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Product, Service & Design Innovation
These Nordic Clothing Companies Are 'Relooping Fashion' for the Next Economy

Circular and sharing economy models are the latest trend in sustainable fashion – it seems there are new initiatives popping up all the time! Just last week, we covered startups reKindness and Hubbub, which are making clothes swapping easier in the U.S. and U.K., respectively. This week, Sweden and Finland are in the spotlight with a new rapid sharing system and textile recycling scheme - and the Netherlands continued to make progress towards a circular economy.

On January 20, Swedish designers launched the ShareWear collection in an attempt to “make ready-to-share the new ready-to-wear.” ShareWear allows people to borrow clothing items for free, if they share the items forward after using them for one week. The collection was initially launched in 12 countries: Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain, the UK, the U.S., Russia and China.

Interestingly, all items will be shared and claimed through Instagram. The first user to comment on the photo of an item is eligible to borrow it for a week, and is expected to upload a photo of the item at the end of the week to share it with another user, who will also claim the item by being the first to comment. People may also contribute to the movement by sharing their own clothing using the hashtag #sharewear. Shipping is not included through ShareWear, so people from anywhere and everywhere are encouraged to share locally and start the movement where they live.

The scheme was initiated by VisitSweden, the country’s official board of tourism, and public agency the Swedish Institute, which “promotes interest and confidence in Sweden through strategic communication, capacity building, cultural co-operation and scholarships.” Participating brands include Filippa K, Hope, House of Dagmar, NIKOLAJ d’ETOILES, Uniforms for the Dedicated, Weekday, and Whyred.

“Each year millions of tons of textiles are thrown away in Sweden and other countries around the world, even though almost all of it could be recycled, donated or repurposed. The ShareWear collection aims to raise awareness in the industry of this issue while also offering an alternative solution,” said Sofia Kinberg, Global Marketing Director at VisitSweden.

Meanwhile, the Relooping Fashion Initiative is targeting clothing recycling directly, and may be able to produce the world’s first 100 percent post-consumer-waste textiles and clothing. A new cellulose dissolution technique developed by the VTT — the Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd. (VTT) — allows worn-out cotton clothing to be turned into new, high quality fibers for the textile industry.

“This revolutionary process is the first time that post-consumer textile waste has been used on an industrial scale to make high quality fiber - and all without the need for any harmful chemicals,” Ali Harlin, Research Professor at VTT, is quoted on the Relooping Fashion wesbsite.

The process is currently being piloted in Finland, and the first clothing lines made of the recycled fibers will be available in stores toward the end of 2016.

Relooping Fashion was made possible by a network of partners,

including VTT, funding agency Tekes, circular economy-focused business development consultancy Ethica, Finnish fashion chain Seppälä, environmental services company SUEZ, textile recycler and manufacturer Pure Waste, the non-profit Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre, and RePack, the company which allows the clothing packages to be conveniently and easily returned, and then reused.

The Relooping Fashion Initiative received a “Highly Commended” status in The Circulars, a circular economy award program with an esteemed panel of judges such as William McDonough and Ellen MacArthur. The awards were delivered last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“This is a great example of the brilliant opportunity that the Circular Economy brings to European businesses. By creating new technology and innovative products for the future, we promote competitiveness and sustainable growth,” said Jyrki Katainen, VP of Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness at the European Commission.

To the south, Netherlands-based Van Hulley is also proving there are circular business opportunities to be found. The company’s unique model recycles shirts into boxer shorts and employs women who need work experience and education to enter the broader labor market. It was named the first Runner-Up in the People’s Choice Award at The Circulars.

The country is also accelerating its transition to a circular economy through the launch of a new campaign, Netherlands Circular Hotspot (NLCH), in partnership with Circle Economy, the same group that is leading circular economy research for Amsterdam, the country’s capital. The campaign aims to position the Netherlands “as an international circular hotspot during the time of the Dutch presidency of the EU in 2016.” It will consist of an Innovation Expo, a Circular Expo, and an Incoming Trade Mission in April, as well as case studies and projects.

“Humanity has great environmental challenges ahead of it. We are at a stage in history where we must find realistic and practical solutions to these. A circular economy offers us a road map for systemic change in our economic ecological and social system. Our ambition with NLCH is to share the practical experiences from businesses, cities, governments, entrepreneurs and communities to show what is possible and inspire ever greater adoption of the circular economy principles,” said His Royal Highness Prince Carlos de Bourbon de Parme, who helped initiate the campaign.

Last year, the European Union launched an €11 million project aimed at creating a new circular economic model for the textile and chemical industries by turning unwearable textile waste into chemical feedstocks. Eleven countries – including Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands – also signed on to a €3.6M WRAP project focused on clothing waste reduction. Brands such as H&M and The North Face have also jumped on board, with their own initiatives focused on textile recycling.


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