Environmentally Sustainable Textile Consumption—What Characterizes the Political Textile Consumers?

Marthe Hårvik Austgulen


The textile and clothing industry is considered as one of the most polluting industries in the world. Still, the regulation of environmental hazards connected to the industry is very limited, and much responsibility is placed on the shoulders of consumers. One of the few ways that ordinary consumers can seek to influence the textile and clothing industry is through their own consumption practices and their wallet. This article departs from the discourse on sustainable consumption and the role of the consumer as an agent for change, and the article investigates the characteristics of the consumers who practice deliberate environmentally sustainable consumption of textiles and clothing. This is done through the lens of political consumption. Based on a cross-national survey conducted in five Western European countries, factors that have been found to predict general political consumption in previous research are tested on the field of textiles and clothing. The findings demonstrate both similarities and some discrepancies with previous studies of political consumption as well as significant country variations.

Click here to read the full article (springer.com).

Mapping sustainable textiles initiatives: And a potential roadmap for a Nordic actionplan

Ingun Grimstad Klepp (project leader)
Kirsi Laitala, Michael Schragger, Andreas Follér, Elin Paulander,
Tone Skårdal Tobiasson, Jonas Eder-Hansen, David Palm, Maria
Elander, Tomas Rydberg, David Watson and Nikola Kiørboe.


This report aims to chart a plan for a coordinated Nordic effort towards sustainable development in textiles and identify ongoing initiatives in the area. The aim was an ambitious plan with a potential for significant reductions in environmental pressures, but also green growth. To reach these goals, we staked out four regions a Nordic plan should include.

  1. Replace fast fashion
    The key to achieving an environmentally significant effect is to
    reduce the amount of textiles in circulation. This will reduce the
    production of waste and the use of chemicals.
  2. Reduce resource input
    The perspective is all about reducing inputs in textiles value chain. This includes various forms of circulatory thinking, material efficiency, as well as commercial forms of recycling and waste management.
  3. Redirect global vs local
    Locally produced textiles, with emphasis on ingredients, traditions, uniqueness and innovation, is a new and positive measure that can easily get attention outside environmentally conscious circles. A greater appreciation for good ingredients, and why quality costs, are required to compete with “fast fashion” and shift towards lasting value. Local production has the potential to create green growth and jobs in the region.
  4. Rethink for whom
    Nordic countries are at their best an example of inclusive and
    democratic societies. The fashion industry however, has marketed itself towards the young and thin. An ethical approach to fashion encompasses not only how clothing is produced, but also who they are produced for and how clothing affects the ability for selfexpression and participation in an open society.
Ongoing initiatives

The mapping showed that there were many ongoing initiatives in the Nordic. The work has mainly focused on the perspective of so-called “reducing resource use”. The more established an initiative is, the more likely it is to be low on innovation. An important dilemma surfaces when attention is on better utilization of waste, as this may indirectly contribute to increased growth in volume.

Knowledge and further research

We lack most knowledge in areas with the greatest opportunity for reduction in environmental impact. The knowledge follows an inverted waste pyramid, where prevention, longevity, etc. are very important, but with a low knowledge-level. Another important distinction is between the market understood as an exchange of money and what goes on outside these formal markets, and there is in general little knowledge about the latter parts of the value chain. The report contains a list of knowledge gaps and suggestions for further research.

Nordic positions of strength
  • Consumers have little knowledge about textiles in general and the products do not contain information about basic characteristics (durability, quality, etc.) enabling them to make informed choices.
  • The Nordic region’s main strength is an ease of dressing for movement and the outdoor elements.
  • Handicraft traditions are strong, however they may be disappearing.
  • There is some renewal of interest in more local sourcing.
  • Reuse and recycling are the main focus, in spite of lack of a recycling industry and limited market.
  • High standing as ethically and environmentally concerned region.
  • Tradition of cooperating in spite of language and cultural differences.
  • Social networks and electronic tools could be used even more.
  • Inclusion, democracy and participation are important values.
  • There is a lack of common statistics on the sector.
Policy and regulation

The textile industry is international with few global policy regulations. There is a great opportunity for the Nordic region to make a difference.

Suggestions for a Nordic roadmap
  • Avoid symbolic issues and cases, and focus on making a substantial difference environmentally.
  • Contribute to a discussion of the relationship between the global and the local in textiles.
  • Collectively engage the sector in thinking positive and offensively, being inspiring and visionary.
  • The roadmap must work with the whole sector, not just the commercial industry.
  • Engage all the Nordic countries and exploit the strength in our differences.
  • Ensure knowledge exchange through building on the current state of know-how and the enthusiasm nationally and internationally.
  • Acquiring new knowledge where there are obvious blind spots.
  • Set specific, ambitious, and achievable (political) goals.
  • Support the public debate on central themes.

Click here to read the full report (norden.org).

His mother’s dress: growth in the number of clothes

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Kirsi Laitala.


