We love a challenge, and when Zalando asked us to pick three interesting brands available on their platform and find out what they’re currently doing to transform the fashion industry to a more sustainable one, we didn’t think twice.
And what better brand to start with than Filippa K, the Swedish veteran of timeless everyday wear that lasts beyond seasons. It was the idea when Filippa Knutsson launched her namesake brand in 1993, and designing with longevity in mind has remained an important part of the brand DNA throughout the decades, and perhaps even more so in recent years when different aspects of sustainability have been integrated to the brand’s guide to growth.
In February this year, right before a virus turned our lives upside down, Filippa K Studio, a laboratory style space dedicated to exploring the circularity of fashion, opened its doors without a bang but with a lot of purpose. It’s now late August and we decide to pay the Studio, located on an envious address in a central part of Stockholm, a visit to learn more. Welcoming us is Studio Manager Merja Ulvinen and Emilia Castles who works with Merja with the Studio concept alongside her job as Menswear designer at the main office.

“We got this space in the end of February and we started a physical transformation. The front part is the store part and the back is the studio. Everything you find in the store comes through the studio, through mine and Emilia’s hands. We work really tightly together with everything,” says Merja, who joined Filippa K pretty much the same day they put the first paint on the walls of the Studio, which used to be a Filippa K Menswear store.
”We get with material from the other Filippa K stores–it’s a mix of collected garments (the Collect program has been in rotation at Filippa K since 2015) and through Claims (things that need mending),” explains Merja. ”We spend a lot of time sorting and cataloguing the items, then we do washing, fixing and mending, and what we can’t mend we use for a Remake collection that we’re working on”, continues Emilia. ”It’s very much hands-on, we experiment and basically do everything ourselves. We hand-pick pieces to put in the store, but keep everything. We want to build a library. When people come in and look for something specific, like a favorite sweater from 2016, we may have it in the back. We have a list of things that people are looking for”, Emilia continues and smiles. ”It’s so nice to offer this kind of service, we get more excited than the customers when we can ring them up and tell them we’ve found something that they’ve been looking for.”

Filippa K Studio started as an idea of Filippa K’s Sustainability Manager Jodi Everding, as she thought about ways of connecting with the brand’s customers and talk about their joint values. Emilia, who already had her designer gig at the head office, got involved. ”I wanted to do something more, something that didin’t involve making more things,” explains Emilia. Jodi’s original idea quickly developed something bigger, and they brought on Merja to open the Studio.

”We wanted to be on the ground more, not just crunching the numbers but actually sharing knowledge with others and bringing people from our community in to have honest conversations”, says Emilia. ”We want it to be authentic, artisanal, with the best minds involved,” she continues. ”It’s an important part of the project to actually be here, and to create a little space that’s inclusive and welcoming”, adds Merja.

They got started in February. Then came Corona. The plan to have a running program at the Studio from the start, with talks and workshops and different initiatives, got postponed.

”We’re looking forward to start doing workshops, artist in residency programs and discussions, just getting the input from people with a wide variety of experiences”, says Merja. ”But if we are to look at the situation from a positive perspective, the change of plans gave us time to develop the concept more thoroughly” In retrospect, it felt important to the duo. ”A big part of what we do is we talk, and it gave us time to work the ideas through. Now we can be sincerely genuine because we really know what we’re doing with the Studio. You need time to develop ideas and make sure they really work”, says Emilia.
The duo has also used the time sorting materials and recording information about every garment entering the Studio. “It’s an important element of what we do. There’s so much information in the collected materials that we can record. If something happens repeatedly with a specific kind of garment, we can report back to the buying team and the design team”, says Merja.
”Seeing the product after it has been worn for years, you comprehend new things about the garment and the fabric. We do a lot of wear testing at Filippa K, but for a month. This is about how the garment is looking and how the fabric is reacting after five or ten years. That’s really interesting, and it’s valuable feedback”, says Emilia.

When the Studio receives a garment, they try to respect it as it is. ”The most sustainable solution is to keep it in its integral form”, says Emilia. But for the rest, a Remake collection is in the making. ”At the moment, we’re collecting a good amount of things we can’t resell in its current form, because you need a fair amount of good material to do Remake. We want to build a library of techniques that is ’us’, so that we’ll be able to easily identify what we’ll do with different kinds of fabrics in the future.”

The duo is looking forward to launching the Remake program, and for the Studio to expand further in different ways.
”We’d love for the Studio to have a space in all Filippa K stores. To have the collections run alongside each other in the future, not putting so much attention to what’s old and what’s new, just focusing on the garments.” They also envision a future where the Studio concept in Stockholm work as a central hub to other Studios in different countries.
The plan is already being carried out in some forms. The first Filippa K Studio selection was available in the Copenhagen store during fashion week a few weeks back, and the they are currently preparing a Studio space in the store on Biblioteksgatan in Stockholm, just a few hundred meters from where they work. ”It’ll be interesting to see how people react when it’s next to the main collection”, says Merja. ”We’ve had some requests from other stores in Europe to have a Studio hub in their stores too. It could be like a traveling concept.”

Visit Filippa K Studio on Humlegårdsgatan 22 in Stockholm.
Filippa K is available via Zalando here
This post is published in collaboration with Zalando. 

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