Tag Archives: sustainable style

An Introduction: Sweden.Closettour

As some of you may already know, I’ve spent the last few weeks working on Sweden.Closettour, a new site about sustainability and style, inspired by four days of reporting in Stockholm. It’s an alpha version of the sort of stories I plan to produce in the future–like a little swatch of material, presented in a slightly different format than you’ll find here at the blog. Like all the stories and posts from Closettour, its purpose is to put the “wonder” in wondering what to wear.

Erin Dixon wonders what to wear at the Scandinavia House

It all began, as you’ll see in the video below, when an invitation arrived from the Swedish Institute, to meet the curators and designers behind EcoChic, a new exhibit opening this week at New York’s Scandinavia House. 

The subject of sustainability, in the worlds of fashion and journalism alike these days, wears a cloak of mystery. Sweden.Closettour is an experiment in discovering sustainable models in both fields. For the time being, my work is funded by a grant for entrepreneurial journalism from the McCormick Foundation–and this trip had a little help from the Swedes. (See “The Trip” for details). 

Kajsa Guterstam kept us caffeinated and on course in Stockholm

Along the way, I talked with fashion designers and physicists, farmers and factory managers, all of whom shared excellent insight. But the truest one came from Mathilda Tham, a brainy beauty who teaches design in Stockholm and London.

“You can’t be sustainable or holistic on your own,” she said, at the end of our meeting in March. “You’ve got to do it with other people.”

Julie Miller and Lina Plioplyte stick my face on the map

I’ve joked these past few weeks, working long hours on a website about sustainable fashion, that my lifestyle has become less sustainable, and decidedly less fashionable. But, as Mathilda foreshadowed, the project wouldn’t have been possible at all without other people pitching in.

Michael Lanzano shoots fruit and candy for the H&M story

Everyone whose name appears on that About page had a vital hand in getting the website up, and some of them were perfect strangers a few weeks ago. In the end, Grace Koerber helped weave it all together beautifully for the web (if I do say so myself), and the whole project would probably still be an elegant poster-board if Indrani Datta hadn’t helped whip it into shape.

Indrani Datta erases Sweden.Closettour’s to-do list

So, I’ve learned a lot about sustainability (and style), much of which you’ll find on Sweden.Closettour. I hope you find the clothes and characters there as compelling as I did, and that you’ll collaborate too, by sharing criticisms, questions and ideas on the comments page.  

Thanks for your contributions so far. I hope this is just the beginning of the conversation that can sustain itself for a long time to come.

 

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Spring in Full Swing

It’s going to be a really busy week here at Closettour.

“Where, at Closettour?” You might ask, and you would not be wrong, since the office travels where I do, whether the San Juan Mountains, San Clemente or Sweden. But for the moment, when I’m not wondering what to wear from my closet in Williamsburg, I’ll most likely be here: the newly minted Center for Journalistic Innovation at CUNY.

This is where a few of us working with grants from Jeff Jarvis Entrepreneurial Journalism class will be working. As you can see, it’s still a place in progress (more computers to come), and I’ve been told I’ll be responsible for the layout, as the aesthetically inclined chick in this incubator.

File:Pink peeps.jpg

This is a very different role from my one at Edun, where I simply packed boxes and got out of the way when we moved our offices from SoHo to Tribeca. But here, it’s a wholly different crowd of co-workers. For the last several months, I’ve worked back-to-back with Joe Filippazzo and Tom Clark, who founded Knotebooks, an open-source site for physics lessons.

Yesterday Tom asked me whether I felt pressure to always dress the part of a person covering fashion. And yet, I could have asked him the very same question–see his tee-shirt below, which reads, “No, I will not fix your computer.” Incidentally, that was what I had just asked him to do. Who’s dressing the part now?

Actually we both are.

