Sustainable Fashion in Aarhus: bring a change while having fun

By Gulden Timur, photos by Vlad Dumitrescu-Petrica, Hanne Rye Ølholm, Camilla le Dous

The eco-activism is affecting all spheres of the human life, and fashion is not an exception. Sustainable fashion aims at the economy of resources used in the production. Fashion is the second most hazardous to the environment industry, after oil and gas. The Greenpeace report Copenhagen Fashion Summit: How not to make the Fashion Industry more sustainable shows that with an annual revenue of 1.5 trillion EUR the industry produces over a billion clothes every year. The rhythm is projected to rise to 63 per cent by 2030. And this is not the end.

The data on Household consumption expenditure on clothing in Denmark from 2008 to 2017 provided by the statistics portal for the market data, Statista,  demonstrates that in the past ten years, there has been a slight increase in consumption. Notwithstanding its overall positive performance, Denmark still struggles with clothing consumerism. It was mentioned during the AROS Creative Industry event with the loud phrase: “in Aarhus young people prefer buying clothes instead of washing.”.  The sad truth is that only 3 per cent of the clothes can be recycled, so an efficient solution must be found.

Local sustainable fashion projects

There are several projects in Aarhus that have addressed the issue of excessive clothing consumption in a creative way. The Clothing Club (TCC) – a shared clothing library – is one of them. Its manager Alexandra (Alex) Iig has introduced the initiative.

TCC was founded by Saskia Kjellström in February 2018 as her final project at the Kaospilot private school. The project offers ecological alternative for clothing consumption, so people can socialize, experiment with their style while saving the environment. The project is sustainable because it uses already existing clothing.

At TCC one can find any colour, style and model (photo Vlad Dumitrescu-Petrica).

What makes TCC unique is that it is not commercial, not about growth and consumption. It is a club for the like-minded people. Alex emphasises, “when you become a customer here, for us you are a member of the community.”

The logo (the bird) embodies the main idea of the TCC – freedom of experimenting with the style. Alex conveys TCC message as “wearing something what people wouldn’t wear if they had somebody behind them saying “Yes, you go girl”.”

The project started with donations from friends and second-hand stores. Overall, TCC could be described as very colourful library. But it also has basic clothing and monochrome colours. So, it’s very mixed collection.

Based on advices of Alex on sustainable clothing, consumers should be aware that if the label tells that “75 per cent of water saved in the dying process”, it might only concern the minor parts. That explains a heavy greenwashing in the industry – a misleading information by companies about their environmental activity.

The “byerarchy of needs” pyramid also could help as the representative model. According to it, one should use what he/she has, borrow, swop, and buy new clothes at the last turn.  It’s also about taking care about the wardrobe. Alex quotes Vivienne Westwood: “Buy well, make it last”. At TCC the clothes are repaired and reused, not staying in the closet, so the life of the cloth is prolonged to its maximum.

Washing on the low temperature (30 degrees), or making own sustainable washing powder, using minimum of plastic – all these tips could be applied for laundry. Slowing down the centrifuge, so that microfibers are not released, and the clothes don’t get ripped, and a guppy bag that collects the microfibers could make the process a bit more sustainable, too.

The second initiative is presented by the organizer of the swop parties already for 8 years, Camilla le Dous. 

Her first swop party has been in her student time, between her friends in a small room filled with clothes. “It was a chaos!” – she laughs, so for the next time she decided to make the parties more organized.

Camilla shows that the true passion can create a community of interests (photo: Hanne Rye Ølholm)

Camilla has been continuing swop parties 2-3 times in a year, when at the end of 2017 she decided to turn her activity on the new level. That is how Instagram page cirkulaergarderobe came to life – a New Year Resolution of swopping clothes.

She facilitated parties to be more like a workshop, in groups around 10 people. Here, efficiency is a key: only 2- 2,5 hours – and everyone has new clothes. Camilla introduced the style advising strategy (she asks stylish people to choose three outfits out of the sheer wardrobe and to make small suggestions for everyone).

Camilla admits that it is all “a pure activism”. She wants to incorporate more people, push the boundaries – not only unite like-minded people, but also conservative about their style or unaware about the environment, so to promote positive change.

Swop – It Makes Sense (photo: Camilla le Dous).

As she explains her position: “if we just introduce more sustainable clothing in our system, people would still buy and produce it. That is why we must lower our consumption.” However, minimalist style might not be suitable for everyone. So, cirkulaergarderobe could help in this situation: people still can choose new clothes while making a change! Also, unlike second hand stores or online shops, swap parties do not limit people in terms of place, time, or clothing size.

There is a notorious “single use of dresses” trend, when people buy new dresses for weddings and parties – and it stays in wardrobe forever.  Camilla complains: “you spend money on that, and then you get too skinny, too plump, too pregnant or whatever. When you finally fit in – it is not fashionable enough and you want something new.” Luckily, these “disposable dresses” get a new life at the swop events.

According to Camilla, sustainable clothing tips would be:

  1. Do not buy anything. Instead – swop with your relatives and friends and use the clothes you already have.
  2. Join the local clothing library. 
  3. Look at your wardrobe with a fresh eye.
  4. Ask a friend who has a fashion sense to style your wardrobe.

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