Iceland Airwaves Preview: Sustainable Fashion

Tune in to WCRX 88.1 FM or on Oct. 27, beginning at 7 p.m.,  for a student preview of Iceland Airwaves Music Festival and Icelandic culture. Below is one of the preview stories. On Nov. 4, students enrolled in the Radio Department’s Covering International Festivals: Iceland course will travel to Iceland to cover the fest and more. Follow their journey here.

Like most product production, the global fashion and textile industry puts out large quantities of clothing to keep up with trends.  This constant flow of production not only jeopardizes the quality of products, it also negatively affects the environment and working conditions of factory employees.  This is “fast fashion”, where the concern is for “now” instead of the future.

In order to improve sustainability and ethics in the fashion and textile industry, five Nordic fashion associations created NICE (Nordic Initiative Clean & Ethical).  This project aims to make the Nordic fashion industry a leader in sustainability.  While fast fashion is globally present, Icelandic designers and production companies are working to make their businesses ethical and sustainable.

A first step in fashion production is fabric choice.  About 58 percent of clothing uses synthetic fibers, such as polyester or nylon.  While these fibers are fast and cheap to produce, they are also harmful to the environment. Iiif, an Icelandic design house, created a handbag and jewelry line that uses the by-products of hunted reindeer.  In America, ethical animal use often translates to vegan.  But as designer Agla Stefánsdóttir explains, the reindeer population is too great for the land to support.

Iiif uses the reindeer skins to produce leather.  They send the skins to Iceland’s only tannery, Atlantic Leather, to be tanned and colored.  Like Iiif, Atlantic Leather has a heavy focus on sustainability.  The production of the leathers uses renewable hydro and geothermal energy and the coloring process has minimal chemical use.

Atlantic Leather also produces their own leather pieces.  All the items are made of fish byproducts.  In order to ensure the best quality work, Atlantic Leather keeps their product to as few hands as possible. Sigurlaug Vordís Eysteinsdóttir of Atlantic Leather explains the benefits of having a 30 person production team.

For Stefánsdóttir, quality work not only means keeping production teams small, but also keeping them local.  Working with local craftsman and business allows for Stefánsdóttir to be hands-on for the entire production process.

But sustainability doesn’t stop at production. Once clothes are sold, consumers can take responsibility of their environmental footprint. The United States throws away 11.1 million tons of textile and apparel to landfills each year as opposed to donating.  There isn’t a market for used textile and apparel in the United States like there is in Iceland. But as Eysteinsdóttir explains, there are more options for used fabrics than just throwing them out.



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