Swedish menswear brand ASKET was launched in 2015 by August Bard Bringéus and Jakob Dworsky, with timeless wardrobe staples built to last.
Tellingly perhaps, the duo met while studying business at the Stockholm School of Economics – not fashion college – and are actively working to drive positive change in the fashion world, through transparency and sustainable and ethical practices. The ASKET website is packed full of information, from garment care to preserve items for longer, through to full traceability to let customers know the origin of each garment. The duo’s latest initiative, the Impact Receipt, illustrates the true cost of a garment – not in pounds, but in environmental impact. We chat to August Bard Bringéus about the brand’s mission…
LC: What inspired you to start ASKET?
ABB: Timeless basics are the essentials of every man’s wardrobe, yet we found it so hard to find something as simple as a plain white T-shirt or a blue Oxford shirt because brands changed their style and fit every season. Instead we found unnecessary details, tasteless colours, overpaying for “quality” or paying too little for garments of dubious origin. We saw an opportunity to move away from fashion’s seasonal churn and introduce a permanent collection of mindfully produced, quality and timeless garments – designed to last.
What started out as an idea to create the best men’s basic wardrobe turned into something more than that. As we started to learn more about the fashion industry, we saw what an inherently exploitative industry it was. Fashion requires a huge amount of resources, leaves behind a lot of pollution and relies on a lot of skilled labourers, who often work in unsafe and unfair work environments. That’s when our mission shifted to transforming how the entire industry operates.
LC: Transparency is a key tenet of your brand. Can you tell us what you’ve done to be more transparent and sustainable as a fashion business?
ABB: For us, full transparency (cost, origin and impact) is a tool for driving positive change in the industry. If we fully understand the resources and the craftsmanship that goes into every garment, we’re better able to appreciate that piece. Beyond that, only by tracing the journey of our clothes can we better understand the process and recognise the impact it has on people, the planet and animal welfare. Only once there is a broad-scale realisation that the way, and the rate at which, we produce clothing is incompatible with a thriving planet will we start to see change. If we enforce transparency as a standard, not only do we raise awareness of the value and impact of clothing among consumers, we also push the industry towards accountability. For us full transparency means understanding the cost, origin and impact of a garment:
– Cost: To understand the value of your clothing, you’ll need to understand its costs too. So you’ll find the cost breakdown of every garment on each product page.
– Origin: When it comes to the origin of a garment, we introduced our Full Traceability label in 2018. We felt that conventional ‘Made-In’ labels didn’t tell the full story of our garments, so we created our own standard, requiring us to break down every garment into its raw components, trace them back to their origin and put that information into the labels of each piece of clothing. To date, we’ve uncovered 85% of our supply chain.
– Impact: This level of traceability allowed us to introduce the final tenet of transparency: Impact. In 2019, we started using the data of our traced supply chain to calculate the impact of our garments. Traceability gives us data, data gives us knowledge. Revealing the hidden price tag of our garments confronts us with the truth of our habits – as companies and as individuals. We can now work to meaningfully reduce our impact by changing practises but also empowering our customers to make educated choices and think twice about purchasing a garment.
LC: Does visualising the impact of a garment impact a consumer’s decision and choices?
ABB: In launching the Impact Receipt, we want to show the true cost of a garment’s production. While a traditional receipt represents proof of a financial transaction, the impact receipt goes far beyond the traditional itemised cash receipt. Instead, it breaks down and shares the true environmental impact of a garment’s creation, including CO2 emissions and water and energy consumption.
We’ve seen that our customers spend much more time on the impact receipt pages, taking the time to educate themselves. We also saw traffic to our garment care portal increase after the launch of the Impact Receipt, so we’re steadfast in the belief that this is going some way in changing consumer behaviour. More than just disclosing information, the Impact Receipt represents an agreement: we’re asking our customers to acknowledge the impact of their purchasing decision and encouraging them to maximise the use of their garments – rather than displacing them with new ones. After all, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep and use each garment longer.
LC: What other steps have you taken to be a more sustainable brand?
ABB: The sad truth is that fashion has lost its value. We have no understanding of what it takes to create clothes and the price is so low compared to what goes into making it. It’s also why we’re seeing a worrying trend emerge, where we’re buying more clothes than ever but only using them half as long. Yet the single most important thing we can do to reduce our impact is to buy less and take care of what we already own. I recently read some very compelling numbers from the Swedish research institution, Mistra Future Fashion; by wearing a garment twice as many times, its relative environmental impact can be halved. The research noted that on average, a T-shirt is used 30 times and washed 15 times. If this T-shirt is instead used 60 times, the climate impact can be cut by 49 per cent. With that in mind we have a garment care portal and send our repair kits when customers request them. We’re also set to launch a takeback programme in 2021, so even if our customers no longer want to keep hold of their ASKET garment, we’ll make sure it gets a new lease of life. Watch this space…