A recent documentary has finally addressed questions about sustainability in the fashion industry. The Next Black, released May 2014, and produced by German electronics company AEG, explores the future of clothing production. Will we create longer lasting, sustainable clothing or continue to mass produce? How will technology play a role in new fabrics and methods of production?
We have arrived at "fast fashion" - quick, mass production leaving large carbon footprints. The documentary looks at current companies that are not only exploring new technologies and innovations, but currently are leading fashion production in a new direction.
Biocouture currently works with materials grown from living organisms, essentially "grows" clothing that removes environmental waste.
The Yeh Group is exploring textile dyeing water or chemicals-essentially saving millions of gallons of water annually. Patagonia has spearheaded an environmental campaign urging its customers to repair clothing rather than simply discard and purchase new options. It has produced long-wear clothing and provides a recycling program. These are just a few companies currently involved in sustainable fashion. We hope this documentary pushes more companies to explore innovations that will help reduce the carbon footprint.
This documentary offers hope that the fashion industry will become environmentally conscious. The new methods of production, fabrics and ways of wearing these products are exciting and inspiring. Meet one of the filmmakers, Lovisa Sunnerholm.
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In your own words describe your journey before your project The Next Black- who is Lovisa Sunnerholm? And why did you end up doing this movie?
With a background in marketing and with a big interest in sustainability as well as in modern communication that really brings value to the consumers in the same time as it delivers on the business strategy, this is exactly the kind of project I love to work with! My background is filled with many different elements ranging from having my own company to working at Google and at advertising agencies. It's fantastic to be able to use my experience at a company like Electrolux where you have the opportunity to work on international projects and work with fantastic products.
Tell us about The Next Black, how did it all start?
We are in the business of taking care of clothes and we want to develop innovative laundry solutions that are one idea ahead. And instead of only sitting in our lab, we want to be out in the world and meet with the pioneers to understand where the clothing industry is heading while being able to predict and shape future washing needs.
We also know that the clothing industry accounts for a big part of the pollution in the world and we want to help reduce those numbers in all the ways we can. We recently launched laundry appliances that are best-in-class when it comes to using a minimum of resources (energy, water and detergent). At the same time they are equipped with innovations making them best-in-class in terms of being gentle to your clothes. You can even wash and dry "hand wash only" wool or silk garments in the machines and they are awarded withe the highest Woolmark certification in class for it's gentleness. But, instead of only talking about a minimum of resources and prolonging the lifetime of garments, we want to put in into a bigger context and share our knowledge. We want to create a discussion and guide consumers on how they can contribute to creating a more sustainable clothing industry.
While making a movie there are always positive moments and challenging ones, could you describe a couple to us?
I have so many to share on both of the lists, haha!
I cried when I saw the first full version of the film and I knew straight away that it would become a success. Even if I had been working with the outline of the film and had seen the parts separately, it's such craftsmanship to put it all together with a nice visual execution, a good storyline, timings, tempo, etc. The production company really did an amazing job in bringing it all together and I think the film really touches you emotionally. We had exclusive pre-screenings of the film in some selected cities in Europe with panel discussions following the film, and those screenings were very positive moments as well. This was the first time we showed the film externally and knowing that the crowd was a tough one made it a nervous moment. We received amazing feedback at the events and seeing the discussions that followed the film screenings made us very glad, as it showed that the film really works as a conversation starter. It was a bit challenging in the beginning to get some colleagues to understand why we would do a documentary that is not even featuring our washing machines. It is a different approach compared to traditional marketing.
In short, tell us about the movie and why it is a must see for our readers?
The Next Black is a thought provoking documentary responding to some of the clothing industry’s most topical issues around sustainability and wearable technology. The film draws observations from some of the world's pioneers working to change the clothing industry and it presents some really interesting perspectives, solutions and innovations. It's definitely a wake up call to current consumer patterns and I hope it will make people reflect on how they consume and care for their clothes. Receiving over 300,000 views within the first week of release, the film is considered a global success with international media lauding it as a “must-see”. That's a good reason for your readers to watch it I think! :)
In your own words: What is the goal of this movie and what would you like the viewers to experience?
We want to predict and shape the future of fabric care and to drive conversations around how to care for clothes in the best way and on how to create a more sustainable clothing industry. We hope it works as a wake up call and that viewers feel that they should buy less and care more for what they already own. And we know that our appliances can make a big positive difference and we hope this is something people will realize as well.
What fascinates you about the future of clothing, and of how we dress and use clothing?
I would say the two themes that we explore in the film:
Sustainability – The textile industry accounts for a large part of the pollution in the world and we have ended up in so called “fast fashion” where today's trends quickly become tomorrow's trash, instead of caring for what we own. In The Next Black, we explore alternative, more sustainable ways of manufacturing clothes but also investigate how we can use and take care of our clothes in a more sustainable way. There are so many pioneers out there working to change the industry and I think we will see a big shift in the next couple of years.
Technology – Technology is moving into what we wear and in The Next Black, we investigate what technology can bring to the clothing industry. I think this is a very interesting development and it's amazing when you start looking into what smarter clothes can actually mean. I think we will see a radical shift here as well and maybe smarter clothes can actually be one of the answers on how to make the clothing industry more sustainable.
Will there be more projects like The Next Black?
For sure! Keep your eyes open! :)