By Carla Christine Bruus Aagaard-Strube
Designers Remix: We need to act sustainably
The SS19 collection of Designers Remix is the label’s most sustainable to date. Read ourbig interview with creative director Charlotte Eskildsen here.
Designers Remix got its name from Charlotte Eskildsen’s passion for redesigning, or “remixing,” the clothes remaining ownerless after all other items had been sold. This was back in the days when she got her hands on a large storage of shirts from IC Group — then known as IC Companys — which she was allowed to redesign into unique pieces, box by box.
“I knew that I was making use of some otherwise unused resources, but back then sustainability was not yet in our consciousness the way it is today. It’s not like I set out to create a “sustainable brand”. But I thought that the materials’ past history gave my designs something special,” Charlotte Eskildsen said to Fashion Forum on the journey of Designers Remix towards sustainable production. A journey that has taken shape underway, only in the last few years drawing towards a particular destination. But the backstory of materials is not an insignificant point of departure for sustainability: Precisely the need for a good and true story has been part of society’s shift to a more sustainable focus.
“Since the beginning, I have worked with a number of sustainable fabrics, but my choice of them was motivated by their appearance, materiality, and high quality. I have always been fascinated by the whole process behind high-tech fabrics, but it’s only in the past few years I have seen the environmental benefits of using them,” she admits, before looking back at some of the milestones in the brand’s movement towards sustainability: Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2014, when Eskildsen had designed the pleated blue-and-white sustainable dress worn by Crown Princess Mary for her opening speech (and again as a skirt in 2018) and the small, 100 % sustainable fashion show the brand put on for the same occasion. A few years later, the launch of Designers Remix Preloved in 2017, created by used Designers Remix clothing submitted by customers — a project very much in tandem with Eskildsen’s original concept, and also a move in a sustainable direction.
On when she and her team made the substantial decision to make the label a conscious and sustainable one, Eskildsen says:
“It’s a topic we’ve approached with a range of initiatives in the last few years. Incorporating sustainable parameters into the entire product development is a whole new world. But when we found that making large parts of our collections sustainable was possible, we saw no reason not to. Our AW18 collection is the first one to feature a sharp difference. More than 30 per cent of the collection is made of sustainable fabrics, including certifiably recycled polyester and fabric remaints.
Challenges of sustainability
There are many steps on Designer’s Remix’s path to becoming a sustainable fashion brand. From the first foundational blocks were laid, somewhat unconsciously, almost 16 years ago, to today, in which sustainability figures as a deliberate company strategy. Even though approaching the challenges for this requires thorough considerations, including financial ones. It’s one thing to find a sustainable fabric that matches the brand’s regular price point — quite another is how to communicate sustainability to consumers.
“Since demand for sustainable clothing hasn’t been that great, manufacturers haven’t felt the same need to develop sustainable materials, meaning that prices have been high. That has begun to change, fortunately. The task for a brand with our kind of history is to retain our design DNA while also educating our customers to make more responsible choices when purchasing clothes. That requires communicating it in a voice that our end consumers understand and can relate to. And making something very technical very simple can be quite complicated,” says Charlotte Eskildsen. She points out that one of the great challenges of transitioning to sustainable production is that many still think of sustainability as something good yet rather bland, like oatmeal.
“What it really comes down to is showing that we can make something ‘sexy sustainable’. To demonstrate what can be made sustainably with no compromise in design, thereby taking part in changing consumers mindsets. When I was little, you couldn’t get organic products anywhere except specialized healthfood stores. Today you have an amazing selection everywhere. The same shift will occur in the clothing industry, and I think it becomes easier when brands like ours take part in leading the way. As a brand, there are currently a lot of places where you meet a wall — many things cannot be done sustainably, unfortunately. But a lot can be done, and I do believe that it will get easier for other companies to transition to a more environmentally responsible business model soon,” she says, mentioning how well the sustainable initiatives have been received by Designers Remix’s customers. Perhaps because it becomes something very tangible: Customers submit their used Designers Remix items, get a voucher for new purchases, and get to see examples of how the used clothing is reused in new designs.
“The launch of Designers Remix Preloved was extremely well received, and we’ve taken in a lot of clothing that we can loop into the production again. Feeling our customers’ enthusiasm for this has been fantastic, giving me greater expectations for demand for our autumn collection, which will feature even more sustainable styles, and where we have challenged ourselves in terms of materials. Recycled polyester is a fantastic material. Its fibers are sourced from old plastic bottles, and come in countless varieties that can be used in a broad array of different styles. From a thick coat to a thin summer top,” says Eskildsen, adding:
“I personally think there is something extremely enriching about tidying something up. Perhaps it has to do with my obsessive-compulsive gene for tidiness. The use of plastic waste from the world’s oceans in clothing manufacturing is very satisfying, because you are making something clean, taking what made it dirty and reusing it for something great — and you can keep reusing it again and again. I don’t feel the need to offer our customers a sea of options in our stores, if they are interested in only a few specific things. I’m getting better and better at cutting to the bone of collections, making only what I know will last. Today every new idea we get is based on a sustainable mindset.”