), among others.

Many of the participants contacted Maldini and Klepp afterwards, saying that the focus they had was something they had not seen before, with the “proof” that focusing on durability, recyclability and other parameters the EU Textile Strategy does, will increase the amount of synthetics rather than reduce the influx. Also, other aspects of EU policy that is very much ignored in the Textile Strategy was also mentioned – how lack of a holistic approach is problematic. If we are to have “good clothes”, policy really needs to address the right issues.

Saskia Bricmont, MEP, who is Member of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance and the event sponsor, was clearly very engaged in the theme and it will be interesting to see how this can be brought forward in the EU.

Using waste as a resource for knowledge seems like an important way to go, and at Waste Norway’s seminar on October 23rd (link to event here), the latest we know about waste will be presented, from Svalbard in the north and of course also from other parts of Europe.

Klippe, klippe, klippe: A changing discussion of gender

Part of the CHANGE team recently travelled to the mountains to have a meeting to discuss work in progress. A recurring theme was the Norwegian fairy tale about “Kjerringa mot strømmen” (The hag against the current). The one who even when being drowned by her husband after her insistence that the crop is cut with scissors not his preferred scythe, insists “klippe, klippe, klippe” (cut with scissors).

The group, during the discussion, both agreed about many things, and came up with new thoughts during the meeting, about men and women’s wardrobes and the necessity to discuss gender in the context of sustainability. There is little in our field of study that is not gendered, it concerns the clothes themselves, how they are used, who those of us who are actually studying clothes are and who our informants are. Nevertheless, gender is rarely an important part or even a discussion point in clothing and sustainability research. We talked about why this is so, and what we can do to change this.

In the study of clothing, gender is not the only thing missing, however, gender will always play a role, because we have different bodies and different life stories. Because clothing is physical, they will always relate to the gender in some way. We also discussed how gender is brought in to other areas, such as health, related also to smoking and drinking, and how our bodies tolerate things differently related to gender.

If we acknowledge that gender is a social construct, we still have to deal with bodies as physical. Because both of these conditions are complex and related, this presents additional challenges.

In studies and especially comparisons of men’s and women’s clothing, it is easy to describe the differences, and thus reinforce the stereotypes. We discussed how the stereotypes can removed or challenged, and thus not reinforced. We also revisited Thorstein Veblen’s theories about clothing, which can contribute to a better understanding of systems and power.

We talked briefly about what else is “missing” in the discourse around clothing and sustainability, including the class perspective.

All in all, this discussion pointed to a direction that is important to explore when it comes to different “black holes” or blind spots, that if left un-touched, may end up hampering rather than helping us move forward.

In the fairytale, the women was drowned sticking her hand up above the water making the “clipping” sign with her fingers. She would not give in. Afterwards they could not find her before someone suggested to search for her upstream. And yes, there she was. Kate added to this, that she always thinks it is good idea to look in the least expected direction. We need to remind each other about the limitations of the “obvious”.

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.

Studying clothing consumption volumes through wardrobe studies: a methodological reflection

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.

Click here to download and read the full article.

Click here to download and read the full conference proceedings (aalto.fi)