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Denim is a Starting Point for Filippa K’s Sustainable Journey

Transparent Scandinavian brand Filippa K is on a sustainable journey.

A close partnership with Isko—the first denim mill to receive the Nordic Swan Ecolabel for some of its products—has help the brand green its denim collection. However, denim is just one part of the brand’s path toward a sustainable, circular economy.

At the recent Denim Première Vision in Milan, Filippa K sustainability director Elin Larsson shared how the brand’s larger mission is to “inspire a movement of mindful consumption.”

Many small steps

Filippa K follows a framework it established in 2014 as a guide to transform its circular model and prioritizes the four R’s: reduce, repair, reuse and recycle.

“The biggest contribution we can do is not produce more than we need, but this is a big challenge being part of the fashion industry,” Larsson said.

Selling garment care products in their brand stores and sharing information to consumers about how to care for and mend their purchases are among the initiatives Filippa K has in place to help extend the life of its garments. And since 2015, the company has had a take-back program that allows consumers to return Filippa K items they’re no longer using for a discount toward their next purchase. “It’s been profitable since day one,” Larsson said.

And by focusing designs on classic garments that will live for several seasons and never go on sale, Larsson says Filippa K can reduce the number of garments it manufacturers. The brand carries this into its communications, including a 2018 campaign that showcased how seven pieces from the Filippa K collection could create 18 different looks.

However, Larsson says versatile basics are not a final solution in an image-driven industry. “I think pre-ordering will be one of the solutions going forward, but we are not there yet,” she said.

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Filippa K is also dabbling in rental for select stores. While Larsson believes in new business models like renting, she concedes that it’s difficult to change consumers’ behavior.

The challenge to change

Why is it so hard to change? Fashion’s constant race against the clock clashes with the fact that innovation needs to percolate.

“We need time to think of new ideas and we need time to try them out and implement them. And still, this is one of the resources we consider ourselves to have the least,” Larsson said.

The wiring of companies and the supply chain also needs reconfiguring. “We work in silos,” she said. “We are experts within in each field, but we don’t really talk or collaborate and to create circular models, you need to collaboration on all forms.”

“I think we just need to inspire customers to look at their wardrobe in new ways.”

And while it’s difficult to change an optimized manufacturing process, Larsson said it can be even more challenging to change the consumer’s mindset. Case in point: Filippa K’s rental business. Despite the success of rental programs by companies like Rent the Runway in the U.S., the concept simply feels too novel to Scandinavian consumers.

“Even though [consumers]…really appreciate that we do it, they haven’t really come to the phase where they are actually trying it out,” Larsson said. “But I also think that we need to find maybe a more attractive solution to offer for the customer. And there needs to be more companies out there offering this because I think looking ahead, the wardrobe will be a mix of your own stuff, secondhand stuff, rental pieces…I think we just need to inspire customers to look at their wardrobe in new ways.”