The New Trend of Sustainable Fashion & Why it Matters - with Freja Løwe
ABOUT THIS INTERVIEW
Sustainable or Eco fashion has become rather popular in recent years, especially as cheap and toxic fast-fashion is a huge contributor to the pollution of our planet and human exploitation; while slow & sustainable fashion portrays the real cost of materials and fair labour, to present timeless pieces made with care and sustainably sourced materials.
Freja is the creative human behind her very own Eco-Label: Freja Loewe. Inspired by her time in Bali, every piece you see on her website or in the shop - Another View // Copenhagen - has been crafted by Freja herself, in natural dyes made with love for both the garment and Mother Nature. I was intrigued by her concept and wanted to learn more about the process of sustainable fashion… this is Freja’s story.
BRIEF BACKGROUND BY FREJA
Hi, I’m Freja from Denmark and one of my biggest passion is to bridge the gap between nature & fashion by raising more awareness on sustainable practices. I just finished my BA in Sustainable Fashion Design and am currently located in Denmark, where I work from my little garden studio. Creating natural dyes from various plants and flowers is my main focus and I aspire to design timeless pieces that will be kept and worn by the user for years to come.
Not too long ago, I moved to Bali for an entrepreneurial internship (where I started my own brand) and wrote my bachelor thesis on “Permaculture Principles in Relation to Slow Fashion”. Bali has a long history of natural dyes, so I spent my time diving into textile traditions and methods. It’s a very big part of why I do what I do, and my inspiration to work in the craft side of textiles. Nowadays, I am back in Denmark, working full-time on my own label - Freja Lowe - and it makes me so happy to be following my passion, I’m excited to see where it all goes!
1. How did you get into sustainable fashion? What was your drive or motivation behind doing what you do?
I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to study when I was younger, I just knew it had to be something creative, where I could express myself and tell a story. I was never really interested in fashion trends, but rather timeless fashion and creating a personal style that tells a story about who you are.
When I came across this particular course with sustainability as the main focus, I was intrigued. The more I learnt about how dirty the fashion industry was, the more it became my mission to create alternatives to the destructive world of fast-fashion. During my studies, I was educated in many aspects of sustainable design, but was instantly hooked when I started working with natural dyes and being in close contact with nature .
Fast Fashion works against nature and drains it from resources, so my mission is to create beautiful garments without contributing further damage to our planet. Textile dyeing is the second biggest polluter of clean water globally, and the chemical process is poisonous to the people working with and wearing clothes dyed the conventional way. I would like to offer a more gentle alternative made from plants, in hopes to reestablish people’s connection between nature and fashion.
2. What are your thoughts on fast-fashion vs slow-sustainable fashion? Opinions from a consumer vs. artist’s point of view?
The biggest problem is that the fast fashion industry has deflated the prices to such an unrealistic price tag, making consumers think that a t-shirt shouldn’t cost more than $10. This means that slow fashion brands have a lot of explaining to do, like why their products come at a higher price. This is something I’ve experienced first hand: I know how my products are made and why they cost more, I try to be transparent and communicate the process, but it takes time to change this mindset.
To be honest, there are no benefits to fast-fashion. There are so many workers getting paid and treated unfairly in the fast-fashion industry, to make it worse, they hide all this from the consumer’s who remain ignorant unless they do their own research. With a constant influx of new products on the market, this has lead us to think that we need to buy something all the time, to keep up with the latest trends. Over consumerism is the biggest problem, so many good clothes end up in landfills and an unreasonable amount of energy and resources is used to produce more.
Slow fashion is about rethinking all the processes of creating a piece of clothing. It’s about quality, timeless garments that outlast trends, good materials and lasting partnerships. You have to consider every detail of a slow fashion product carefully because you want it to last in the hands of the consumer. Therefore, it’s critical to understand the needs and values of the people you design for. It’s very interesting because the sociological and emotional aspect plays a huge role in how I design my pieces. I try to understand what makes the user feel comfort and beauty, what will make them want to keep and cherish a garment for a long time? This is essential in slowing down consumption – not only must you consider how you can make a durable product in terms of quality and design, but also what makes the user want to care for the product and wear it again and again.
