Swedish brand Filippa K’s two-year research project on sustainability, carried out in partnership with Mistra Future Fashion and University of the Arts London, has come to its conclusion. Entitled “Circular Fashion Speeds,” it has yielded important insights and also resulted in two new products–a “long-life” commercial coat that is 100% recycled and recyclable, and a  “short-life” concept dress that is 100% bio-based and biodegradable, thus reinterpreting the definitions of “fast” and “slow” fashion. We sat down with Elin Larsson, Filippa K’s sustainability director, at the launch of Disrupting Patterns, the exhibition held last weekend at London’s Chelsea College of Art.

 

How did the “Circular Fashion Speeds” project come about?

We wanted to really challenge ourselves, embarking on a holistic project to explore circular fashion speeds, establishing what really constitutes “fast” and “slow” fashion. The cross-functional collaboration between everyone involved, from academia and research teams to designers from different disciplines, has been crucial. We’ve worked with Mistra Future Fashion for many years, and also decided to join forces with University of the Arts London, as well as a number of entrepreneurial companies with different specialties. By opting for a smaller-scale project, we’ve been able to go more in-depth, without being bound by the regular fashion timelines.

What was the most surprising discovery you made during the research stages?

Looking into wardrobe behavior and going deeper into the definition of slow and fast fashion was definitely one of the mind trips to come out of the project. You might design and construct a garment to be used for a very long time, but if the customer ends up using it only twice, does that make it slow or fast? Also, polyester has always been viewed as the least sustainable option, partly as it takes so long to break down; it can last for up to 200 years. So it’s totally wrong for the “disposable” fast-fashion context, for which it is unfortunately often used. But, viewed from a slow fashion context, polyester makes more sense as it’s durable, and also lends itself very well to recycling.

Filippa K's 'throw away dress'
Photo: Filippa K
Filippa K's 'throw away dress'

Tell us about the project’s two key items: the “throw away dress” and the “eternal trench coat.”

These two garments reinterpret the definition of “fast” and “slow fashion really well. The  “long-life” coat is crafted from a polyester material derived from plastic bottles. It’s 100% recycled and recyclable. The “short-life” concept dress, meanwhile, is 100% bio-based and biodegradable. Wear it a few times the way you would an occasion dress, and then put it in the compost–it’ll fully disintegrate. The material is a non-woven Tencel fabric that has been pleated by hand and dyed using red cabbage, avocado and rusty nails. The pieces join our existing lineup of so-called Front Runners–items designed as sustainably as possible, from the raw materials used to the way they decompose. These are all important steps in Filippa K’s journey to becoming fully circular and producing entirely sustainable collections by 2030.

The “throw away dress” can’t be commercially produced yet. Will garments of this type ever be made available to consumers on a wider scale?

We had hoped to be making them commercially by now, but the garment-making industry is not quite ready to produce this type of non-woven material on a larger scale. We will get there, but it might take two to five years to realize this part of the project, commercially. As for the project in general and the ideas that it has yielded, it’s also about inspiring others in the industry to push boundaries in order to find more sustainable solutions.

The 'eternal trench coat' for men and women by Filippa K
Photo: Filippa K
The 'eternal trench coat' for men and women by Filippa K

How has the “eternal trench coat,” which is available in a men’s and women’s style, been received by consumers so far?

It has just arrived in-store so we haven’t received a great deal of feedback from consumers just yet, but it was the bestseller among our wholesale partners, proving that an attractive product that is also sustainable equals a strong proposition. The coat is very functional–you can wear it as an overcoat in fall, and a single piece during warmer months. So it’s sustainable both in terms of design and material.