When it comes to sustainable fashion, it can be hard to know where to start. With an endless barrage of information, countless new and established brands to research, and a mass of confusing terminology out there, it's understandable that anyone might feel a little overwhelmed.
In light of this, every month we will focus on a brand that knows exactly what it means to be a sustainable force for good in fashion today. From debunking inaccuracies to advice for aspiring designers and tips for consumers on how to be kinder to the planet, we cut through the noise so that you don’t have to.
This month we’re getting to know Asket, a label that strives to rethink the meaning of 'new' when it comes to our wardrobes.
We've all been there, feeling frustrated over the impossible task of finding the perfect pair of jeans. That said, we can all agree that when you do find them, you never want to take them off. It's this feeling that encapsulates the brand Asket, which focuses on giving its customer the perfect fit - which, as we know, is key to any capsule wardrobe. With 50 sizes available, there's truly something for everyone.
Co-founders Jakob Dworsky and August Bard Bringéus believe timeless classics are essential pieces of any wardrobe, so the brand stocks nothing but essentials that are guaranteed to last you a lifetime. The Swedish duo met at business school at Stockholm School of Economics and the simplicity of Scandinavian style that we all love remains central to the brand's aesthetic.
Currently, the fashion industry is responsible for 20 per cent of global water pollution and 8 per cent of global CO2 emissions. These are worrying statistics, given that the world's consumption is set to increase by 25 per cent per year.
There's no denying that fashion has certainly improved in recent years, with a focus on sustainability becoming more present in most labels. Asket notes that in reality, despite all the collective efforts of recycled materials and organic collections, it's nowhere near enough to reduce our growing impact and reverse the harm on the planet from the past decades.
Of course, like all brands, Asket has an impact, too. But rather than talking about sustainability (which can be very difficult to define) the brand chooses to focus on responsibility instead, with three main principles of transparency, value chain, and its day-to-day internal practices as a business.
We chat with founders Dworsky and Bard Bringéus to learn more about their work to combat fast consumption, how correct sizing is crucial and why less truly is more.
How can sustainable fashion brands be more diverse for all sizes?
ABB: "This is a systemic problem within the industry as a whole; as mass-market brands increasingly focus on pace and profits, the industry has squeezed people into a prescribed sizing set. If the industry were to slow down it could spend more time focussing on making better fitting garments, and address different sizing requirements, too."
Finding the perfect size jean and fit is key to a sustainable capsule wardrobe, what tips do you have for finding the best denim to wear forever?
ABB: "A garment is only as good as the fibre it’s built on. Fibre selection impacts the quality, how long a garment will last and even fit. We suggest going for heavier with denim, not only does it last longer but it tends to hug and flatter any body type. Washed denim is great as not only does the wash make the fabric a lighter colour, but it helps to soften the fabric making it more flexible. In terms of cut, a good straight leg with a mid-waist will never go out of style."
What’s the best way to care for denim and make it last?
JD: "Wash them less, wash them cold and don’t tumble-dry them. They’ll last longer and you’ll do the planet a favour at the same time."
What makes a truly sustainable brand?
ABB: "When it comes to the word sustainable, we err on the side of caution and you won’t find it anywhere on our website. The reality is that there is no such thing as sustainable fashion; everything a company produces and every purchasing decision a consumer makes has a lasting impact on the planet and people. There’s only more or less moderate consumption."
How do you successfully run a sustainable business?
JD: "Our mission is to end overconsumption and restore value to the clothing industry. The approach is simple; do away with seasonal collections that only fuel a cycle of fast-consumption habits, then replace it with a single permanent collection of mindfully produced, quality and timeless garments designed to last a lifetime, not just five washes.
"It’s a simple aim but our permanent collection has proven to unlock a radical new way of working; no overproduction or waste at the end of seasons, time to trace and become accountable for our supply chain and no need for discounting that only encourages snap shopping decisions. Rather than sustainability, we call it responsibility."
What do you think needs to change in the industry?
ABB: "The overproduction-overconsumption cycle is fashion’s overarching sustainability challenge. Traditional brands rely purely on a high volume. This puts pressure on the entire system; the planet, people working in the supply chain as well as consumer psychology. The entire industry simply needs to produce less and restore the value in the apparel industry. We’re firm believers that the slow fashion world can be as big as the fast fashion one."
What is the industry doing right?
JD: "As people are becoming more concerned about the speed at which we consume clothing, how garments are made, who actually makes them, and under what circumstances, we’re seeing some great new practices.
"Any organisation that challenges the current pace of the industry is doing something right in our minds. We love Patagonia for its activism. Eileen Fisher is on a mission to be a leader in circular systems, taking back old pieces of apparel and turning them into new ones whenever possible. Nudie Jeans has practically made repair-wear cool."
What do you want to achieve personally with your brand, in terms of sustainability?
ABB: "Above anything we want to show the industry that it is possible to slow down. We’re showing early signs of success and hope to offer lessons on how to achieve smaller volumes and economic growth at the same time. Put into practice, the fashion industry could be half as big in terms of volume, but the same size in terms of value if brands followed our model and doubled the average lifetime of a garment, while charging an honest price for clothing.
"It may take some risk-taking, but to truly make a dent, mass-market brands will need to make the switch. It might sound revolutionary, but it really comes down to operating the way the industry did 60 years ago."
What advice would you give to those wanting to make their business sustainable?
JD: "Despite the fear of sounding like a broken record, the underlying issue is that brands are still producing too many clothes and convincing us it's normal to buy more than we need when what the planet really needs is less. To counter this, we need to see new business models that operate within the planetary boundaries. This could be permanent collections, rental options, second-hand, circular solution, or a combination of all."
What’s the smallest change a consumer could make to become more eco-conscious?
ABB: "The single best thing we can do as individuals, is simply to buy less. Opt for better, love your garments longer and truly appreciate what went into making them. I recently read from the Swedish research institution, Mistra Future Fashion, that by wearing a garment twice as many times, its environmental impact can be halved."
What’s the most common inaccurate “facts” about sustainability?
ABB: "One of our biggest frustrations is around carbon offsetting, it suggests that we can simply buy our way out of a problem, without tackling its root cause. Instead of off-setting, the industry should be looking at how to effectively decarbonise its footprint. As it is now, many off-setting initiatives allow brands to continue operating with the same practices, while making consumers feel that they are making a difference - when in reality we can’t shop ourselves out of the problem."
What should consumers look out for when shopping sustainably?
JD: "There are so many aspects to consider when looking to purchase from ethical or socially-conscious brands, that even for the most earnest of shoppers it can be a minefield. Certifications can help, a great one to look for is B-corp. It’s a very rigorous standard that really signifies a company’s adherence to the highest standards, across social and environmental performance, legal accountability as well as public transparency."
What’s the biggest misconception about sustainable clothing?
ABB: "True style is timeless; those garments that transcend trends - the ones you saw the likes of Steve McQueen and Robert Redford wearing 30 years ago but are still on point today. While we can be accused of playing it safe, we’ll continue investing in timeless essentials that go beyond any trend - all made under full transparency and accountability, of course."
Where do you turn to when you feel confused about sustainability?
JD: "If an organisation is truly operating in better ways, the information should already be out there and easily accessible - give it a Google and you’ll find what you need."
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