Consumer Culture: The Day Your Baby’s Wardrobe Became Better Than Yours | Vigga Svensson | TEDxKEA

Consumer Culture: The Day Your Baby’s Wardrobe Became Better Than Yours | Vigga Svensson | TEDxKEA

Translator: Meral Öztürk
Reviewer: For ten years, I thought
that I was a green superhero. The story begins back in 2003, when I founded a Danish kids’
fashion brand, called Katvig. I came from a career as a TV presenter, and it’s fair to say I had absolutely
no idea about the industry I’d entered. The truth is I had a couple of kids and
wanted to dress them up nicely and cheap. But this naive beginning of story
soon grew more serious. I discovered that the glamorous
fashion world has a dark side where bad workers’ rights,
exploitation of scarce resources, and tonnes of harmful chemicals
are the rules, rather than the exceptions. So I decided to do something about it. I decided to make the world’s
most sustainable kids’ fashion brand. And after 10 years of cleaning up
our supply chain, implementing organic and recycled fibers, banning a lot of chemicals,
ensuring good workers’ rights, we had super nice sustainable products. We became well-known pioneers
all around the world. The Danish politicians called me
to get my opinion on sustainable issues We even won prizes,
so everything was good. Until one day, I realized
that I got it all wrong. The epiphany came to me one day in 2013. Like many times before, I asked questions
to our customers at our Facebook wall. This time it was – “How much clothes
do you have for your child?” “How much of it do you use?” The numbers were shocking
and made me realize that up until then, I had totally misunderstood
the concept of sustainability. But, before I reveal to you
what the numbers were, I’d like to tell you a little bit more
about the industry that I tried to change. The textile industry has basically
been the same for 150 years. Back in the mid 19th century,
we went from unique, tailor-made or homemade clothes
to reproduction of garments. And the way we produce garments today
is the same more or less: We take a lot of machines
and a lot of people into a big room and tell them to hurry up. Back then the textile industry –
it was a revolution because more people
could afford good clothes. It was a great progress. At that time, clothes were
a practical thing that kept you warm and dry. And you bought the clothes you needed, and you wore it until
it couldn’t be worn anymore. And then you made a carpet
out of it or something like that. If only the consumer had stayed the same,
we wouldn’t have such a big problem today. But the consumer
has changed dramatically. Check out these facts: In UK, women wear their clothes 7 times before it ends up in the attic
or in the garbage bin. In the States, 30% of the clothes
never left the closet last year. And in Denmark –
and this is my favorite fact – young people tend to buy new clothes
instead of washing their dirty ones. The textile industry has become
a vicious circle because, the thing is, the fashion brands
have heard about these facts, too. That means that they can speculate
in very poor quality because they know that the consumer
will wear the clothes very few times. Actually, it wouldn’t make sense for them
to produce in high quality. From a business perspective,
it would simply be a waste of their money. On the other hand, we have the consumer who wears the clothes very few times and she expects it to be very cheap. The result is an accelerating consumption. Today’s fashion brands no longer launch
new collections two times a year – summer and winter collection. They launch pre-spring collection,
spring collection, party collection, classic collection, pre-summer collection, summer collection, high summer collection, resort collection, collab collection,
pre-autumn collection, autumn collection, pre-winter collection, winter collection,
high winter collection, and Christmas collection,
just to mention a few. (Laughter) Fashion brands launch
collections all the time. And they do it because they want
to create a consumer craving – an artificial need that manipulates
the consumer into their shops very often. This is the essence of today’s
buy-and-throw-away society. Of course, it leaves
a messy backstage area. Behind the scenes, we see giant regions,
rivers and ecosystems destroyed by the fashion industry’s
use of saddest chemicals. These chemicals destroy
the possibilities of growing the land in the producing countries
because the soil and the ground water are heavily polluted. We see factories laid in ruins because the owners won’t pay
for secure buildings, killing thousands of low-paid workers. And we see enormous landfills, filled with consumer textile waste –
clothes. And most of it have more
than 75% of usage life left. The way we consume clothes and many other
products today creates a lot of losers. Actually, it is hard to find
any winners in this setup because in the end,
the planet will collapse. Don’t you want to change that? I do and I thought I did for ten years. But no! Back to Facebook, that day in 2013. Remember the questions? How much clothes
do you have for your child? The answers went from 100 to 200 pieces. And how much of it do you use? The answer was on average
less than 25 pieces. What a lot of passive clothes! What a waste of resources! And what a bomb in my face
because suddenly, I understood that my contribution to the world wasn’t the most sustainable
kids’ fashion brand. No, it was a giant pile of more
than 1 million pieces of clothes. And yes, the clothes were organic,
but it was still a pile. The way we work with sustainable
consumption today is not very clever. We produce a lot of stuff. We convince the consumer
that she needs the stuff. She buys the stuff. We produce some more stuff,
convince the consumer once again, and she buys this too. And so on and so on. This way of consumption
doesn’t make sense. And while we do it, yes we try
to minimise the footprint by reducing the emissions,
harmful chemicals, and so on. But you could say it’s like
