Two women in a clothes shop inspecting a pair of jeans.
Photo: Margareta Bloom Sandebäck/

Making fashion sustainable

Fast fashion is out – circular fashion is in. Sweden is in it for the long term.

Swedish fashion aims to go from linear production to circular, where materials are not discarded after use but instead recycled or used in other ways so that the waste is kept to a minimum.

New business models are currently being explored, often based on a radical redefinition of what the term ‘fashion’ constitutes. Klädoteket (link to Instagram) is one such business model. It’s a ‘fashion library’, where you can rent designer clothes – see more in the video below.

A long-term perspective

Traditionally, fashion has been defined by change and a desire for constantly new designs. Now, companies also work actively to make sure that their garments last longer, even though it might mean they make less money on their products in a short-term perspective. To speed up progress, many brands have started to collaborate to find solutions and share their knowledge.

At The Swedish School of Textiles – part of the University of Borås – there are several promising research programmes in the field of textiles and fashion. Among them, Smart Textiles is about exploring new ways to use technology, such as developing technology to recycle and reuse textile fibres. The ArcInTexETN programme is a cross-disciplinary European training network (ETN) aiming to connect architecture, interaction design and textiles to develop more sustainable forms of living.

Long-lasting garments

Filippa K is one of the sustainability pioneers among Swedish brands. Since 2014, the brand has operated by the motto that ‘sustainability leads the way to growth’, with the lifespan of its garments as a primary focus. In 2015 Filippa K launched a new concept, the Collect programme, whereby people get a discount on new purchases if they return garments they no longer want. By 2030 the brand aims to remake, resell or recycle 100 per cent of collected garments.

Houdini Sportswear has managed to turn more than half of its products circular – by prolonging the life of garments, as well as by offering repairs, rentals and second-hand sales. The brand has also conducted an experiment in which their clothing is composted into food soil.

Ever heard of the Swedish saying 'There is no bad weather, only bad clothing'? A good starting point for a Swedish rainwear brand, right? Stutterheim is in the business of slow fashion, making durable, high-end raincoats with timeless design.

A long life also comes in the shape of wool. A New Sweden, founded in 2017, builds its brand around locally sourced materials and collaborates with farmers for its supply of wool. The company's clothes contain no plastics, and 100 per cent of its garments are biodegradable.

Hands of a person sewing in jeans fabric.
Repairs prolong the life of garments. Repairs prolong the life of garments. Photo: Tina Axelsson/

Repairing the old

Gothenburg-based Nudie Jeans is committed to a strict code of conduct, which means that the brand only works with a carefully selected group of suppliers, demanding that they continuously supply Nudie Jeans with reports, action plans and certifications. The company also repairs people's old Nudie jeans so they don’t have to buy new ones, which challenges the idea that fashion should always be defined in relation to what is new and in style.

Nimble Patch (link in Swedish) is another example of circularity. The company's business idea is to make children's jeans live longer. This is done by collecting old, ripped jeans, then redesigning and reinforcing them – and finally selling them again.

Made to order

Technology also has an important role to play in the green transformation of fashion. Atacac is a fashion-tech start-up based in Gothenburg that makes clothing digitally. Garments are made to order – that way, over-production is avoided. The company's vision is to reinvent fashion by combining new technology with art and traditional craftsmanship.

Fashion council

Since 1979, the Swedish Fashion Council works to strengthen, inspire and support the development of the Swedish fashion industry, to make it sustainable in all areas and position it internationally.