As the latest step in achieving its 2030 sustainability goals, Filippa K assesses the sourcing of its second most frequently-used fibre: wool. This means developing wool garments that are sustainably produced from start to finish – Filippa K calls them Front Runners – that will eventually lead the way for the brand’s entire wool collections.
Unlike some of its industry peers, Filippa K classifies wool as a sustainable choice as it is durable, self-cleaning, biodegradable and recyclable. Negative characteristics are often unavoidable, having to do with poor animal welfare, extensive land and water use and gas emissions.
Wool is a complex material with many components involved. “That’s why we have to take on the challenge,” says Elin Larsson at Filippa K.
The wool Front Runners are in their final stages of production, and the three garments – a skirt and two coats, one women’s, one men’s – will hit stores in fall 2016. “We’re letting the material guide the whole process” says Elin Larsson. “Assessing our first round of Front Runners, made of Tencel, we knew shortcomings in the material phase could cause trouble later on. For example, the Tencel garments shrunk when being washed and also napped more than our standards allowed, which had us doing a lot of adjustments in later stages.”
« It’s about elevating the status of recycled textiles »
To reduce the environmental footprint, Filippa K’s first decision was to work with recycled wool and turn to a manufacturer in Prato, Italy, where the recycled textile industry has been around for decades. There, leftover wool scraps from Filippa K’s and other brands’ manufacturing processes are gathered and sorted according to color categories. The scraps are then shredded and put in water baths for the fibers to dissolve. After drying, the new textile fiber is sent to a mill where it’s mixed with a complementary thread – the recycled wool fibers are too short to weave alone – before being spun and woven. Filippa K uses recycled polyester thread for this.
Woven according to pre-ordered colors, the process eliminates dyeing entirely, saving water and avoiding chemicals.
What are the other insights so far in this process?
The natural capital cost is lower for recycled wool than that of conventional wool – but then there’s the question of final price. The total cost of the various solutions involved in making these garments’ can be higher, which leads the the burning question: how much are we willing to pay for wool?
Then there’s an ever-evolving challenge in quality. Testing the first textile samples for the Front Runners in the lab indicated more pilling than what Filippa K standards allow. Rigorous use of two skirts made from the samples however did not show the same amount of pilling. “The real challenge is to make recycled materials in luxurious qualities. Our options moving forward are to apply anti-pilling treatments to the recycled wool – or communicate to our customers that the pilling might occur and advice on how to get rid of the pillings. After discussing it with our distributors, the latter will probably be our way forward,” says Elin Larsson.
Customers’ informed choices should also be rewarded, says Elin Larsson. Filippa K is currently discussing a “10 years of care” program for the Front Runners, as a way of assuring its longevity to customers who choose to invest in the items.“It’s about elevating the status of recycled textiles. Instead of just using it as padding for furniture or cars, we upgrade it and turn it into something with real worth.”
Read more about Filippa K’s Front Runners here.