turning down with one hand, while the other one is turning up. And in the end, the result is the same. And it’s all about “buy some more stuff”. Sounds familiar? Well, it’s because it’s just a replica
of the very unsustainable recipe from the traditional
buy-and-throw-away society. And the consequences
are a replica, too: exploitations of scarce resources
and a massive waste problem. This way of consumption
doesn’t really make sense, even though it’s organic or sustainable. And what I realised that day
in front of my Facebook wall, reading all the answers, was that up until then the way
we work with sustainability, not only us but in general,
is completely misunderstood and very stupid,
and in the end it is fatal. A few months after that Facebook post,
I had to close down my company, and that was not a great time in my life. But after a while,
a new ambition grew in me. I wanted to do it again. I wanted to make the world’s most
sustainable kids’ fashion brand and this time it should be right. I spent all of Spring 2014,
trying to figure out how to do it. As the trees went green,
it slowly occurred to me. It wasn’t so complicated after all. The key was to change the focus. So, instead of focusing
on the product as the first thing, like we had done in Katvig, we needed to focus
on how the product is used, and then design the product
and a service to back it up. Rethink instead of reduce. We simply needed to invent
a whole new consumer model, instead of using the old one
and doing it a little less bad. Let me take my own example. How do parents use kids’ wear? Well, since kids grow very fast,
and clothes do not grow, the clothes are used very few times. Actually, a child outgrows 8 sizes
before its 2-years birthday. 8 new wardrobes. And that means that the parents
have to buy new clothes all the time. Even if these parents act responsibly
and buy organic certified clothes, it’s still a problem. In the small perspective,
it’s a waste of their money. And in the big picture,
it’s a waste of resources. We took inspiration from the way families have been circulating clothes
for centuries. And we created two things: A high quality sustainable
kids’ fashion brand, and a circular subscription service. It works like this: The customer signs up and for
a monthly subscription fee of €48, she always has sustainable designer’s
clothes in the right size for her child. When a child grows one size,
she receives a bigger collection, and return the outgrown collection to us. We inspect the clothes,
repair it if necessary, and then we wash it
at a professional laundry, and then it’s ready for a new child. And because we produce in such a high
quality, the clothes stay very nice, and offer a great experience
for every subscriber, even number 7 or 8 in line. It’s like a great hotel room. I mean you don’t think about
all the people who slept or whatever they did in the bed before you
because it’s nice and clean! We think that we’ve come up
with a model that has the potential to become a new way
of consumption in big scale. We think that this model can be copied
into many other product groups like cars, bikes and strollers, furniture,
toys, tools, just to mention a few. Don’t look a the product first. Think about how the product
is going to be used and then design the product
and the service to back it up. This way of consumption
makes much more sense. And this simple change of focus
is like a magic wand because suddenly,
everybody involved benefits. The consumer gets access to
super high quality at a low price point. It’s convenient for her,
she saves a lot of time, and she reduces her footprint,
in our case by up to 80%! The model also holds a motivation
for companies to produce in high quality instead of poor quality. Because the better the quality
you’re producing the more times you can circulate
and the better your earnings are. You could say that high quality
and sustainability become the main drivers
in your business model. This is a clever way of consumption. It’s clever because it creates
no losers, no compromises. And what I really like about it
is that it’s no longer a matter of belief. Working with sustainability for many
years now, I had so many discussions with people who think that organic
or sustainable concepts are bullshit, or they think the climate change
is totally exaggerated. I hate those discussions. But this concept, this consumer model,
it just makes sense. Whether you’re an eco-freak, or a sceptical conservative,
it makes sense because it gives you a better offer
than the traditional way of consuming. I think I got it right this time,
but what about you? Do you think of yourselves
as green superheroes, too because you buy organic, fair trade
or triple A whenever you can? Try to check out your consumer pattern and see if you too are part
of the buy-and-throw-away society. You probably are. Most of us are. In the States, one of the fastest growing
businesses these days is self-storage. People simply haven’t got room
for all the stuff they buy. Do you have the same problem? If you do, I have
a simple exercise for you. Three basic rules to follow: Number one: Change your focus. Instead of thinking at the product first,
step back, think about how you are
going to use the product, and base your choice upon that. Number two: Buy high quality
and extend the product’s life. It’s a very effective way
to reduce the footprint. And number three: Share whenever you can. And actually, I think we need
a rule number four. Because suddenly it occurs to me – and it might actually be
the most important one – the rule number four
could be something like this: Ask for better solutions. I mean if we consumers, we just keep on playing the main character
in the buy-and-throw-away society and not asking questions at all,
we will not have better solutions. We will not have a more
sustainable way of consumption. If you follow these three or four rules, you will be part of a whole new
consumer behaviour. A behaviour that I deeply believe
has the potential to become a great alternative to the meaningless and dangerous
buy-and-throw-away society. And a behaviour that, most importantly, gives room for this world to grow
without the problems growing with us. (Applause)

