September 04, 2017

NICE

We are committed to mapping the global fashion industry. This week we talk with Tone Skårdal Tobiasson, editor of NICE Fashion.

NICE - Nordic Initiative Clean & Ethical - is always a little difficult to describe, as it has evolved and changed over time. But given the dynamics of the textile and fashion sector, NICE Fashion needs to be both flexible and organic - in the true sense of the word.

Nicefashion.org is in essence a tool and a platform, and it was originally a ‘crazy’ idea that originated in Norway and morphed into a Nordic cooperation. It was Tone Skårdal Tobiasson, the current editor of nicefashion.org who came up with the name and basic structure - to begin with it was called Norwegian Initiative Clean & Ethical - but her idea was that the N could actually be for Nordic as well. In 2008, when the Nordic Fashion Association was formally founded, they adopted NICE as their main cooperative effort. 

As funding was secured from the Norwegian Ministry of Equality and Children (which also is responsible for consumer issues) to build a web-site and a tool for designers, SMEs and consumers; Tone went about creating the content based on the different life cycle stages of apparel: Fiber extraction, production, transport, sales/marketing, use phase and prolonged use/recycling. Disposal being the least ‘productive’ alternative in our philosophy of design. As time went by, the site was incorporated into the web-site of the Nordic Fashion Association, but this is about to change once again as NICE increasingly is using social media as a more dynamic communication platform.

In a way, NICE has become more a knowledge bank, as there have been a series of lectures, work-shops and exhibits all over the world, from Lima, Peru to Shanghai, China, from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina to Cape Town, South Africa. NICE has also cooperated with different international and regional organizations and set-ups in order to have better knowledge and research available for decision-making. The very last of these cooperations has been through the research project KRUS, which is basing some of its actual sub-projects on the work that was done for the Nordic Council of Ministers mapping of initiatives in the Nordic region and recommendations for a more sustainable, holistic and resilient textile and fashion sector. 

To take the recommendations first, as they were summed up in four points. REDUCE chemicals, water, CO2 and waste (a global cooperation is already handling this), REPLACE Design Destined 4 Trash with Wonderful 2 Wear, Redirect Off-shoring Globally to On-shoring Locally (very integral in KRUS) and finally RETHINK Exclusive Design (generally known as ‘Fashion’) to Inclusive Design (clothes for everyday life and normal people). 

The book ‘Opening up the Wardrobe’ which will be launched in about a week’s time, takes research methods around this to the next level, it is edited by Kate Fletcher (probably the most read author on sustainable fashion) and Ingun Grimstad Klepp (project leader of KRUS). 

A quote from the introduction to the book, is perhaps in order: ‘Why understand wardrobes better? There are many reasons why it makes sense to investigate the happenings and make up of wardrobes, including: developing better garments; knowing ourselves better; helping others; increasing understanding of issues around appearance, democracy and satisfaction; enhancing detailed knowledge about the scale, type and rate of consumption of clothes; rendering a more diverse and holistic understanding of the fashion system, among others. Not only that, but given that what happens in and around wardrobes profoundly shapes a garment’s sustainability potential, it is to wardrobes that we must turn to engage with radical sustainability change. Sustainability is a political not a technical crisis. Technology alone can’t help us out of the mess we are in. But piecing together the social, relational, material, practical questions that are played out in and around wardrobes, perhaps enables us to better understand how to create sustainability futures for clothes, and maybe even life in general, in a new way.’

This is what NICE will be focusing on in the future. How we do it, is yet to be developed. We are in a learning mode, open to new and exciting approaches. Among other projects that we have ‘hosted’ that have gained international attention is ‘VikingGold’, where approaching our textile and cultural heritage (where textiles were the most valuable assets one could own) is of interest when looking to the future - where a resurgence of love for our wardrobes and next-to-skin friends needs to be reinvigorated. It is only through rethinking our relationship with our garments and consumption patterns, our knowledge of fabric and design provenance and properties that we will actually ‘save’ this potentially wonderful business.