I know people who can do something
The whole FIS wear adventure started because I asked myself how to sew a sweater and asked this question to someone with sense: my mother. The implications of this one question are enormous; Not only do I now know how to sew a sweater (question #1), but I also have a social enterprise, can build an online store, have met new people and now know how to file my tax return. So I've decided that asking questions is the guiding principle for running FIS wear. So today I am introducing a new section: “I know people who can do something.”
Question #2: How exactly does the clothing industry work?
When I worked as a sales rep at Make Marketing Magic in Amsterdam, I called companies to inquire about content marketing. This is how I came into contact with Ellen Haeser in 2017: Creator of innovative fashion and textile education programs and teacher. She registered for a masterclass, we chatted on the phone and she enthusiastically shared her knowledge about the fashion industry, the purchasing of fabrics and the (negative) impact that fashion has.
Ellen read my LinkedIn message and let me know via a message that she is now - 5 years later - even more intensively working on the transition and the spirit of the times towards more attention for society in the fashion world. “ In addition to being a teacher, I am very active in developing practice-oriented learning, experience by doing. Our students are introduced to quality, sustainability and the value of raw materials, but also what clothing can mean for a person. If there is anything I can do for you, I would of course like to hear from you,” says Ellen . After this message I wondered: “Was Ellen already planning a seed for FIS wear in 2017?”
I realize how much I can learn from the people in my network by simply asking questions and being curious. I didn't hesitate for a moment to ask Ellen if she had time for coffee, because she was the perfect person to answer one of my many questions: “ How exactly does the clothing industry work?”
“What you make are not sweaters Thomas, these are sweaters. A sweater is always knitted,” Ellen tells me with a big smile on her face at the start of our coffee appointment. While I'm still trying to defend that 'sweater' sounds better than 'sweaters', Ellen doesn't change tack and shows that she knows her stuff. I must honestly admit that I was a bit nervous about this conversation, because what do I know about the fashion industry? Not much! Ellen, on the other hand, was a global trend watcher for fiber and textile multinationals, worked for Desigual and Maxmara and Pont de Nemours and annually visits the fashion city of Milan to be inspired.
Ellen tells me about the importance of Enschede textile city, a local industrial weaving mill where fabrics for the fashion and interior design industry are produced using natural and local yarns. Unfortunately, they do not yet produce jogging fabric there - the fabric we now use for our sweaters - so the search for the most sustainable and locally produced fabric continues. Ellen: “ Because fabrics are natural, each 'batch' of the fabric can differ in color due to the dye bath in which they are dipped, because the color then adheres to the fabric slightly differently. The borders that are used on your sweater can only match in color if the fabrics are knitted from the same yarn .”
The second coffee has been ordered and we have been chatting enthusiastically for an hour when Ellen starts her story about the fast fashion industry, “because there is really a lot wrong with that.” So last year she was surprised with a collaboration with Primark for a repair café. However, it was very useful to teach some skills such as sewing a button with her students, the participants in the repair café. If even companies like Primark start to focus on sustainability, then things are moving in the right direction.
From the passionate conversation about the major themes surrounding the current sustainability claims in the fashion industry, we shift our focus to smaller - more manageable - issues: care labels. “Ellen, is it actually mandatory to also sew care labels into my sweaters?” She tells me that label rules do not apply to clothing made by home workers, self-employed businesses and self-employed tailors. So we're going for 'I don't care' labels! ;)
How exactly the clothing industry works will of course not become clear after two cups of coffee. What does become clear is how the industry is changing its focus towards sustainability and locally produced products. I'm curious where this 2nd question will lead me.