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

23 thoughts on “Consumer Culture: The Day Your Baby’s Wardrobe Became Better Than Yours | Vigga Svensson | TEDxKEA

  1. Indeed ! Sad that people feel the need to buy into the whole consumer culture and feel less for not spending lots on their kids.

  2. A magnificent idea, with the added bonus that designers can be really creative, it encourages craftsmanship and flair in design. The outfit may be the only one – a true designer outfit – and it will be sustainable and original and fun to wear.
    This would work with adults' clothes too.
    And think what a marvellous world it could create – no one wearing the same design or same clothes as anyone else, they could choose a designer suited to how they feel or want to be perceived.
    And it avoids the waste inherent as people get older, and change shape, situation or change their outlook on life. No longer any need to send work clothes to a charity shop when you retire, just pick the clothes to suit the new retired you.
    When I am old I shall wear purple and bobby socks – well this means you can!!

  3. Awesome idea but my only concern is that she says she makes fashionable children's clothing. I wish she would have expanded on what she meant by that. That said, my son wears handmedowns and we have a ton of used baby clothing stores that are local.

  4. The only solution is less people. Because you said it. Everything is scarse now. The earth is always used up by Spring for that year.

  5. The big "we". Who is we? Speak for yourself. Most of my clothes last 10 years. A "throwaway society" is just a throwaway line.

  6. Such a smart idea! Love that the companies focus is on children and pregnant women since they all grow out of certain sizes very fast. My first reaction was "Oh I which I (non-pregnant without kids) could use this too!" But then realize that would go against the whole concept. As a grownup we don't change sizes as much and should, therefore, focus on making sure we use all our clothes, repair them if they rip, wash them properly if they are stained and reuse them when they are unusable instead of throwing them away to the landfills. Imagine how much money we can save and spend on making sure we live a more sustainable lifestyle (like train tickets and solar panels and not flights).

  7. My kids wear hand me downs until they are ragged. They get new clothes when they have no clothes, minimum amount to get through the week.

  8. 48 Euros a month to clothe a child is outrageous. Almost everyone shares baby and children's clothing because they are worn for such a short amount of time and don't wear out.

  9. This is a great concept especially when not everyone has the knowledge or time for repairing clothing. When clothing is damaged it can be repaired by the company and reused by the next customer. If more people have the opportunity in other countries to use this kind of circular system then the overall costs will go down too. It also puts a responsibility on the company to keep a good product so that less money would be spent on repairing and replacing in the long run. Win win situation. This model should be applied to other companies and countries for all kinds of products.

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