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.

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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.

Woolume coming to its voluminous end

“Will I have to change my sheep?” was the first question Piotr Kohut had asked when the Center for Regional Produce in Koniaków was asked to be a partner in the Woolum bilateral project financed by Norway grants. The respect for keeping the sheep happy prevailed, and the project has amazing results, including a high-hanging award that recognized this as a ‘project for the future’.

The change from the first time the Woolume-team visited Koniaków, was marked. The products were more varied and more professionally displayed, and the optimism for the future virtually popped out of the walls. “We now know that what we have here for sale, also the wool, is 100% from our sheep. It has been a struggle, but now we are confident that we can deliver on this,” said Maria Kohut, who has been a powerhouse in the project.

The Center for Regional Produce in Koniaków, where we ended the conference.

It was the Beskid mountains that was the setting for the end-seminar, and through the network of Norway-grant projects (including the Portuguese hiWool project and the Polish craft school from Zamek Cieszyn), the plus-factor of meeting across disciplines and projects was exponential. As an end-exercise for the seminar, the Norwegian partners arranged a workshop on knowledge-transfer and ways forward, which garnered enthusiasm and ideas for further projects and cooperation, also with countries that so far have not – in a wool context – been blessed with Norway grant funding. Slovakia being one and long-overdue.  

There were more ‘hands-on’ workshops as well, related to the local lace-tradition that met us in every window in the small town, and even painted in large scale on house-walls. Maria Kohut’s take was to transfer this traditionally very delicate technique to wool and thus other applications.

The local lace traditions are very strong, and manifest themselves in local women producing lace, a local artist, Beata Legierska, who finds new and innovative ways of using lace in art and jewelry, and more.

When it came to applications, though, the whole work around fertilizing the soil with wool, using wool that has no use in other areas as mats and pellets for gardens, pots, city roofs, deserted open sores in the landscape from mining – the list seemed endless and so promising that any urban planner or someone trying to restore landscapes should be inspired. A visit to a local upstart company reinforced the impression: This area for development will be a major force in the future use of problematic wool that is currently burned, including shavings from skin and leather tanning.

Using wool for its best purposes rather than manipulating the market, the breeds or other things that compromise the well-being of the sheep was a recurring theme, and a major learning point from both earlier Norwegian wool projects and Woolume. The detailed testing from the Estonian-Norwegian bilateral project underpinned this (also under Norway grants), and there is now a comprehensive database to back this on all in all six sheep breeds. Much of the research in Woolume has also centered around the ‘best use’, so these two projects have major cross-pollination.

Wool pellets and wool that was used in experiments as fertilizer.

Revisiting the whole backdrop for the Woolume project, but also the local very dense and complicated history which in the past had delivered a rich cultural and economically viable industry that had made marks internationally, brings forward a lot of things to discuss in the light of EU’s textile strategy. The tapestry of history, economy and cultural elements that have shaped this for better or worse, is further described in Local, Slow and Sustainable Fashion: Wool as a Fabric for Change.

The proud Woolume team, from left Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Lisbeth Løvbak Berg, Katarzyna Kobiela-Mendrek, Monika Rom, Damian Chmura, Andrzej Gawlowski, Anna Salachna, Jan Broda, Ingvild Espelien and Maja Espelien. In front, from left Tone Skårdal Tobiasson and Maria Kohut.

With pride, Jan Broda who has led the project successfully for three years, told the conference that Woolume has been awarded a major Laureate prize, more specifically the Polish Smart Development Award in the category “Project of the Future”, from the Polish Intelligent Development Forum Foundation, Center for Intelligent Development. This is the reason cited for the prize: “for the achievements of the project, which may result in a positive impact on social and economic development. The award is granted for an open approach to promotion and communication with society, in order to present the importance of the benefits resulting from the implemented solution, and an attitude focused on actively maintaining a positive and interesting image of Polish science and research and development works.” Bravo!

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

Timeline

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).

References

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.

Lasting, durability and lifespan: Looking closer at the terms

“Let’s see the forest for the trees” was one of the talk-titles during the end seminar for the Lasting project, offered by PhD student Kamila Krych at NTNU. Hitting the nail on the head, she pointed to that fast fashion’s business model of extreme planned obsolescence is spreading to other product groups. There has been a rise in the number of kitchen stoves being bought that is higher than any increase in households can explain.

Lasting is not quite on its last legs, it will continue until the end of 2023, and an exhibit is planned in 2024 at Klimahuset to round it all off. However, the main findings were presented at the seminar in front of an audience of students, research partners, NGO and public servant partners, industry organizations and some from the Research Council. The title for the seminar was “Lost in the masses: Is product longevity the solution?”, and the theme has been increasingly relevant as we have seen EU policy focusing more and more on product longevity.

Project lead Kirsi Laitala summing up.

