I have a chat with ethical and sustainable freelance designer, Loes Kuiper who’s 33 years old and has set up her own fashion consultancy service by helping brands take conscious decisions in lowering their carbon footprint.
Could you briefly explain the concept behind Designlab LK?
Designlab Lk is a freelance fashion & print design studio. We recently added a sustainability consulting service. With this service we can advise brands and fellow designers on what to think about when implementing sustainability into their design and/or production process. We supporting the consultancy with tools we developed. With this new service we hope to make more brands and designers aware that they can make a difference and help them do this. We share insights on sustainable design on our social media.
What are some of the harsh practices that the fashion industry has been adopting over the last couple of years?
It is really shocking what happens in the fashion industry, I’ve seen it myself and I can go on and on about this. To see the actual high numbers of various events caused by the fashion industry in the courses I followed has made me realize even more that we really need to act now!
The fashion industry is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world. I think the biggest issue is the fast fashion market. A lot of issues are related to this. Like low wages, gender inequality, child labour, modern day slavery, dangerous work environment, animal abuse, high co2 emissions, extreme use of water, soil and water pollution, diminishing resources, deforestation, biodiversity loss & waste ending up in landfill.
This is a problem that is created by all of us, governments, companies and consumers. Our era is defined as the Anthropocene, meaning that we live in the era where earth’s climate and atmosphere are affected by human activity.
We now follow the linear make – take – dispose economy. Consumers ask for cheap garments, so they get crappy garments made under very bad conditions in poor qualities which are not recyclable and biodegradable, they probably will have a short life and end up in landfill.
A fast fashion garment is only worn 7 times on average!
Brands make trends move way to fast, so the consumer constantly feels like they need something new. Some fast fashion companies have new collections coming in every 4 weeks.
Overconsuming and overproduction is a really big problem. The garments also will be disposed very quickly and 3rd world countries doesn’t even want to have our discarded garments anymore because they already have too much and they will end up in their landfill. Estimated is that the overproduction is going to be more and more the coming years.
Because of this method people and planet are treated very badly. If we will go on the way we used to the planet will be destroyed and that will be on us.
So the time for change is now! What world do we want to leave for our children?
We are the only and last generation that can make a difference and together we can make a change.
We need to slow down the fashion industry and go to a circular economy, change the way we design, produce, buy, use and dispose garments.
Governments should introduce more legislation in this area, brands should become more transparent, make less and smaller collections and become more ethical & sustainable. Consumers should really buy less in better qualities, second-hand or rental clothing, wash responsible and aim to recycle their disposed garments.
What sustainable practices do you incorporate in designing the styles as well as the prints?
We use smart design what contents conscious choices in all design areas like; material, color, treatment, prints, styles, trims, labelling & waste. We will also check the carbon footprint of every garment as good as possible.
How we implement this practices exactly is explained in our sustainability consultancy supported by tools.
Can you tell us a little bit about the circular economy and how you feel brands can incorporate this in their business model?
A circular economy is a closed loop system, reduce – recycle – reuse. Products and materials keep their value as they can be recycled over and over again.
So brands should already think about recyclability and biodegradability in their design process. And they should not only think about the design/production phase but also at the users phase and what happens to the garment at the end of its lifetime. Ever since money is the biggest priority they should rethink their margins/cost/selling prices.
What are some of the hurdles you’ve faced in the process of choosing sustainable options according to the companies needs?
It’s always about money! Really frustrating and this is the hard part for me, because it also makes sense that a company needs to make money.
As a freelance designer I can give a brand advise and make them a design in a sustainable way but the decision-making is out of my hands. So when my design choices are too expensive they often are turned back into less conscious & cheaper choices. This always has been a struggle between designers and buyers, you can make the greatest design but when it is too expensive money always has the priority. In almost every case a designer has to make concessions in their design because of price related reasons.
Are there any recent innovations that you’ve been able to implement during this pandemic?
Unfortunately I lost a lot of projects because of the pandemic. So I used the time I got to follow some new courses in sustainable design and really learned more and more about this subject. This is why I now can add my new sustainability consultancy service. I created a new website, and tools to support my consultancy service. In addition I am happy to see that the top fashion houses go to fewer collections per year and that more and more brands are making conscious choices. I have the feeling that this pandemic has accelerated this process. However, we must remain alert to companies that abuse this in the form of greenwashing.
Finally, we must not forget that in addition to these good developments, there are also very bad developments during this pandemic. Like the many fast fashion companies that refuse to take and pay for their produced orders that are ready to be shipped out.
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