We met with Per Sivertsen, the head designer of Oslo-based women's wear label Fin last week at the W29 Showroom. The Norwegian label has made it their mission to work exclusively with organic and sustainable fabrics, even though when they started four years ago, green wasn't exactly a glam buzz word. With recent developments in textile technology, the Fin design team now have some of the most exiting materials at their fingers—including fabric made from milk protein! Read the full Q&A with Sivertsen, and see gorgeous new images from the fall collection, after the jump.
How has the market for organic fabrics changes in four years since Fin started?
Textile manufacturers are really opening their eyes to making organic fabrics. So now we have silks and we have the bamboo and the blends of recycled polyester. I went to Turkey recently and found this great yarn, for knitting, made from recycled denim. You can imagine all the great colors you can get from it. Of course first and foremost, it’s really important that the garments, and how we represent them visually, look great, because shopping is about desire.
Where did the idea to work only with sustainable and organic fabrics come from?
My colleagues noticed that there were a lot of brands, make-up brands for example, that were working with sustainability and organic products, but there were no fashion brands doing it. Organic fashion had a kind of boring sticker to it. They were all linens and cottons, and the garments were not actually designed. It was just a T-shirt with a print communicating “I’m Organic” or whatever, so what we wanted to do was make a competitive brand where being organic and sustainable was a great extra asset.
Are people surprised when you tell them it’s organic?
Yes, definitely. We try to be very conscious about how we communicate it. You can actually lose buyers for being organic, because they already have all these thoughts about what organic fashion is. We try to present the design first. I always talk about the fabrics, because they have a great feel. Some buyers just pick what they like based on color and style, but most think that it is a great added value, also being organic.
Tell me more about the new fabric developments in your line? I know that there’s a fabric made from milk. How did you discover it?
The fiber is made from surplus milk production, and since we’re sustainable, we want to be ethical as well. We don’t want to steal the milk from China, you know. The fiber is then made from one hundred percent milk protein. It was first used in knitted yarns for maybe three or four years, but in the last year they have started to develop it into woven fabrics like the one you saw in the two dresses I showed you. It has a kind of gauze quality, almost like a bandage.
Why do you think there’s all this interest now? Because as you said, when you started, organic wasn’t considered hot.
No, it wasn’t. People were a bit hard on us, they thought we were doing it only because it was a trend. Now H&M is doing the Garden Collection, and Nike is the biggest user of organic cotton in the World. They’re such a huge company, so even if ten percent of their production is organic, it really makes a difference. That’s what happens with a lot of the major players, they’ll do a small capsule collection that’s all organic. It proves that it’s not a trend, it’s a new way of thinking and working. You also see that in architecture and industrial design. It has become common to think about sustainability .
We hear Fin is part of a new exhibit of organic fashion here in the States.
We’re actually part of two exhibitions, one opened May 14 at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. That’s an exhibition covering all the fields of design, from architecture to furniture and industrial design, and also fashion. We were chosen amongst other brands like Issey Miyake and Martin Margiela and Project Alabama. I feel honored. Also, FIT opened an exhibition on May 26 covering the same issues—sustainable, “green” fashion. Though I don’t like that expression, they’ve also chosen some great brands, like a Danish brand called NOIR, and also Edun.
So what’s it like, living and designing in Oslo?
Oslo is five hundred thousand people, so you won’t find all the brands that I admire, for instance. But at the same time, we try to put more and more of our heritage into our collections. For the next season, we are working with colors inspired by the Northern Lights, and also prints from the Sami culture, which are the native people of Northern Europe, kind of similar to the Native Indians in the US. Not many people know that culture, but they have great aesthetics.
So tell me about how Kafka inspired the fall collection?
I saw this great film with Jeremy Irons playing Kafka, it’s from the eighties and it’s made in Prague, and all the scenes are shot at night, so there’s a really dark and kind of depressing feel to the film. You have all these great colors and marble stairs, and those textures and that dark feeling inspired the colors of the collection. We wanted to try and capture that Kafkaesque feeling into clothing.