our definition of sustainability

We don’t need to tell you how important it is to make clothing in a better way. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t believe the same.

But sustainability is a word that’s used so often it’s hard to know what brands mean when they say it.

Therefore we think it is important to clarify what sustainability means to A NEW SWEDEN, so you can make better informed decisions.

Plastic Pollution

Resource waste

Chemical Pollution

Animal Welfare

Fair Labour

Product Lifetime

Non-growth orientated business model

Newly shorn woollen fleece

We produce plastic-free fashion.

The amount of plastic we are filling the environment with is alarming.

One of the most pervasive ways plastic enters our environment is through the washing of synthetic fibres such as polyester, nylon and acrylic. In a recent study, scientists who surveyed 102 different sea turtles from different oceans found plastic in the stomachs of each one.

Once virgin plastic has been refined from fossil fuel, it does not disappear for hundreds of years—if at all.

That's a huge expense for cheap synthetic garments which might not even last a season.

Making fabric from post-consumer plastic waste is a novel approach, but those fabrics still need to be washed, and these garments still won't biodegrade, unless their manufacturer has a plan to take them back to recycle them again.

the a New Sweden approach

None of our garments contain any plastic fibres. All materials we use are natural or derived naturally: wool for jersey and rib, cotton and lyocell for stitching, linen for care labels.

The only plastic used in our shipping materials is the plastic in the self-adhesive shipping label.

how we can do better

That's not to say we have removed plastic from our production processes.

The boxes the yarn is shipped in is secured with plastic tape. We write with plastic pens. But while we are still working hard to minimise the amount of plastic we use day to day, we will never use it in the end product that we sell to our customers.

Sorting through wool at Ullforum, Jämtland

We prevent waste of precious natural resources.

In 2016, Sweden destroyed approximately 1,500 tonnes of perfectly good wool. This is approximately 82% of the wool produced that year. At the same time, Sweden imported 400 million SEK worth of wool and wool products.

It makes no sense to import wool when so much wool is destroyed.

the a New Sweden approach

When beginning a hyperlocal sustainable fashion label, we couldn't overlook the fact that there was perfectly good material being destroyed in Sweden.

We have based our first Edition around making use of wool that would otherwise be wasted, and innovating on production techniques to create a wool garment unlike any other.

how we can do better

For our first edition, we purchased 300kg of wool from our trusted farmers. There is a long way to go until all the wool in Sweden is rescued, and we know we can't do it ourselves. We can work closer together with other labels interested in Swedish wool and share our expertise in how to get the best out of it.

The curious sheep at Norrbro Fårgård with their view

We create chemical-free clothing.

Our quality of life would not be what it is today without chemicals, but their overuse is having an impact on our environment and on our health.

In non-organic cotton farming, 100g of cotton requires 27g of pesticides to produce. Pesticides are having a huge impact on insect populations worldwide, which in turn has an impact on our food supply.

Wool production can also involve the use of chemicals. On industrial farms, sheep can be submerged in chemical baths to kill pests. This still occurs in Australia, which supplies the fashion industry with much of its wool.

the a New Sweden approach

None of the farms we have sourced wool from use “sheep dip”, and all the farms we buy from satisfy the criteria to be certified as organic which means there is no use of chemicals.

We have sourced non-chemical detergents to wash our fabric prior to construction.

For our first Edition we have not used any colour dyes, which can contain heavy metals for the colour and require chemicals to fix them to the fabric. The heather grey colour of our first Edition is from the natural colour of the sheep's wool.

For future collections, we are sourcing completely natural dyes and we can't wait to begin experimenting with them.

how we can do better

The thread that our garments are stitched together with is made from cotton. We could not find an organic cotton sewing thread fine enough required for the flat-lock machines of our first Edition, but we are continuing the search.

The thread that the label is fastened to our garments with is made from lyocell. The process to make lyocell from cellulose requires the use of chemicals.

The chemicals are largely reused, but in the end all chemicals need to go somewhere. We are trying to find an alternative thread that will give us the same level of quality but made more naturally.

