Chill Fashion From Iceland to Jamaica – OZY

Made from…seaweed?

“I wanted to show that beautiful fashion can be good for the planet, that we can create beautiful things without harming you,” said Áslaug Magnúsdóttir, founder of Katla, a sustainable loungewear company based in the United States but with Icelandic roots. Katla was launched in 2020 with the goal of reducing harm to the environment and providing consumers with clothing that is not limited to the time of year or rapidly changing trends.

“We are not a disposable fashion brand and we are not a seasonal brand,” Magnúsdóttir told OZY in a phone interview from Portugal, where she was attending the Web Summit. Lisbon.

The company focuses on sustainability by producing clothes on demand and using organic cotton, vegan silk and innovative materials like seaweed. Katla also uses “zero waste” design practices that reduce fabric waste when patterns are cut, Magnúsdóttir said. “We accomplished this with a mix of small-batch and on-demand manufacturing.” Customers order online and the clothes are produced within three to five days and shipped right after, she explained. “Unfortunately, the industry has been stuck in this model of ordering everything months in advance and then ending up with 30% to 40% excess inventory.”

“What is beautiful [on-demand ordering], if you can reduce waste in industry, you can create more profitable businesses and pay workers more,” said Magnúsdóttir. Items range from tracksuits to dresses to baby clothes and range in price from under $100 to around $500. This means that some parts are simply out of many consumers’ price range. Yet it also represents a conscious decision to encourage a segment of consumers who think about their purchases, she explained. “It’s really a message to people to think of these coins as investments,” Magnúsdóttir said.

She also noted that green business practices can be good for a fashion company’s bottom line. “If you’re able to get 30-40% off your production and still sell the same number of items, you could argue that your margin doesn’t need to be that high – and you can have more flexibility in pricing,” she said. Explain.

Katla is also developing technology to use seaweed from the remote Sleepy Islands off the west coast of Magnúsdóttir’s native Iceland. Some items now contain a seaweed mixbut the objective is to integrate the material into all of the brand’s clothes.

Katla’s focus on sustainability has also extended to the virtual space, with the launch of a Non-Fungible Token (NFT) of hand-painted images by Icelandic artist Hendrikka Waage. Fifteen percent of NFT proceeds will be donated to ocean regeneration efforts.

‘We worked
Sustainably for a long time’

In Jamaica, fashion designer Keneea Linton-George has incorporated sustainability into its apparel designs almost from day one. His company offers samples that customers can view online, and when they buy an item, it’s made and available within days. Linton-George sells classic, casual, and work wear, as well as women’s swimwear and formal wear in airy, brightly colored fabrics and patterns ranging from $40 to around $500. Some parts are even available for rent.

“We can have [the garment] made in three days and shipped – it’s so much more sustainable,” she told OZY during an interview at a Kingston cafe. “Every time I’ve tried to upgrade to a more mass-produced model, something keeps pulling me back to the more durable, made-to-order, small-batch, and more demand-driven model. And people lean more towards this model because they think about where their clothes are made and who makes [them]if the fabric is durable, if the working conditions are good,” Linton-George said.

Consumers are also moving away from fast fashion and toward sustainability as they question the source of their clothes, Linton-George added. “Because of the low cost, people will be attracted to it, but people have a conscience. I have clients who tell me, “I feel guilty, because when I buy this stuff, I can tell it’s too cheap to make sense.”

Robert Hall, lecturer and head of fashion at the Jamaica Business Development Society, acknowledges that Jamaica, by necessity, has operated in a relatively sustainable manner. “Because of our place in the wider fashion [world] and the economy, a lot of the raw materials that come into Jamaica haven’t been your premium products that come out of a mill,” Hall said. Fashion in Jamaica was built on a supply of fabric waste: the end of a roll and the end of a line of collections, he said. “What we haven’t realized is that we’ve been working sustainably for a long time.”

Whether in Jamaica, Iceland or the United States, sustainable fashion must catch up to benefit the environment, as well as to forge a more profitable industry, says Magnúsdóttir, where there is less waste, wages are higher and the products last longer than for a release.

Fashion and Planet:
What can consumers do?

The United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion calculates that the clothing and textile industry is responsible for 2-8% of global greenhouse gas emissions; the annual use of 215 trillion liters of water; the loss of $100 billion in unused materials; and 9% of microplastics that end up in our oceans.

Overproduction has become the norm as companies move to both stimulate and meet demand, take advantage of cheap labor — and even cheaper materials — and respond to lightning-fast trends. A McKinsey report found that the amount of clothes produced doubled between 2000 and 2014, while the number of clothes purchased per capita increased by around 60%.

To integrate sustainable fashion into your shopping habits, There are many things you can do. Look for natural and organic fabrics, buy second-hand (yes, thrift stores are good!), buy fewer clothes and only buy what you need and really like, buy locally, find brands that claim to be sustainable, buy better quality clothes, ask the designers if they will make repairs and who will recycle the clothes when you are done with them, organize clothes exchanges and donate your old clothes.


As we reflect on the things that bring us joy, what are you most grateful for this holiday season?


With Didi Richards of the WNBA and Ashlee Muhammad of Harlem Mercerie


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