3. Do you hand make the all garments yourself from scratch? If not, which parts do you outsource and which parts do you do yourself?
I worked with a tailor and his small production team when I was in Bali. I had Localism as one of my main subjects in my BA thesis, and I really struggle with the thought of outsourcing anything unless it’s very close to where I work from. Working and producing locally completely changes the process and relationship between the designer/tailor/craftsmen, and it’s much more personal and sustainable. I wouldn’t want to work any other way and I dream of having my own small production team here in Denmark sometime in the future.
Currently, I make everything myself and even though it moves extremely slow this way, I feel another kind of satisfaction and connection to my craft. I love being hands-on and this is also why I love the dyeing process so much. It’s very physical and I’m in close contact with the material all the time. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
4. Why do you choose to work with Linen and Silk Satin? What are some of the most unsustainable materials on the market and how can one go about sourcing them sustainably?
Linen and silk share the similarity of both being natural fibres and biodegradable. Linen is a very durable material and still looks good with wear and tear. The flax plant (used to make linen) is very versatile and everything from the plant can be used to make a product, which means little to no-waste during production. High water consumption in garment production is one of the biggest problems, and flax uses much less water than cotton for example.
Silk has a long history as one of the most luxurious fabrics and it has many amazing properties. This particular fibre absorbs natural colour best, and it keeps the colour fresher for longer. With good care, it can be very durable and it has such a timeless look. Compared to the production of other materials, silk leaves a very small carbon footprint and very little water and chemicals are used in the process. This is just a small part of what I take into consideration when choosing materials to work with - there are pros and cons to every single one.
The most unsustainable materials are often the synthetic ones. Polyester and Nylon for example, are made from petrochemicals that pollute the environment and are non-biodegradable, which means they will stay in landfills forever. Non-organic Cotton can also be blacklisted due to their heavy use of pesticides and high water consumption during production - which can also affect the health of cotton farmers. Tip: look for certifications when shopping - eg. the GOTS certification (Global Organic Textile Standard), which tells you that the product is made from eco-fibres through an environmentally responsible production.
5. Where do you derive your inspiration from in terms of designs, colours and patterns. Are they (your style) constantly changing and evolving ?
I’m quite minimalistic when I create the shapes of my designs. Since I love simplicity and comfort, I prefer to let the colours, texture and details attract the attention. So most of the time I already have the shape in my head and just do a quick sketch. I believe in creating timeless garments that outlast trends and are versatile. I’m very inspired by nature and this is where I get my inspiration for the overall mood of my garments. My color and pattern inspiration changes with the seasons and is quite intuitive.
All my dyes are made with plants and natural ingredients, so the result varies every time and sometimes I accidentally discover a new colour or pattern. I don’t plan much, I just go with the flow and hope for a nice result - if I don’t get it right the first time, usually I can still make some adjustments. It’s all about building layers and techniques on top of each other, that’s when the magic happens.
My style is definitely always evolving and I think that’s necessary for me to keep doing what I do. I am constantly improving and discovering new techniques which shows in my work, and my emotional state affects everything I create. It’s a reflection of my mind.
6. What are some of the more challenging aspects of your work?
Right now, I’d say my biggest challenge is exposure: to get myself out there and be seen. The Instagram algorithm is very discouraging for smaller brands and artists, it’s such a struggle to get your content out to your target group. But I try to remind myself that it’s not about numbers, and every time someone reaches out with words of support, it gives me new energy to keep going, to believe in what I do, and that it’s worth it. Sometimes I feel extremely discouraged and frustrated that things are moving so slow, but then my boyfriend reminds me where I was just a year ago, and I realize how far I’ve come. It’s important to have people around you who believe in you and encourage you to move forward.