The venue was supposed to have been Sustainathon at Meetingpoint X, which was postponed until next year at the last minute, and the Lasting team did a great job of making the most of the venue-change to OsloMet. A recording of the proceedings is available here.

As mentioned, the main theme was where does durability and longevity have a function, and where is it actually a roadblock, in the meaning that it confounds the discussion and the way forward to reduce volumes and deplastify (mainly) apparel and other textiles? While durability and longevity are important for household appliances, to a certain degree also for furniture – the push and pull forces governing the inflow and outflow of apparel and other textiles has little to do with durability or repairability. On the other hand, when it comes to washing machines, we buy a new one when the old breaks down, so policy governing longevity and the right to repair makes a lot of sense. But what makes sense for one product-group, may not do so for all products in another. “For nylon stockings, maybe, but not for most apparel items,” according to Professor in Clothing and Sustainability, Ingun Grimstad Klepp.  

Professor Ingun Klepp engaging the audience.

She went on to explain: “If we are demanding more durable apparel products, using standard tests for strength, pilling, color-fastness, whatever, means more plastic. If we are looking at regulation of waste, eco-modulating fees based on weight, we favor plastic apparel, as synthetics in general are lighter. If we are looking at recycled content as a policy tool, synthetics win again, even though it will mainly be from recycled bottles. And, last but not least, if we use LCAs to dictate what are preferred fibers, again synthetics win.“

Citing research from CHANGE-researcher, Irene Maldini, Klepp went on to explain more on “pull” and “push” forces: Replacement as the driving force for buying something new is only 2,5% of the reason for apparel purchased, as a direct need to replace something that is broken or worn out. Closer to 30% was bought because the item “was on sale” or other occasions that spoke to opportunity. This points to that policy needs much more data on the push and pull forces than is currently available.

The drastic increase in apparel, which far outstrips an increase in need for more (there wasn’t a lack of textiles or footwear in year 2000 and the world population has not doubled in the time span), is also mainly driven by the availability of cheap synthetic fibers, polyester being the largest of these.

Audrun Utskarpen from the Nordic Eco Label, Lorelou Desjardins from the Consumer Council, Associate Professor Johan Berg Pettersen from NTNU, Professors Kate Fletcher and Ingun Grimstad Klepp from SIFO/OsloMet participated in a debate on to what degree product longevity can or cannot impact overproduction. As the Nordic Swan for example already has concrete “durability” demands for products; however, in order to have good baseline data, Utskarpen said that waste audits that could offer good data on what ends up in which waste streams, would be very useful to understand “real life” durability for apparel. Desjardins spoke about their Greenwashing prize, which even gained attention internationally, and was awarded Zalando last year, but also on how their internal research had made her wary of buying almost anything. Pettersen brought up that more and more consumer goods are becoming “disposable” and that waste generation is increasing, not decreasing. Which Klepp pointed to is a production-problem related to massive marketing, and not something we should put on the consumers’ shoulders. “We could ban all marketing as a scenario,” Klepp proposed, as consumers who are – everywhere they turn – told how sustainable their next purchase will be.

Lisbeth Løvbak Berg spoke about different attitudes towards and understanding of longevity between consumers and businesses.

Fletcher suggested that if everyone worked for a week at the Consumer Council, seeing what they uncovered in their daily tasks on toxic chemicals, etc. would quickly suppress the need to buy anything at all. She was, of course, joking, but more seriously she added that the idea that service design in itself will change the systemic problems (rental, repair, etc.) is not proven in any way by research – what is clear is that only if volumes are decreased will new business models have a chance of survival. Pettersen repeated Klepp’s point of strategies focusing on products, rather than systems and that as long as businesses do not actually feel the planetary boundaries, they are not going to change.

Leading up to this debate, Kirsi Laitala, leader of the Lasting project, talked about consumer attitudes towards durability for all the product groups in the project (based on focus groups), and called out one winner on the aspect of durability (obviously not in the textile sector): the Moccamaster coffee machine. Lisbeth Løvbak Berg spoke on the opposing narratives from businesses vs consumers themselves on what actually had a long life – and introduced Chapman’s teddy bear effect as the beacon. The teddy bear turned up again and again after that… as an ideal but also as something that children today have too many of, though probably the most loved one is loved to pieces.

Fletcher reminded us all that durability is not a monolithic construct, and also that it is a weak force compared to economic growth and capitalism – recognize the incompleteness of our knowledge and our colonial legacies we cannot escape. The idea that Western thinking and approaches are relevant everywhere, when they aren’t and we need to be reminded about this again and again, as Harald Throne-Holst, the moderator, reiterated: context, context, context. Being part of a community is a value in other parts of the world, that counts much more than amassing new stuff. Echoed by Pettersen, and relating it also to rebound effects. Not to forget Krych’s industrial ecology insights from her on-going PhD in the project, reminding us also to look at the big picture.

