Sweden, NYC, Design Intelligence & The Future of Sustainable Fashion

We need to take a holistic responsibility, think in creative paths and develop more sustainable business models for the fashion industry of the future.
It’s time to bring forward an improved design intelligence with better solutions based on the awareness of important ethical, social and environmental issues.

In mid-September, I took part in a two day forum in New York City called Design Intelligence;Fashion — a full day of creative and knowledge-sharing followed by another full day of lectures and networking. Designers, trend analysts and fashion industry professionals from both Sweden and the U.S. were gathered at Parsons The New School for Design to discuss the future of fashion. The gathering was organized by DesignBoost, which “envisions a holistic approach as a condition for sustainable design” and frequently puts on events around the world, with leading design-industry players participating in the discussion. This was their first event centered around sustainable fashion.

Goodlifer: Sweden, NYC, Design Intelligence & The Future of Sustainable Fashion

Ewa Björling, Sweden’s Minister for Trade gave a brief presentation in between the workshops.

Presenters included Sarah Scaturro, head of the Conservation Laboratory at The Costume Institute at the Met; Hazel Clarke, Sabine Seymour, Otto von Busch and Timo Rissanen from Parsons the New School for Design; Emy Blixt, creative director, designer and founder of Swedish Hasbeens; Michael Bricker of People for Urban Progress; Rebecca Earley, researcher at MISTRA Future Fashion; Isabel Encinias from Urban Zen; Martina Arfwidson, owner of Face Stockholm; Marcus Bergman, head of sustainability at Gina Tricot (one of Sweden’s largest fast fashion retailers); and renowned Swedish designer Gudrun Sjödén. Forum participants included journalists, educators, Scandinavian designers like Ida Sjöstedt, Maxjenny, Natalia Altewai and Randa Saome of Altewaisaome, Jenny Grettve, Maja Svensson of Elsa & Me, and Helena Fredriksson, and American designers such as Tara St James of Study – New York, Rachel Wilkie of BLK DNM, and Natalia Allen.

Fashion is a rapidly changing industry and although most of us would agree that we want to consume or make more sustainable items, we don’t always know how. Independent designers who have always struggled to keep up financially are now faced with the task of also having to figure out how to be more environmentally conscious, without bankrupting themselves in the process. It’s not an easy task. But, what is happening as a result if that an industry that has traditionally been very secretive and proprietary is now learning to open up and share knowledge and resources.

The forum was all about sharing — thoughts, experiences, expertise and ideas. During the first day, we were divided into teams and given three questions to try and answer during a set amount of time. In many instances, it all came down to two opposing conclusions — the power and responsibility of the consumer and the power and responsibility of the designer. Who should take the first step? Is it up to consumers to ask for better, more ethically made products or up to designers to tell us what we want? Well, the somewhat unsatisfying answer may be ‘both.’

Goodlifer: Sweden, NYC, Design Intelligence & The Future of Sustainable Fashion

Just as designers and the fashion industry are learning to collaborate, we all need to the idea of working together. Next time you shop for clothing, talk to the people in the store and tell them that you would love for them to carry more sustainably made pieces. Write or talk to designers. When someone compliments you on something you are wearing, make sure to tell them the story behind it. Without becoming a nuisance, educate your friends and family about how they can make better choices. Don’t spend your life complaining and waiting for someone to do something; realize that you are ‘someone.’

Watch the video above (around 2:15, you’ll find me in a brief rant about empowering people to embrace their personal style instead of slavishly following trends) to hear leading industry players sharing design intelligence and their thoughts on the future of sustainable fashion. What are yours?

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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