Elin Mohlander: ”In the future, we hope the idea of using surplus fabric will become the norm”
Elin Mohlander is the founder and CEO of Residus—a Swedish fashion brand that makes dresses using residual fabrics sourced from Europe's top fashion manufacturers. We asked her to share her experiences from starting up a sustainable business and give her best advice on conscious consumption.
“Two years ago, Residus was but a seedling of an idea. Feeling a strong urge to extend my career in the fashion industry with a contribution to a sustainable and meaningful future, I wanted to prove that creating purposeful fashion by closing the loop was not only a viable business model, but the future of the industry.
Since then, Residus has bloomed into a full-fledged womenswear brand, with our collection of season-less dresses made from surplus and GOTS fabrics now carried at over thirty retailers across Sweden. This spring, we will also be launching an exciting collaboration with Sweden’s top luxury department store, and unveil a limited edition dress created for UN Women.
Although I am still learning and growing everyday as a founder and business owner, there are some key learnings that I realize have helped me greatly on my journey so far:
Build a strong foundation. The first year of developing Residus involved an unglamorous amount of research. It included engaging with experts in the sustainability field, learning from experts in the circular fashion space, conducting market research, evaluating the existing manufacturing models in fashion and then finally, identifying a viable white space in the market. Only then did we begin developing the product with a clear vision and objective. The more solid the foundation, the easier it is to build and expand without worrying about the whole business collapsing due to a fundamental flaw in the business model.
“I wanted to prove that creating purposeful fashion by closing the loop was not only a viable business model, but also the future of the industry”
Trust your instincts. My biggest fear early on was that no one else would believe in my vision of wanting to disrupt the existing fashion manufacturing and production. But time and time again, the support and partners I’ve gained have been simply based on the faith and strength of Residus’ vision and purpose. I’ve since realized that if you believe wholeheartedly in what you are trying to accomplish, others will follow suit. Whether it is investors, talents, retailers, or others—always trust your instincts.
Invest in social capital. Running my own business for the first time and learning through trial and error is sometimes extremely mentally and physically taxing. But having a strong support system in the form of family and friends that lift me up and want to see me succeed makes all the difference on days when the challenges seem impenetrable. Similarly, having worked in fashion for twenty years, my professional network of contacts and collaborators also contributed exponentially to the early successes of the business. Never underestimate the power of social capital.
Never stop innovating. The first time my co-founder Evalena Jonsson and I went down to Portugal to source surplus fabrics from factories, the factory operators thought we were crazy, simply because no one else had ever approached them with the idea of buying their surplus fabric. But after almost two years of working with these factories, they now see the value of selling their surplus fabrics to smaller companies as an additional revenue stream. In the future, we hope the idea of using surplus fabric will become the norm, as the production of new textiles is the most toxic aspect of the fashion production process. If more brands can produce less new fabrics and source from the abundance of high quality surplus fabrics, we all win!”
Elin’s Sustainable Checklist
Elin Mohlander shares her best advise on how to be a more conscious consumer.
1. Do your homework: Search up-and-coming sustainable brands that fit into your aesthetics—don’t just settle for the few ‘conscious collection’ items you might find in shops. There is a treasure trove of inspiring brands out there!
2. Avoid greenwashing: Part of being a conscious consumer is putting in that extra effort to learn the story behind each brand. How and why are they sustainable? From sourcing, to supply chain, to pricing—the more transparent a company is about their operations, the more likely they are to have the right intentions and will not be using ‘greenwashing’ to get you to buy a new coat or a new pair of shoes. Fairtrade, GOTS, Ekotex and Fair Wear Foundation are a few reputable certifications to look for.
3. Consider vintage and second hand: Sometimes shopping sustainable is not about something new at all. Vintage and second hand boutiques have long been championing as a great alternative for finding unique pieces that have less impact on both the environment and the wallet.
4. Invest in quality and design: Quality and design should never have to be compromised when it comes to sustainable fashion. The better the fit and craftsmanship, the more likely it is that you will want to wear it over and over, regardless of trends.
5. Shop responsibly: With viable options like renting, borrowing, trading and mending, depending on the occasion, buying new is not always necessary. Extending the life cycle of beloved pieces by taking it to the tailor, or swap barely worn pieces with friends, are other ways of consuming consciously.
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