NFGL Report: Slow Fashion in Borås – Sweden’s Humble Fashion Capital

Mehmet Murat Dogan from Lund University shares his reflections from last week's NFGL Slow Fashion event in Borås.

NFGL Report: Slow Fashion in Borås – Sweden’s Humble Fashion Capital

On February 23-34, 2017, members of the Network for Global Future Leaders (NFGL) were in Borås, Sweden to gain in-depth knowledge about the slow fashion movement, and to better understand why sustainable fashion matters.

The Swedish Institute invited 30 representatives from the NFGL to participate in this special event, and I was one of these lucky representatives who had a chance to meet with people who have first-hand experience of sustainability in textile and fashion industry, and discover the textile museum while having fruitful conversations with my fellow scholarship holders on slow fashion.

A different perspective

As a participant who enjoyed the event and learned a lot during these two days, I am very happy and excited to share my reflections and insights on the Slow Fashion event. I hope my reflections prove helpful to those who are interested in sustainable fashion, but could not attend this event.

The event began with a joint lecture on Slow Fashion by Jennie Johansson and Johanna Nilsson, the authors of the book titled “Slow Fashion”.

To start with, participants introduced themselves to one another, and chose one garment they were wearing and told the story behind it, which was a very good and thought-provoking exercise that drew our attention to the topic and motivated us to consider garments from a different perspective.

While I was thinking about the story behind my shirt, I suddenly noticed that I never bought clothes from a second-hand store.

After they provided a brief overview of ‘slow fashion’ and its opposite ‘fast fashion’, and stressed the importance of the slow fashion movement to a sustainable future, I also noticed that I had unwittingly contributed to the fast fashion industry by not considering sustainability in my shopping decisions.

They also gave us some shopping tips that can contribute to sustainability in fashion and textiles, like fashion libraries, swaps and second-hand stores.

Trading clothes, trading ideas

Their lecture continued with workshops and presentations. In the first workshop, we, as consumers and influencers, tried to create strategies to inspire others to make sustainable shopping decisions. In the second workshop, we were divided into groups of four people, and came up with various business models and ideas to support the sustainable fashion industry.

These two workshops were like brainstorming sessions. I found them very useful as we were encouraged to act and think like entrepreneurs and decision-makers in the sustainable fashion industry and provide solutions to help consumers act in sustainable ways.

The clothes swap activity was undoubtedly the highlight of the slow fashion event. It was like a simulation of second-hand shopping. We opened our small second-hand store with the clothes that we brought to swap. There were more than 30 garments with different types, sizes and colours. I came with a hat and a purple shirt, and went away with a red sweater. After we swapped our clothes, we shared the stories behind them.

It was a great experience and simulation for me since it helped me discard my prejudices towards second hand stores, and encouraged me to do my first second-hand shopping as soon as possible. At the end of the first day, we visited a second-hand store in Borås.

Borås Fashion Incubator

The second day started with Gesica Tawakkoli Gunmalm’s presentation. She gave a detailed overview on the Borås Fashion Incubator. The main purpose of the incubator is to help entrepreneurs within the textile and fashion industry to succeed.

When an entrepreneur comes up with a brilliant idea, and needs support to develop his/her start-up idea and adapt it to the existing market conditions, the incubator steps in and support this entrepreneur in many ways- such as funding and management support.

In my opinion, the Borås Fashion Incubator is a vital part of the textile industry because brilliant and unique ideas might fade away without the support of such a mechanism.

Following her presentation, we visited the Textile Museum with a guided tour of the exhibitions. When I was walking through the museum, the New Nordic Fashion Illustration exhibit attracted my attention. The illustration is a unique opportunity for those who want to see the commercial side of fashion and artists’ personal expressions together. We also visited the smart textiles showroom in the museum.

The showroom is the area where you can witness how creativity and technology perfectly meet the textile industry and fashion. In the showroom, Anna Berglund gave a presentation on the Smart Textiles Initiative and its focus areas.

TED: Textiles Environment Design

The last presentation of the event was given by Adrian Zethreaus. He is one of the project managers for ‘Re-Textile’, a project aimed at discovering new redesign and business ideas by working with different partners and companies.

The main goal of the project is to reduce consumption of natural sources and contribute to sustainability through new redesign and business ideas. The project is a noteworthy initiative to call people’s and companies’ attention to curbing their fast fashion addiction and contributing to sustainable fashion with eco-friendly designs and ideas.

His presentation continued with a workshop. We were divided into groups of 4-5 people, and focused on the TED’s (Textiles Environment Design) Ten Strategies. We tried to develop new concepts and ideas by using these design strategies.

For example, one of the strategies is “Design to Minimize Waste”, and we tried to create a design narrative to reduce the many kinds of waste created within the textiles industry. At the end of this workshop, we shared different new ideas with each other, and collected the most innovative and feasible ones.

In sum, the event was a great opportunity for me to experience a slow fashion capital, Borås, visit the textile museum and get in touch with professionals and initiatives working in the slow fashion industry.

I think that every individual should pay attention to the slow fashion movement and make sustainable shopping decisions, like valuing good quality and buying second-hand.

We all need clothes and change our clothes periodically. If we act in sustainable ways, our actions will eventually affect fast fashion companies and push them to change their strategies to contribute to slow fashion.

A movement that starts from the bottom (individuals and companies) can make the greatest contribution to sustainable development. I would like to finish my reflections with a striking quote from the first lecture: “Fashion is what you buy. Style is what you do with it.”

Mehmet Murat Dogan

Master's student at Lund University (International Development and Management)