For our today´s Revolution Talk, we chatted with Stine Sandermann, a fashion designer from Denmark who focusses on sustainability in their whole supply chain. Read further to discover how Stine supports the Fashion Revolution and how she established her own eco brand.
Your sustainable fashion label SANDERMANN is called after you Stine Sandermann. How did you get started to develop your own business and sustainable fashion company? What motivates you to support the fashion revolution?
It all started back in 2012 when I was one year into my BA in fashion design and still had very little knowledge of how the fashion industry was put together. While I slowly gained greater insight into the pollution and treatment of animals in the industry, I one day went with my mom to collect raw wool from a local sheep farmer who owned a small herd of Texel sheep – a breed which is bred for its meat qualities and not its wool. My mom has always been keen on using her hands for knitting, weaving and has even spun her own yarns on her wooden spinning wheel. When we drove home from the sheep breeder I asked my mom what would happen with the loads of wool we didn’t collect and to my surprise she answered: “If no one else picks it up, the farmer will discard it by burning it.” I was in shock and thus my work with Danish wool began.
I finally realised the concept for my BA exam in 2014, where I did a great deal of research into the fashion industry, and learned about mulesing of sheep. I contacted a sheep breeder, picked up wool that was supposed to be burned, and saw how well taken care of his animals were – and I liked having that control with animal welfare. I then sent it to an old spinning mill on the Danish island of Funen, where I had my yarns spun and finally I used them for knitted and woven pieces. After graduating from my MA in sustainable textile design at UAL in London I was certain I needed to start SANDERMANN and it became a reality in February 2017.
What makes SANDERMANN sustainable and where do you put your sustainable focus on?
When working on SANDERMANN products we try to be as mindful as possible in all phases of the supply chain. We source end-of-roll newspaper for constructing garment patterns, we use old bed linen for toiles and we always sort our waste (if we produce any) for recycling. Design-wise we use to types of materials: the wool for knitwear and deadstock fabrics for trousers, tops and dresses. For the trousers, tops and dresses we use a zero waste pattern design approach and the knitted garments are fully fashioned which means they are knitted into their shape – also zero waste.
We try to mostly let the knitwear shine in it’s natural colour, but if we have to dye, we use as little dye as possible. When we dye the wool, the exhaust method is applied, which means there’s no dyestuff left in the dyebath after dyeing. Only clean water comes down the drain. We knit all SANDERMANN knitwear on non-electric manual knitting machines and all of the other garments are sewn at our base in Ikast, Denmark by a Danish seamstress. So I think it’s safe to say we put our focus on solid waste management and local initiatives.
Your motto is „rethinking waste“ – SANDERMANN is one of the few fashion labels that focusses on Zero Waste design but also on one size pieces. How do you incorporate this into your collections?
The two actually go hand in hand, because it’s hard to do grade a pattern into different sizes when you’ve designed it to use the entire fabric. So I try to make garments that are a bit oversized and voluminous. With the knitwear it’s a bit easier to do different sizes, so right now we are producing a sweater which will be available in size S-XL.
Is it true that you produce your entire collection locally in Denmark? Where exactly are your pieces produced? You are also member of Idcluster. Can you explain what this means?
Yes, it’s completely true. Last year during my MA I heard about a new initiative in the area of old school, VIA Design, in Denmark, called “Sylab”. “Sy” means sewing in Danish and “lab” is short for laboratory. The initiative was about creating a base for sourcing back textile production to Denmark with robot technology and with a desk space community for 10 small fashion start-ups. I applied, and was lucky enough to become a part of Sylab a year ago when I had finished my MA. Sylab is furthermore based in what used to be the production spaces of a company called Claire Group. So, not only am I fortunate enough to have access to a fully functioning production site with a lot of history, but also to be witnessing the development of a sewing robot.
Where do you source your sustainable materials for the collection? Is there any specific material you prefer to use consistently, for example wool?
Luckily I’m based in an area with great textile manufacturing traditions so there are still some textile manufacturers remaining. Initially I would hear about manufacturers who just cleared out their left-over rolls and was about to discard it, and I would come pick them up asap, but now I have somewhat established relations to some of them, which is very fortunate.
Regarding the wool, I found that it’s fairly easy to connect with the sheep breeders through different Facebook groups but now I also established relations with a few that I keep in contact with. They have to share my values and I especially found one farmer/breeder who grows and produces everything organically.
As for your designs, what inspires you the most?
I always find my artistic inspiration in my surroundings, somehow. I’ve worked with themes such as lizards, because I had a friend who had leopard geckos, I’ve worked with dementia, because my grandmother suffered from it before passing away and recently I’ve been working with chewing gum because I photographed it a lot when walking around the streets of London and thinking about over-consumption and over-population.
If you had one wish free within the fashion industry to change, what would it be?
For consumers to wake up, engage and realize what story lies behind the products they’re buying. And for them to see through companies doing green-washing. I think a change in what we demand would create a change for a better industry.