KTH Royal Institute of Technology: Fashion, technology and sustainability fit like a glove

A fashion show with garments made from grape skins or recycled jeans. Fashion Tech Expo where various innovation companies in sustainable fashion showed off their solutions. A panel discussion of where the fashion industry is headed. Sustainable Fashion Day at KTH on Wednesday presented a smorgasbord of creative solutions to the fashion industry’s problems.

A dozen models, students dressed in various creations of sustainable fabric, walk a catwalk in the foyer of KTH Innovation’s premises on the KTH Stockholm Campus. It’s the fashion show at Sustainable Fashion Day.

The garments that the models are wearing come from different companies that work with sustainable clothing production, says Carlos Seger, the fashion show’s stylist. He is studying in the third year of the master’s engineering programme, Design and Product Development at KTH — a specialisation he chose because of the connection between the creative and the technical. Seger has always been interested in clothes, but like many others he sees the problems the fashion industry confronts when it comes to sustainability.

“But I think there are great opportunities for civil engineers to enter the industry and come up with technical solutions that are very creative but also have the right focus on sustainability. This is really my home ground, I want to work with this in the future,” Seger says.

In the fitting room, he puts a light blue scarf on one of the models, noting that unlike the rest of the ensemble, this particular accessory is not made from recycled material. “My task is to find garments that fit in different outfits. We have tried as far as possible to use only the clothes we received from the various companies,” he says. “But some did not fit all models, so then we have supplemented with other garments.”

3D-printed lipstick for reduced overproduction
The make-up worn by the models was specifically developed for the fashion show. The company behind it is called Ellure, which is a startup from KTH that aims to reduce overproduction in the cosmetics industry. The lipstick is 3D-printed, says Katarina Lindmark, one of the models who is in her second year of the international bachelor’s programme in Information and Communication Technology at KTH.

“You tell them what colour you want and then they enter a hex code for it and print exactly that color,” Lindmark says.

“The pigments are vegan and the lipstick is delivered in glass bottles that can be refilled when the lipstick is finished. The lids are 3D-printed from corn and are thus biodegradable. So the whole layout and packaging is centered around sustainability.”

Katarina is wearing a pair of black trousers with small belt-like silver glittering accessories on one leg. The accessory comes from a solution developed by the company Resortecs, which won the Global Change Award (GCA) in 2018. GCA is an investment that H&M Foundation makes in collaboration with KTH and Accenture with the aim of trying to change the fashion industry and make it more sustainable.

“The accessories are sewn with a thread that melts at high temperatures, which makes it easy to remove them from the trousers when the garment is to be recycled,” she says.

Solutions to extend the product lifcycle
At the exhibition, Fashion Tech Expo, there is full activity. Representatives of various companies in sustainable fashion show their products and tell visitors how they address various sustainability challenges.

One such challenge was raised during a panel held after the fashion show, with Johanna Leymann, lecturer, author and “slow fashion” podcaster. Joining her on the panel were Clara Book from the H&M Foundation and KTH professor Mikael Lindström, and moderator Lisa Ericsson, the director of KTH Innovation.

Wajahat Hussain, founder and CEO of Biorestore, talking to a couple of visitors. Photo: Fredrik Persson.
They discussed how to move from today’s “fast fashion,” with cheap garments and a lot of wear-and-tear, to “slow fashion” – where the product lifecycle is extended through recycling, reuse and even renting of clothing if they are to be used only once.

Biorestore, one of the five winners of this year’s Global Change Award, has a solution for extending the durability of clothing. The Stockholm-based company developed a laundry detergent with a special “fiber-eating” enzyme that restores worn clothes to the condition they were in when they were new, with the same color and luster.

Subscription service for recycled clothes
Mikaela Larsell Ayesa, who has studied Design and Product Development at KTH, has another solution. She is the founder of the start-up, Hack Your Closet, a subscription service for recycled clothes that delivers garments to its customers’ monthly, based on their size and style preference.

“All our garments come either from second hand or surplus stock, or for other reasons they have not been sold. In this way, we can extend the life of the clothes, which would otherwise be burned or recycled,” she says.

During her studies she had worked with another idea and received support from KTH Innovation. While that idea did not fly, she cut her teeth when it comes to entrepreneurship and got in touch with Lisa Gautier, who had come up with the idea for Hack Your Closet. She chose to invest in it.

She says it’s great that KTH Innovation offers opportunities for students and staff to invest in their ideas and develop in innovation and entrepreneurship.

“You can, for example, do it in connection with a course project or you can work further with an idea you have. You can combine your studies with something that can actually become something after graduation. So you should really take that chance as a student, when you have a little more time,” she says.

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