From the workshop.

The day was rounded off with a workshop in Norwegian, where a 2023 baseline situation for different consumers was juxtaposed against a 2050 future where limited resources would not make it possible to “live the same life”. The case studies were related to a family with small children, the student on the brink of a new life as a bread winner, and an older couple moving from their house to a smaller apartment. Many interesting options were proposed, f ex more community-based solutions.

The big discussion has just begun. Lasting products will work for many important product-groups, such as household appliances, electronics and even furniture. Nylon stockings are also on the list. Teddy bears: well, the vote is not yet in. The most worn ones are often the most loved.

Used but not used up – what do we know about textile waste?

If you are interested in the findings presented during the hybrid seminar, the video and the presentations are now available.

Both the volumes of textile waste, and the interest in what to do with it, is growing. Fortunately, knowledge about what textile waste consists of is also growing, as is the interest to regulate the sector.

In this webinar, we will summarize several recent reports on textile waste in Norway and other countries, as well as a report that examines whether environmental strategies take seriously the fact that if the textiles are to be used up, then less must be produced. The clothes we dispose are often used – but far from used up.

– How can disposed textiles be used in the best possible way to ensure new use, and what kind of knowledge enables us to reduce the amount of used but not used up textiles?
– How much textiles, especially synthetics, are disposed in Norway? What does wasted textiles consist of, why and how are they disposed?
– Which regulatory measures will can be implemented in order to reduce the volumes of textile waste?

Click here to see the video (link).

Click here to find the PDFs of the presentations (link).

This is an open dissemination seminar under the Wasted Textiles research project at SIFO, OsloMet, funded by the Research Council of Norway and the Norwegian Retailers Environment Fund.

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”.

The Plastic Elephant tramples into the international conference room

The opening session at the Natural Fiber Connect conference in Biella, Italy at the very end of September, put the increasingly frequently mentioned elephant in the room center stage, namely overproduction and the plasticization that characterizes the textile industry.

The fact that the Italian Minister of the Environment opened the conference with a video greeting testifies to how important the textile industry is to the Italians, and not least how seriously they take the environmental problems that the same industry stands for. But in contrast to the industry as a whole, they have a great understanding that production, and particularly of synthetic materials, must be reduced considerably – which means more expensive textiles and more focus on natural fibres. This is music to the ears of the Italian industry, but also to natural fiber representatives who had gathered in Biella: cashmere, alpaca, wool, cotton and silk producers from farm level up to spinning mills, weaving mills and other industries.

Weighting the environmental burden

The key note speech was given by Veronica Bates-Kassatly. In contrast to Make The Label Count’s approach, which is currently persistently arguing that more parameters must be included in EU’s PEFCR, such as biodegradability, microplastics and renewability; Bates-Kassatly had the opposite approach. She believes that greenhouse gas emissions must be weighted much more (i.e. CO2 emissions in her argument), and that many of the 16 parameters that the EU’s Joint Research Center has decided should be included should be cut out or weighted much less. This includes water use and land use, two things which turns out to be unfortunate for natural fibres, but where the differences are large on a global basis so that average figures make very little sense. For example, a Norwegian sheep on open pasture will use huge areas of land to produce a few kilograms of wool, and this counts negatively.

Stand to increase plastics rather than decrease

A recent report from SIFO, the Plastic Elephant, followed Bates-Kassatly’s key note and the silk industry’s strong criticism of the data base for Higg and PEF (silk comes out as the worst fibre). The main message in the SIFO report is that a review of policy instruments, strategies from the industry and NGOs shows that to a very small extent they consider what can be done to reduce the volumes and not least to reduce the large increase over the last 40 years in synthetic materials and fast fashion. When the EU’s Textile Strategy wants to make “fast fashion out of fashion”, none of the tools in the toolbox are sufficient and, if anything, they will increase plasticisation. The report explains why, and the audience at the conference nodded their heads tellingly when the reasoning was explained.

The fact that the audience laughed out loud and applauded when the actual background for the Plastic Elephant report was presented at the start was, of course, liberating. This meant taking the audience back to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2017, where the first Pulse report postulated that consumers must be persuaded to prefer synthetics to cotton; and where EcoAge’s Livia Firth asked H&M’s Helena Helmersson: “Why do you have to produce so much and constantly push new collections on consumers?” Helmersson replied that they are only doing what consumers want, to which Firth replied: “My children want sugar every single day, but do I give it to them? No.” The laughter resounded and a huge applause followed.

“Sugar” became the word of the day

The rest of the day, “sugar” was the word repeated over again, as equivalent with unhealthy consumption, and related to synthetics. Which means deplastification – also in the textile sector – may finally be on the agenda. To watch the whole morning session, go to this LinkedIn link. The Plastic Elephant report is easy to find here.