Fashion is the most glamorous industry in the world. Maintaining a fine line between art and business, the world of stunning garments promises eternal beauty to its wearer, yet is constantly unavailable due to the fickleness trends. However, the other side of the coin is much less pretty. According to the widely discussed documentary film The True Cost, which came out last year and explored the global impact of fast fashion on our world, fashion industry became the second most polluting industry on Earth after oil, thanks to our society’s obsession with cheap and trendy outfits.
However, because of the documentaries like this as well as general accessibility of information in the digital age, fashion industry cannot maintain the status quo any longer. Fast fashion giants like Swedish H&M or Spanish Zara are trying to change their image in the eyes of the increasingly more environmentally conscious customers. The former one, in particular, is putting a huge emphasize on its growing Conscious range of recycled clothing and organic beauty products as well as encouraging the consumers to bring their old garments to the H&M stores for recycling.
In Finland, sustainability has always been an important subject among the designers. Just this week, one of Finland’s most recognised fashion brands Samuji announced their new trial project, which is part of a larger Samuji Circular sustainability initiative. The idea is similar to the H&M: during the month of May, customers are encouraged to bring their old Samuji garments to the store to be resold, recycled or donated to a good cause. In exchange, the participants will receive a 20% discount off any new Samuji item. “I think ethical consciousness and values in Finland are on a quite good level, and people are more keen on having knowledge on these things”, says Sanna Luhaniemi, who works for design and fashion photography agency Studio Skaala. “Many Finnish companies also emphasize their ethicality and they operate really transparently, which probably attracts more people’s attention and interest into the subject.”
Designer brand Marimekko in collaboration with Finnish online vintage store We Started This (WST) also encourages their customers to give their clothes new life by reselling them. “When you’re dealing with vintage pieces, they all have a history and story, that does not have to be forced by made up marketing campaigns”, says Sara Nyyssölä, one of the founders of WST. “I just bought a cotton print Marimekko dress from the 1970’s and it’s in excellent condition, and there’s a promise of quality there: if it has lasted in use for the past 50 years, it will most likely do so for the coming years as well”.
Sara believes that the love for styles of the past decades as well as a desire to stand out from the crowd play a major role in the Finns’ keen interest in vintage clothing, calling it “a counter reaction for not wanting to buy what is offered in most clothing stores at the moment: pieces that are in season for a limited time and don’t last in use”. Marjukka Salvionen, the creator of the Helsinki-based fashion blog Ostrich Feathers, cannot agree more. “I believe it’s all about uniqueness, quality of material and timeless design”, says she. “I would say jewellery, evening gowns and accessories are the most haunted down as those can be such treasures; true beauties from the past decades”.
Curiously, even without the brands’ recycling campaigns, Finns have always enjoyed creating beautiful pieces from the materials they have on hand. Päivi Savolainen, the founder of the handmade accessories brand MAKEEDesign, managed to create a successful business out of her love for DIY and candy wrappers. “I think it comes with the history”, says Päivi. “Over the ages we have had our summer cottages and summer places near to the sea or lakes, and what a better way to spend you summer day than to create something by yourself: garden, a new grill, wooden house for kids. Finns really appreciate handwork – and it’s also something we show off a lot”. Sanna, who has done a variety of different DIY projects for Finnish interior design magazine Deco, agrees with the designer. “Finnish handicraft heritage has always been highly valued in here, and it feels like these DIY things bring a modern aspect into it”, says she.
Most importantly, it all comes down to the love of nature and general understanding of the consequences that our actions have on the environment. “Finns are aware of recycling, and nature is important to us. We are small and green country, and we prefer to keep it that way”, says Päivi. Marjukka shares her opinion. “I find recycling is made so easy and accessible here it’s easy to get in and consider it a part of your life”, says she. “I think it’s a lot to do with the fact that people are so aware of global issues regarding nature. In addition, I think Finns have a strong connection to nature as we’re fortunate to be surrounded by it, even in the cities. It’s something you’ve grown up with, to see the flora and fauna around you, to appreciate the environment. And by recycling you can do something good, to make this world a bit better place to live”.
Sara summed it up perfectly when she said that in Finland, “recycling is something that we consider common sense”, says Sara. This approach is something that should become part of life for us all.
Words by Kira Kolosova.