This week took me to the shores of the Baltic Sea, a region which has recently made its mark on the fashion scene – from H&M, world’s second-biggest fashion retailer, to many more globally successful designer brands such as Acne Studios and By Malene Birger. Many Nordic countries look to sustainable fashion as the region’s unique selling point. After the new Nordic cuisine took the world by storm, could now be the turn for the new Nordic fashion?
I started off in Copenhagen which is fast establishing itself as the world’s sustainable fashion capital having hosted this year’s biggest sustainable fashion summit. From Georg Jensen’s jewellery and tableware designs to the cult TV series Børgen, the Danes know a thing or two about setting trends.
I arrived right in the middle of Copenhagen Fashion Week which included a new Nordic Fashion show and exhibition focused on sustainability and featuring brands such as Norway’s Leila Hafzi, Finland’s Marimekko and Denmark’s own David Andersen.
Sustainability was more than just a side show at the CFW: Denmark and other Scandinavian nations take the idea of making fashion that is better for the planet, people and profits pretty seriously.
According to the General Secretary of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Dagfinn Høybråten, “If we can lead the way in the Nordic countries when it comes to sustainable thinking in design and fashion, we will have a competitive advantage from it, besides the fact that we are contributing to a better world.”
Way to go! There are rumours that Denmark may make sustainable fashion a key issue in its international engagements in 2015. It is already leading the way with the NICE project, a public commitment by the country’s fashion industry to sustainability, which is promoted by the Nordic Fashion Association.
After a stop in Copenhagen, I continued somewhat off the beaten track to the Latvian capital Riga.
Latvia is enjoying a growing popularity with tourists from all over the world thanks to its rich cultural heritage and unspoilt natural beauty, as well as more than reasonable prices. This new EU country has a budding art and fashion scene, too, although it can take a bit of effort to find it in the city’s glitzy stores full of well-known global brands.
One exception is the ‘Taste Latvia‘ store, which features some 20 Latvian designers, including the eponymous brand. Here I discovered quite a few local – and predominantly eco-fashion – brands. From wooden bow ties and cufflinks to vegetable tanned leather accessories to dresses made out of recycled shirts, Latvian fashion has a pronounced eco vibe to it.
Obviously, there is still a long way to go for Latvia and other Baltic States to catch up with their Scandinavian neighbours, but choosing sustainability over ‘fast fashion’ seems like a good bet. After all, the Latvian official tourism board promotes the country as “best enjoyed slowly”. This slogan should most certainly apply to fashion as well.