Sustainable production, upcycling, digital collections… being a fashion designer is so much more than the creation of clothing; and Emelie Svensson does it all. MLÌ by SVENSSON recycles polyester and produces avatar-showcased garments. Meet the designers of the new age!
In recent years, several initiatives have sprung to life to change the textile and fashion industry, and fashion designers are working hard to reduce the industry’s major carbon footprint. Many fashion designers are already on track, working to create new business models for a future of more circular fashion. One of them is Malmö-based designer Emelie Svensson and her brand MLì by SVENSSON.
– My business idea is all about recycling polyester: when a garment is starting to get worn out, the client can send it back to me. I’ll upcycle the fabric and use it as a source for new garments. The idea also revoles around transparency. Any customer is able to find out where and how the garment is produced, either through an sewn-in chip or by scanning a QR-code.
Polyester might not be the material that traditionally comes to mind when speaking about sustainable fashion, but it has its advantages:
– When talking about sustainable fashion, most people think primarly of working with cotton and/or hemp. However, these materials are largely linear, meaning that fibers are destroyed and cannot be extensively reused. I do the opposite. There is a lot of polyester that can be recycled; and the nature of the material allows it to be melted and re-built. It’s a durable fabric that also keeps its colors saturated. It’d be fantastic if we can upcycle, re-use, and re-value what usually is thrown away today. The modern value chain of fast fashion is part of what I want to change. Of course, no material is perfect, and polyester has its quirks. For example, it gives off microplastics, so to counter that I am aiming to sell garments with laundry bags that catch the microplastics. In this way, we can recycle and still feel safe.
Emelie started her venture in 2004 as a student of École supérieure des arts et techniques de la mode (ESMOD) in Paris and Berlin. Later, she studied at Tillskäraakademin, where she started selling her own clothing. Since then, the fashion industry has changed. A lot.
– I wish we would’ve talked more about sustainability when I was a student. We didn’t really touch upon that at all. The concept of sustainability came a lot later and can be hard to navigate as it encompasses so many different bits and pieces. The business model of our modern fashion industry is so linear that it’s hard to get an overview; especially as production is continuously on the rise.
– When I was in fashion school, social media hadn’t really had its breakthrough yet – a completely different scenario from those getting a fashion education today. Social media has created a healthy transparency in its immedaite access to knowledge and information.
And there are so many areas within the industry that needs to grow and evolve.
– When we talk about sustainable materials and sustainable fashion, I think we often lack the ethical aspect. It’s important to remember social sustainability – and not only ecological sustainability. Who is involved in the production of fashion? Under what circumstances are they working? Do they have access to unions, security – and are they fairly compensated?
When COVID-19 came around, we saw a mass-cancellation of fashion shows and a mass re-inventing of what fashion shows could be. For Emelie, it became an opportunity to experiment with the creation of virtual collections. With a team of seven, she showcases her garments on specially-designed avatars in unique environments.
– In this way, I can create my own fashion show where I get to decide everything myself. If I’d participate in a physical show, I’d have to go through a modeling agency and get to choose from a limited selection of models. I envision MLÌ by SVENSSON as an inclusive brand. Getting to design my own avatars is a huge advantage in the aspect of diversity; both in terms of ethnicity, gender, as well as body shape.
The virtual collection is inspired by solarpunk; a utopian vision exploring what the future might look like if humanity managed to solve major contemporary challenges, with an emphasis on sustainability, cliamte change, and pollution. Emelie’s collection is called Emeral City Green Shading Black and will be showcased in the Digital Village Multiverse.
As for her own style, Emelie seeks inspiration from cultural clashes which has landed her in what she describes as couture x street style. In MLÌ by SVENSSON, she uses a lot of plastic materials and a lot of color.
– I’ve noticed fans of electronic music also like my fashion. It’s like the EDM of the fashion industry.
Until Sunday March 13, 2022, creative entrepreneurs and fashion designers like Emelie Svensson can apply to NEST – New Entrepreneurship for a Sustainable Textile Industry, where four leading Swedish incubators offers a free acceleration program to disrupt, re-invent, and re-think the fashion industry.
Translation: Anneli Xie