I happened to be wearing this little Loomstate vest, a favorite layering piece this time of year. On the subway a few days ago, I ran into Berrin Noorata, who I used to share that SoHo office with when Loomstate, Rogan and Edun were all under one roof. Berrin organizes the brand’s parties, and she told me not to miss the one to celebrate Earth Day tomorrow night. I will not, and you shouldn’t either. They even have a school bus for downtowners.

And speaking of Earth Day, it will be interesting to see what comes of the CEO Water Mandate Meeting, also happening this week, over at the United Nations. Henrik Lampa, H&M’s Environmental Supply Chain Manager, who I met in Stockholm, told me one of H&M’s main issues when it comes to water conservation is denim washing, and he’ll be looking at how the clever application of chemistry might reduce the water footprint of a pair of jeans. H&M has had their fair share of environmental missteps over the last few months, but there’s no denying that they apply some serious manpower (and money) to investigating how the fashion industry might leave a lighter footprint on the planet.

jeans H&M Shop Online

It’s a complicated relationship, and one I’ll explore further on a site I’m developing about sustainable style, based on material from Sweden. So, that’s what I’m working on between the lines of the blog here, and I’m looking forward to sharing more of it soon. Assuming I sustain until the end of the week, I’ll be styling pre-loved prom dresses for their new owners on Saturday morning–email operationfairydustnyc@yahoo.com if you’re interested in joining me–or you can always find me right here, wondering what to wear.

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Swedish Style Diary: Play Hard to Get, Take it Slow


Over several years working in the fashion industry, and countless more wondering what to wear, I’ve seen the topic of “sustainability,” appear with increasing frequency. And while the fashion industry and the media agree on its importance, no one seems able to land on a definition. The Financial Times’ Vanessa Friedman spent two days at a conference on the topic, only to conclude that “the more you try to figure it out, the more confusing it becomes.” She asked a handful of fashion designers to define the term and received as many varying answers—a troubling result, she wrote, as “sustainability” becomes more ubiquitous in the fashion community.

I don’t mind giving designers a little wiggle room as they find their places in the movement, but like Friedman, I’d like to clarify my own concept of sustainable style. So when the Swedish Institute invited me to Stockholm to learn about their country’s take on the idea, I happily accepted.

What I found on Day One in Stockholm surprised me.

Stockholm’s Old City, Gamla Stan

When I met Piotr Zaleski, one half of the duo behind denim label Julian Red, I expected to hear about sustainable materials like organic cotton and natural dyes, and I did. They were integrated into pieces like high-waisted, straight-legged, slightly cropped jeans (“The Lady Hi”—take note) and a floor-grazing skirt in midnight gauzy wool, hand-painted with thin stripes of watery rainbows. The styles were wearable and well-designed, so I found it odd when Piotr said that since 2003, their company has been growing by about 20% each season—much slower, he clarified, than many successful young fashion labels, that easily increase sales by 100% each season.

“Small quantities are the most ecological part of our business,” Piotr said. “The idea is not to make more than you need.”

Piotr Zaleski

He explained that Julian Red presently makes no more than about 200 pieces in a given style. It’s only now that he is confident with his supply chain, which includes fabric mills in Japan, and factories in Mauritius and Portugal, that Piotr will push the sales a little more—but just a little.

He manages both the brand’s marketing and production—a position that likely leaves him sleep-deprived, but also offers him the unique perspective to adopt an effectively non-aggressive sales style (I believe in dating we call this “hard to get”) that brings the label to stores like Oak in New York City and Isetan in Japan, while growing at a pace everyone—mills, factories and Piotr and his partner Mattias Lind—is comfortable with.  To boot, there aren’t scores of leftover clothing each season, an issue another Swedish brand has reckoned with in regrettable fashion.

This idea, sustainability defined as growth at a supportable pace for a business and its partners, shouldn’t seem so novel. But let’s be honest, this is fashion, and designers and the media alike have been trained to strike while the iron is hot, because it might not be for long.

But I think the guys at Julian Red are onto something, adding fuel to a fire—sustainable fashion—that is better off starting as a slow burn.

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