Eivind Stø likes a tell an illustrative story about his mother who went through World War II with only one dress due to rationing. Today women have many dresses; more than we can wear out in 5 years. Since 1990, Norway’s clothing imports have almost doubled (Statistics Norway, 2014) and we did not lack clothing in 1990. This chapter discusses what we know about this change. What do we know about the number of clothes in use? When did they multiply to such an extent? What sources and methods do we have to describe this growth? In general, growth should be a more central theme in the environmental debate, especially when it comes to clothing and other items where growth in numbers is completely decoupled from a corresponding increase in satisfaction. As long as we produce (and purchase) far more clothes than we need, quantity should be an essential theme.

Lifecycle thinking has little relevance when the cycle ignores use. To put it another way, without knowing anything about the amount we can hardly reach a future where production matches our need to be warm and beautiful. Nevertheless, there are a few relevant studies of this growth. We will use previous investigations of clothing consumption in Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as material from SIFO’s projects on clothing consumption, where we have attempted to approach an understanding of the number of clothes that people possess.

This article is from the book in The Consumer in Society – A Tribute to Eivind Stø, edited by P. Strandbakken and J. Gronow.

A methodological approach to the materiality of clothing: Wardrobe studies

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Mari Bjerck


The material is not just ‘a carrier of different types of symbols, but an active element in the practices. Bringing this to the fore requires new research methods. This article discusses a methodological approach, we call it a wardrobe study, which allows for the analysis of the way in which clothes relate to each other on the whole or within parts of the wardrobe. More specifically, we discuss how this method can contribute to increasing the materiality of clothes studies. The theoretical point of departure for this approach is a practice theory in which the material enters as an integral part. First, the article briefly discusses developments within the study of dress and fashion. Second, the methods combined and developed in wardrobe studies are discussed. The emphasis here is primarily not only on the weaknesses of the individual methods in practice-oriented dress studies, but also on how they jointly can contribute to the wardrobe study.

Click here to read the full article (tandfonline.com).

Wool is a knitted fabric that itches, isn’t it?

Marie Hebrok and Ingun Grimstad Klepp


In this article, we explore in what ways consumers’ preconceptions of wool influence their ability to recognize it as a fabric. Do we know that it is wool because it itches, or, conversely, does it itch because we think that it is wool? The analysis builds on three different methods; wardrobe studies, sample tests and interviews, in order to explore both informants’ visual senses, and also applied tactile senses. It aims to bring together social science and textile technology methodologies and understanding in order to understand the properties of wool. It does this through adopting a multisensory understanding of the material. The research aimed to explore the associations with and experiences of wearing wool. This, we argue is as important as the senses in the process of identifying woollen fibres. The research found that the strongest influences in fabric identification were: perceptions of use, fabric type and fibres, colour, structure patterns and the ‘feel’ of the fabric.

Click here to access the article (ingentaconnect.com).

Forbrukstrender 2014

Red.: Randi Lavik og Elling Borgeraas


SIFO samler årlig inn store mengde data om ulike sider ved forbruket og forbrukernes situasjon i markedet. Målsettingen er å fremskaffe kunnskap om forbrukerne og hvordan forbrukermarkedene fungerer sett fra forbrukernes side. En stor del av datamaterialet er knyttet til områder der SIFO ønsker å følge utviklingen over tid. I denne rapporten har vi samlet opplysninger om forbrukstrender fra ulike SIFO-surveyer presentert av ulike forskere ved SIFO. Temaene er kroppsrelatert matforbruk og helse, forbrukernes forhold til reklame, holdninger til søndagsåpne butikker, mobilitet i tjenestemarkedet, arv og deling av klær, sko og sportsutstyr, miljø og forbruk, den økonomiske situasjonen for norske husholdninger og deres betalingsproblemer, mobil betaling.

Klikk her for å lese hele rapporten (oda.oslomet.no).

Consumption Studies: The force of the ordinary

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Kirsi Laitala


Consumer research deals with the acquisition, use and disposal of goods and services. Our workplace, SIFO, the National Institute for Consumer Research in Norway, dates back to the 1930s, when home economics and testing of products were predominant. The work aimed at guiding consumers, at that time called housewives, through the ‘jungle’ of novel consumer goods. More recently, SIFO’s work combines social science and textile technology to study the social and technical aspects of consumption.

In this chapter, we ask: how can knowledge of clothing consumption contribute to the work on sustainable fashion? We will answer the question through examples from interdisciplinary projects on textiles at SIFO, as well as from consumer research. However, we will not give an overview of consumer research on clothes and sustainability. But first, an admission: fashion – the topic of this book – operates according to a different logic from our field of work. We would have posed the question differently: how can consumer research – and all the other fields of expertise covered in this book –contribute to more sustainable patterns of clothes production and consumption? Therefore, we also have to include a discussion of the concept of fashion.

