Oct 16, 2018 | By Nigel Taylor
Jan 26, 2018
As consumer demand for sustainable, ethically-sourced products heightens, here at WGSN we’re dedicated to highlighting the opportunities this challenge presents across the board.
A shift towards sustainability comes not just from an environmental need, but a financial one too, as consumers begin to reject brands and businesses that aren’t on board.
We’ll profile the brands who are leading by example, talk to expert industry insiders and bring you all the latest innovations, helping you to bring sustainability into the 21st century.
For more insight and inspiration, head to the sustainability section on WGSN.
For the first in this series, we caught up with Outi Korpilaakso, the designer behind new Finnish brand LOVIA, an accessories brand that lets you trace every material used in its products, right down to the dust bag.
She talks sourcing materials, priorities for brands and all about a leather-like material made from grapes.
I decided to make LOVIA because I wanted to contribute a change in the way we create fashion and all the industry practices behind it.
Before launching LOVIA, I was a designer for commercial brands. It was there that I got very frustrated with the practices I was seeing and the waste within the industry. I hated creating new designs without knowing who was manufacturing the product or materials and how it was made. I just didn’t trust the process.
I got thinking about how to do things differently. When starting LOVIA, I reached out to different companies where I knew a lot of waste was being created, from the furniture industry to the food industry- and that’s how I sourced materials.
Typically, when designing, you work on your product and the collection and then you source the materials. With LOVIA, the process is totally reversed. We start with the materials that already exist and need to be rescued from becoming waste and see what we can do with them. Every bag we make has an individual DNA code that you can ‘crack’ on our website – type it in and it reveals all the details of materials and production, right down to the dust bag and metal details.
How can we make sustainable fashion more appealing to consumers?
The challenge is devoting time to the product design. The collection and styles have to be of a high-quality and something you’d want to own. Even if sustainability is your focus, you can’t compromise on design – it really does have to look good.
Often, sustainability comes with a higher price point. Will sustainable fashion ever be affordable for all? If so, how?
I believe it’s getting there. Within this field, there has to be pioneers who explore sustainable alternatives and push production boundaries. At the moment, that’s obviously an expensive process, which is reflected in the price points. But I think it’s necessary – once we’ve got the science and methods down (as is currently happening), we can work on the volume and scale, which will make it less expensive in the long run.
What do you think is the biggest hurdle that brands need to overcome before the industry becomes more sustainable?
Lack of transparency is easily the biggest issue as it leads to several problems like ethics regarding employees – particularly when it comes to production lines and outsourcing to developing countries. Bringing transparency into production processes would protect human rights and the rights of workers. It’s the most basic thing and provides the foundation for further sustainability.
What’s the most exciting/innovative sustainable development you’ve come across recently?
I’m really inspired by any development in new materials. At the moment, we’re looking at the wine-making process. It’s possible to use the leftover skin from wine grapes to make a leather-like material.
At the moment, I’m using leather because it’s a byproduct of the food industry (Elks are shot by licensed hunters across Finland as a form of population control and then used for food, with numbers always corresponding with the number of calves born). In the future, it would be amazing to stop using animals for skin altogether.
I’m really eager to see how new technological developments will change sustainable fashion and how they can be applied on a bigger scale.
At WGSN, we’re big on the future. What’s next for LOVIA?
We want to be pioneers in taking sustainable fashion and especially the transparent production into the mainstream. We have built a brand identity which is now ready to be taken global. This said, we want to constantly develop our concept and stay curious. We see great potential, especially in collaborations with exciting material innovations. All in all, we want to be integral to the force pushing the fashion industry towards change in the critical areas: less wasteful production, addressing human rights, slowing down the consumption cycle and bringing more transparency to each step.
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