A talk with The Circular Thread Project
We recently had the pleasure to work with Circular Threads Project, who are encouraging change and exploring a more sustainable path for the fashion industry - and beyond.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability to me is durability, common sense and learning from the past – and the movement is fortunately accelerated by a changing and demanding customer…
Durability. In my opinion, one of the most valuable things we can do, is re-introducing the idea of durability in every part of society. We have allowed the value of durability to be replaced by disposability – we need to reverse that.
Common sense. I grew up with a dad who was an environmentalist before that was even a thing. I am grateful about what he taught me: collecting trash, cherishing our objects, switching off the water while brushing our teeth, and religiously switching off the lights when leaving a room. Being an 80s child, it was for economic reasons too, but first and foremost it was about a genuine love for nature. He planted that love in me. Because of that, sustainability is almost common sense to me.
Learning from the past. When I took over August Sandgren, a company with a century old legacy, I dove into the old ways of doing things. August, who was an impressive craftsman and a founder of Danish functionalism, built his business on virtues of simplicity, quality, and aesthetics – and a respectful co-existence with people around him. With handcrafted objects created to last a lifetime, made from natural materials sourced locally, every object was truly durable – what we today call sustainable – and we look to him and this bygone era to drive our ambitions within sustainability.
Changing and demanding costumer. Fortunately, customers demand sustainability at an accelerating speed, which is making sustainability a hygiene factor in many industries and a good business too – the latter is important to keep companies engaged in the sustainability agenda and to get more companies on the wagon of change. Unfortunately, the increased customer demand has also led to an increase in surface-sustainability where companies communicate on sustainability without a real understanding of their footprint. Therefore, we are also cautious not to over communicate our footprint – not to overpromise. Some will even say we communicate too little. Right now, it is just more important for us to do than to talk, that will have to follow…
What measures do you try to take, both professionally and personally, to be more sustainable?
I try to take real ownership of my decisions both as a person and for my business – only then the sustainability debate feels real … and really really scary!
We can only truly change current course of action if we manage to re-create the understanding that we – each one of us as individuals and as businesses – are responsible for our planet. Right now, we have become consumers of our environment, completely detached from nature and blinded in a convenient believe that our consumption – our trash – don’t have any real impact on the environment. That is wrong and I think most of us know it, it is just hard to act on that knowledge because it requires real change. But we need to change. We need to understand our responsibility – as people and as businesses.
In August Sandgren, we try to change. We try to adopt a responsible mindset when crafting our strategy and in our daily decisions. With August Sandgren and his legacy, we are fortunate as we have been given a strong starting point; our business is to hand craft durable storage objects. Objects that last a lifetime, not only in terms of the quality of craftsmanship but also regarding design and choice of materials. Despite the strong sustainable foundation, we daily make decisions that continuously require a responsible mindset e.g., handcraft vs. machine made, surplus materials vs. new materials, near-source vs. out-source, truck and train vs. plane, packaging vs. none, brand collaterals or not. In each of these choices we try to take full ownership of the environmental impact of our decision, yet we are humble about our achievements and realistic about the continuous focus needed to succeed long term.
In your opinion, what changes can be made in the world of fashion towards becoming a more sustainable industry?
20 years ago, there was a movement in Italy to fight fast-food. The Italians called it ‘Cibo km 0’, or ‘slow food’. It is time to fight that same fight against fast fashion. We must reemphasize quality over quantity, durability over consumption, and local over global. I, for one, sign up for slow fashion, and I hope and believe more and more people will – and not only subscribe to it, but demand it.
How do your thoughts on sustainability influence what you purchase (particularly in regard to your wardrobe)?
I buy less – I buy better quality and I buy designs that last. Lately however, I’ve become increasingly aware of waste surrounding my consumption, and since I’m somewhat mindful of investing in objects that last, this is where I’ve seen the biggest change when I purchase. Wrapping paper, paper bags, printed receipts, receipts folders, etc., I now actively decline all of that when shopping. It has absolutely no real value to me, it is just waste. Realizing this, is an easy way to cut down on waste and I have started to look for other non-value creating pockets of waste that I can just make disappear. There are many hard decisions need to drive sustainability but there is a handful of easy once too – we just need to see them.
How has the last year, with all the obvious changes that have happened in the world, affected you/ your business?
My brand is still small, and we weren’t even online before the pandemic, so the first lock-down was tough. When everything locked down, all my commercial outlets did too – retail, offices, and hotels. I actually thought “this is it!”. Then I employed myself as a turn-around consultant and after a tough cost-cutting exercise, I leveraged my network and revisited our strategy. Today, August Sandgren is a partnership and digital D2C business. Even though we are still vulnerable, we’ve come out stronger than before.