Norwegian Fashion Heritage – What I learned so far

These past few months I’ve learned that fashion traditions are really quite important in Norway. There’s a rich history in which knitting especially has an important place. I’ve never seen this many people knit before and I love that this tradition is still very much part of current culture. Besides, making your own clothing is not only more sustainable, it also strengthens the relationship you have to the item. This also goes for the traditional Bunad dresses the Norwegians wear. Not only are they valuable, they are such important symbols that they are really loved and taken care of. In that sense, honoring fashion heritage contributes to sustainable fashion.

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A Plea for Hemp

Years ago I was on a trip in the northwest of the Netherlands with my family. During one of our walks we passed a field with a very tall crop. Strangely enough, its tops looked exactly like those of a cannabis plant. As these are not uncommon in the Netherlands, we joked about the revenue their farmer must make. I remember there was a big sign on one side of the field that explained this was industrial hemp. When I looked it up back then, I found out that even though it was indeed a version of the cannabis plant, it contained too little THC to provide intoxication when consumed. While learning more about sustainable fashion, hemp keeps popping up as a very promising material. Still, it doesn’t seem to be commonly used at all. I decided to do a little research and it turns out that this amazing plant has a rich and political history.

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Christer Falck on ‘Norske Albumklassikere’

Christer Falck is one of the initiators of an exciting new crowdfunding project in Norway: Norske Albumklassikere (Norwegian Album Classics). Together with his friend John Richard Sternberg he presented the project on the crowdfunding platform Bidra.no last January. Their goal is to give new life to classic Norwegian music albums by producing them on CD in a serial crowdfunding format. We interviewed Christer about the intriguing project that has already turned into a great success.

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Reflecting on Crowdfunding

In January (2021) I started as a research assistant within the CROWDCUL project. The first time I remember hearing about crowdfunding was during my studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. It must have been 2012. I followed the bachelor program ‘Arts, Culture and Media’ and attended a lecture on the topic by Kunstraad Groningen, the local art board. Crowdfunding was new and exciting, a promising possibility for cultural producers to realize their ideas independently from governmental funding. The Dutch crowdfunding platform www.voordekunst.nl, that focused specifically on art projects, had just been launched.

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Compostable Panties

Learning more about recycling clothes for my last article, I realized there’s basically no good way to get rid of clothes that have really reached the end of their life. You can always repair clothes, swap, sell or upcycle them, but I’m talking panties that have unintended peepholes and that have lost all stretch, or socks that have largely dissolved. Together with camisoles, these are the garments that I typically wear completely out and throw in the bin. Of course this isn’t the crux of today’s global fashion problem, but I still wonder: Is there a way to prevent my peephole panties from ending up in landfill?

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Why It Is Still So Hard To Recycle Our Clothes

The fashion industry is struggling with a huge waste problem. And even though recycling is totally normal to us, recycling clothes is not something that we necessarily consider. Donating your clothes is NOT recycling them (read my article on what happens to our donated clothes here). Sadly, only 1-10% of clothes that we donate is actually resold and a big part of it ends up in landfills or incinerators.

Though I believe that the most important way to change the fashion industry is for us consumers to buy less, I also think that a sustainable industry is a circular one. The production of textiles is draining our planet, while their destruction is polluting it. Circularity could drastically decrease both problems. Recycling plays a pivotal role in creating a circular system. Why then, are we not recycling?

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What Dyeing Does

Exactly one year ago I visited a talk on sustainable fabrics during the opening weekend of De Wasserij, a fashion-hub in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. One of the guests was Andriana Landegent, an entrepreneur who, with her company Ecological Republic, was one of the first to supply 100% biological and naturally dyed fabrics to the fashion industry. During that talk I realized that even though certain fabrics are made of biological materials, they probably underwent a chemical dyeing process. This changed my perception of sustainable clothing once again. Dyeing fabrics is a nasty business. Luckily, some amazing innovations are changing the game!

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How Our Clothes End Up in Landfills

Millions of tonnes of textile waste end up in landfills or incinerators each year (BBC 2020, Fixing Fashion 2019). There is no recent or reliable data on exact global numbers, but NBCLX (2020) talks about ten million tons of clothes for the US alone in 2015 and CBC News (2018) mentions three times a baseball stadium a year in Canada. I can’t even grasp the amount of clothes we’re talking about. Almost all of these garments are chemically treated and a big part is made of plastic-based materials. Needless to say that they cause a big threat to our environment. These enormous numbers got me wondering though. How do so many clothes end up in landfills? When I can’t resell or swap garments, I usually bring them to charity shops and almost everybody I know does the same thing. How is it possible, then, that so many clothes end up in landfills?

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Reduce the Impact of Your Wardrobe

I’ve been reading again and again that the fashion industry’s biggest climate impact is actually made in the consumer phase. Knowing about the immense amount of greenhouse gasses and toxic pollution that the production phase entails, this surprises me. What is so harmful about taking care of our clothes? What surprised me is that on top of washing and drying, even wearing our clothes has an impact.

Don’t despair though! There’s things you can do.

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