Another challenge is the sales & marketing. I don’t want to “push” my products out there and promote myself too much, and I think a lot of artists and brands find it hard to be their own salesperson. Now that I finally have my products in a sustainable retail store - Another View // Copenhagen - I can see how the products speak for themselves in their own physical form. It’s very important that people can feel the fabric and try the products on. Selling solely online is very challenging, so it’s a milestone to now have some of my products in a sustainable store.
7. What was the hardest part about starting your own Label?
I feel like I had a safety net in starting my business while still studying because it gave me time to develop my aesthetic and vision, to experiment and learn - before considering the financial aspects, which took some pressure off. Now that I’ve finished my degree, things are getting more serious and the financial aspect of having enough funds to buy new fabric etc. does worry me.
In Bali, I was lucky to be able to buy smaller quantities and go from there. But now that I am based in Europe, I have to go through the process of sourcing my materials again, which is something I find a bit hard to navigate. It’s always overwhelming in the beginning because you have to make so many decisions: creating designs, finding the right fabric, the right production place etc. So I decided to take it one step at a time and things slowly evolved from there.
8. What are some of your favourite aspects about what you do?
My favourite aspect is how much fulfilment it gives me to create everything by myself. Having the freedom to decide when to do what has also proven to be the most effective way of working for me. If I wake up and feel like being creative, then I can begin my day with creating and do computer work later. I listen to my body and mind, and work with it instead of against it. If I need a nap during the day, I will allow myself to do that, as it means I can work more effectively the rest of the day.
Another thing I love is to create beautiful things for people to enjoy, it makes me extremely happy when I get good feedback or compliments about my work. Also, It’s very important for me to get a conversation going about sustainability and to live by my values. I feel another contentment in life, when I work with something I’m passionate about and I hope to inspire others to do the same.
9. How can people get into learning more about sustainable fashion or even creating their own DIY pieces with natural dyes?
I started on the internet, reading about basic dye recipes that can be made from food-waste. There are also lots of good books on this topic. You only need basic knowledge to start experimenting and then you can always build from there. That’s how I started, it was actually quite random but I was just hooked. There’s also many amazing natural dyers on Instagram, which is a great way to see different experiments and results. I’m planning on hosting workshops in the future, because I think it’s such a good way to connect with likeminded people, and share a lovely time learning from and connecting with nature and all it’s colours.
10. What are your tips/advice for people looking to reduce their negative impact surrounding fast fashion or how can they redirect their love for fashion and wearing beautiful garments into a more sustainable way.
Buy less and buy better. Invest in pieces that are timeless and of high quality. Remember that if a t-shirt costs less than a coffee, someone else has paid the price for you. They paid with blood, sweat and tears and you don’t want to support brands not paying a fair wage to their workers. Think about the versatility and durability of the clothes you buy, is it something you can use for years to come? Consider if you really need and love a product or if it’s just “nice to have” – then you probably don’t need it.
Also… buy vintage. It’s the only way to buy completely sustainable and we have enough clothes in the world already. I mostly buy vintage because I love finding items that no one else has and I love the history a garment can carry. I remember living in Paris and every month I went to a small vintage store and I would buy these beautiful woollen jackets with golden buttons and feel like I was a movie star from a past time.
*Extra: would you ever consider doing videos or workshops for people interested in the process of creating their own naturally dyed pieces?
This is something I contemplate often! I feel the need to talk and share more about sustainability, craft and nature. I am planning to start writing more blog posts on my website and videos are also a good medium to share some processes. Definitely looking to host real-life workshop soon! Combining sustainable interests with craft and people creating their own unique pieces to take home - sounds like the perfect idea!
Comment below if you’re interested in the idea of learning how to create your own naturally dyes garments. Do you have any favourite Sustainable Eco-Labels that you can recommend? Tag them below with a link to their website! Let’s share the love!
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