In addition, the inks we are using for label printing are non-toxic, but we haven't verified if they are natural. We are continuing to source natural inks for printing.

Ann Rudsby, one of our farmers, with one of her beloved grey sheep

We respect animals.

In addition to the chemical baths sheep can be subjected to, conditions for sheep can be awful.

On industrial sheep farms, a practice named mulesing involves deliberately scarring the flesh around the sheep's genitals to prevent infection from parasites.

the a New Sweden approach

The cool Swedish climate minimises the need for mulesing, but even so, none of the farms we source from practice this.

Our partner farms are small with around 200 – 300 sheep each. The farmers we purchase from are passionate about their animals, and ensure that they are taken care of year round.

The sheep we met are free to roam and graze in summer, and are housed during the harsh Swedish winters.

how we can do better

Our relationships are based on trust, so we don't actively monitor our partners. However, we have visited them during the shearing season, and we intend to visit our suppliers more frequently, and at different times of the year, to ensure that high standards of animal welfare are kept.

Carina shearing at Rudsby Jord & Skog, one of our wool suppliers

We pay for proper living wages and conditions.

The garment industry could not be profitable without underpaid labour. The Rana Plaza catastrophe brought this modern day slavery to global attention, but little has changed since it happened.

From unsafe working conditions, to toxic chemical exposure, to being separated from their families, and not being paid enough to live on, life can be difficult for garment workers in the developing world.

the a New Sweden approach

While we believe it important to provide social mobility to people in developing nations, we can't overlook the fact that Sweden has one of the highest rates of unemployment in Europe. We think it is important to support our local economy by creating jobs locally.

Swedish workers, like all workers in developed nations, enjoy a high level of social security and income.

how we can do better

We aren't yet in a position where we can directly create jobs, so we need to create enough sustainable demand so that our partners can grow their Swedish-based workforces.

Our first Edition: the Jämtland Sweatshirt, shot in Värmdö

We design and make products for longevity.

So much energy and resource goes into producing a single garment that it doesn't seem right to not cherish every garment that is made.

Fast fashion isn't optimised to produce garments with longevity, either from a style or quality perspective.

the a New Sweden approach

We intend each garment we make to serve for years to come.

This philosophy informs our designs, but also what styles we choose to pursue.

We ensure that our collection consists only of timeless items that are versatile enough to be used in your ensemble many times a week, for many years to come.

how we can do better

We are working on ideas for how we can take back unwanted garments at the end of their natural life span to ensure that nothing is thrown away.

Road from Östersund to Vemdalen

We don't believe in infinite growth.

Companies with investors, whether the investors are shareholders, venture capitalists or private investors, have an obligation to grow.

To grow at the rates expected of investors, demand needs to be created.

In fashion, this demand can be created through trend cycles or replacement cycles. Replacement cycles can be expedited through poor quality products that require replacement sooner.

The average consumer is purchasing 60% more clothing today than they did in 2000. If this trend continues, we will need three times as many resources to satisfy demand by 2050.

This means more deforestation, more chemicals in the waterways, and more plastic everywhere.

We believe that growth for the sake of growth is fundamentally unsustainable.

the a New Sweden approach

At our core is the belief that a truly sustainable business needs to be structured in a completely different way to a traditional business.

We are experimenting with different business models to find a way of ensuring sustainability and solvency, and we only take on investors who understand and believe in our business philosophy.

how we can do better

We are working on finding a balance between a business model that is as sustainable environmentally and socially as it is financially. The response to the launch of our first Edition and development on the second Edition will inform us better on how we can do this.

What else we can do better

In addition to what we outlined above, we've identified more aspects that we believe we can improve on.

  • Commitment to a circular economy, where we take back what we put into the world
  • Carbon positive product development, currently we are not effectively measuring our carbon footprint
  • More visibility of labour within the supply chain

However we are always looking to improve, because sustainability for us is not a box to check or a marketing campaign, it is our way of being.

If you have identified anything that we can do better, please get in touch at dobetter (at) anewsweden.com.

Close-up of fleece cut from a sheep raised on an organic, ethical farm