FIVE FROM FINLAND: Sustainable fashion
Providing alternatives to much-maligned fast fashion, Finland is home to many brands dedicated to sustainable and ethical practices.
Did you know that the fashion industry is considered one of most polluting industry in the world? Luckily, more and more fashion producers and consumers are starting to do their part to halt the industry’s environmentally and socially harmful practices by shifting towards more sustainable materials, less resource-intensive ways of manufacturing and more responsible choices.
Last month, Pro Ethical Trade Finland (Eetti) released its second sustainability report for Finnish clothing brands, placing Helsinki-based men’s fashion house FRENN at the top. FRENN was praised for its climate work, as well as transparent and ethical production processes.
Below are five more Finnish fashion brands working hard to make a difference in the industry.
The Helsinki-based experimental design studio, run by designer duo Emmi Lonka and Eljas Pajamies, is putting its own spin on sustainability by creating everyday clothing and accessories from reused hotel towels and beddings. All the items are hand–made in limited quantities in Finland and are meant to keep their wearers comfortable. (In Finnish, to be jouten means to do absolutely nothing: to kick back, to relax, to lounge around.)
The brand first made a splash among sustainable fashion lovers in 2015 with its unique towel ponchos made with materials collected from recycling centres and through donations. Since then, Jouten has broadened its product range to include unisex terry hoodies, shirts, pants and shorts, as well as entered into material collaboration with Finnish textile service company Lindström Group and its subsidiary Comforta. According to the designers, at the time of discarding, most of hotel textiles are still in great condition and can be repurposed.
“Consumers often think that recycled materials are somehow worse than new ones, but when they see our fabrics and products they clearly understand that this is not the case here,” the duo said.
Finland’s first sustainable swimwear brand was born out of two friends’ quest to find their perfect bikinis. To surfer girls-turned-entrepreneurs Hanna Chalvet and Salla Valkonen, “perfect” meant looking fabulous, being comfortable to wear and, most importantly, eco-friendly.
Halla Halla uses a high-quality fabric made of recycled plastic waste – such as bottles, bags and fishing nets – collected from landfills and oceans around the globe. Inspired by the diverse beauty of nature that needs to be preserved for future generations, Chalvet and Valkonen design all the pieces themselves, and the swimsuits are ethically manufactured in Bali, Indonesia.
The idea has taken over the world, with orders flying in from everywhere and new collections quickly selling out online. All Halla Halla items are shipped to their new owners in biodegradable bags.
“It was clear to us from the start that we wanted to combine eco-friendliness and fashion in our swimsuits. These were two things we didn’t want to compromise on,” Valkonen emphasised.
Co-founded by two young sneakerheads who are also concerned about the origin and impact of the shoes they wear, Rens is poised to become the favourite brand of all sustainable fashionistas. Who wouldn’t like to have a pair of comfortable, waterproof, lightweight, breathable and odour-free trainers made from used coffee grounds and recycled polyester from plastic bottles?
The brand has made waves internationally and gathered plenty of global media attention after a mind-blowingly successful crowdfunding campaign in 2019. The founding duo, Jesse Tran and Son Chu, were also featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list among the best European social entrepreneurs earlier this year.
“We don’t want to push people by saying they need to save the world,” Tran noted. “We just make the product so good they want it anyway.”
Turku-based Cuitu has built an entire business model around sustainability. On top of being a fashion brand offering modern accessories for urban people, Cuitu wants to promote companies and organisations that are developing new sustainable materials. The brand is constantly on the lookout for textile innovations and has already collaborated with some of the biggest players in the field, such as Spinnova and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.
In addition to using innovative materials and following a zero-waste policy, Cuitu focuses on minimalistic, functional and often unisex designs while capturing the essence of trendiness. Such an approach disrupts the typically seasonal nature of the fashion industry and makes investing in Cuitu’s items worthwhile.
“We acknowledge that the mass production of fashion can’t keep going the way it’s going now, with several collections each year and changing fads that make their way to consumers through cheap fast fashion,” co-founder Vilma Piironen explained. “However, trend-conscious people will always want to stay on top of things. We’re not trying to make people stop buying, but rather our aim is to help them to be trendy by choosing materials that can be reused and recycled.”
Founded in 2015 by crossfit enthusiast Anna-Mari Niutanen and textile professional Essi Enqvist, Népra is a sustainable activewear brand aiming to create long-lasting items, ensure ethical production and stay transparent throughout the entire process. The brand encourages all sports lovers and active people to make more responsible choices.
Népra’s clothing is designed in Finland, the certified toxic-free fabrics come from a family company in northern Italy, and the products are manufactured by a partner in Estonia. Its less sporty and more casual collection, Lazywear, is produced in collaboration with Pure Waste, an innovative garment company with a focus on recycled materials.
“I wear our clothes all the time, indoors and outdoors,” Niutanen revealed. “If I say so myself, they’re just so comfortable that I’d wear them even if I had nothing to do with Népra at all.”
Text: Zhanna Koiviola
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