This article is Chapter 12 in the book Routledge Handbook of Sustainability and Fashion, edited by Kate Fletcher and Mathilda Tham that you can find here (tandfonline.com).

Made to fit: Å kle en avvikende kropp- handikap og klær

Mari Bjerck, Ingun Grimstad Klepp og Eli Skoland


Klær er helt sentralt for menneskers deltakelse i samfunnslivet og for selvfølelse og selvrespekt. Hvor vanskelig det er å kle kroppen avhenger både av den anledningen vi kler oss for og den kroppen som skal kles. I denne rapporten retter vi søkelyset mot klær tilpasset handikappede. Å ha et handikap kan innebære sosiale barrierer og fysiske begrensninger som gjør det vanskelig å finne klær i et marked som i hovedsak tilbyr masseprodusert konfeksjon. For å kartlegge problemet har vi foretatt en litteraturstudie, en brukerundersøkelse og en markedsundersøkelse. Dette er gjort for å finne ut 1) hvilken kunnskap som eksisterer på feltet, 2) hvordan handikappede selv opplever utfordringen med å kle en avvikende kropp og 3) i hvilken grad det finnes et marked for handikapklær og/eller hvorvidt et slikt marked har potensiale som forretningsområde for Fjellrypa.

Rapporten finner at klær er både teknisk og sosialt kompliserte og at i forhold til å kle mennesker med avvikende kropper så blir forholdet mellom de sosiale og tekniske utfordringene konfliktfylte. Brukerundersøkelsen som presenteres i rapporten identifiserer manglende tilpasning av konfeksjonsklær og spesialtilpasset tøy til handikappede. I de daglige valgene som ble tatt vedrørende bekledning oppsto det ofte et dilemma mellom å velge å kle seg pent, varmt, tørt eller å unngå slitasje, i tillegg hadde de aller fleste utfordringer som dreide seg rundt åpne- og lukkemekanismer, og av-og påkledning. Bekledning ble også brukt som strategi for å motivere til bruk av bestemte hjelpemidler eller også som en måte å skjule eller vise handikap. Dette er omtalt både i brukerundersøkelsen og i litteraturstudien. Videre pekte de to kvinnene som sto for innkjøpene av klær i brukerundersøkelsen på en endringsprosess hvor det var viktig å tenke funksjonelt, estetisk og teknisk – samtidig.

Det å kle kroppen estetisk slik at handikappet blir minst mulig synlig vil være viktigere i noen situasjoner, mens det i andre er viktigere med funksjonelle klær enten dette innebærer muligheten for å kle seg selv, eller den måten klærne fungerer i bruk. Dette viser til en viktig ambivalens i bekledningen av handikappede, som blir tydelig både i litteraturstudien og brukerstudien. Flere av de handikappede i studien rapporterte om problemer med å orientere seg i et marked som var så å si ikke-eksisterende og i stor grad preget av få eller uklare støtteordninger, lite eksplisitt og ordnet kunnskapsoverføring, samt få aktører.

Markedsundersøkelsen viser på samme måte til manglende rammebetingelser for handikappedes bekledning, tilgang på hjelpemidler og støtte til ekstrautgifter i forbindelse med klær og utstyr. Den peker også på få etableringer og liten motivasjon for å posisjonere seg innenfor utviklingen av spesialsydd tøy for handikappede. Brukerne på sin side identifiserer stort behov for spesialtilpassede produkter. Å finne gode klær for avvikende kropper kan være en stor utfordring både med hensyn til økonomiske ressurser og evnen til å sette seg inn i de muligheter som eksisterer. Det kan derfor tenkes at det er stor variasjon i hvordan de ulike individene løser bekledning i forhold til sitt handikap. Dette gjelder som sagt ikke bare teknisk-funksjonelle bekledning, men også de sosiokulturelle faktorene som bekledning i forhold til anledning. Slik sett eksisterer det et Made to fit uutnyttet potensial i klær for handikappede, samtidig er det også et behov for mer utførlig forskning og politisk initiativer på feltet.

Har du behov for å lese hele denne rapporten, ta gjerne kontakt med oss.

The Rationalisation of Consumption Reasons for Purchasing Outdoor Recreational Outfits

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Silje Elisabeth Skuland


In Norway, there is a broad consensus that experiencing nature and performing physical activities outdoors is healthy, important and typical Norwegian. The Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen’s expression ‘simple outdoor life’ is a great national symbol. In recent years we have seen a rapid technological development of outdoor recreational outfits and a massive increase of the quantity of different clothing and equipment for these activities on the market. This is due to both a specialisation of clothing for different activities and a fast turn over of these kinds of products.

In this paper we will discuss what the drivers for objectification of outdoor leisure are, as seen from the consumers’ point of view. In addressing this question, focus was on how the ‘standard-package,’ that is what is considered as ordinary and necessary, has changed and what consumers tell us about their motivations for buying new equipment and how they explain the necessity and need for new equipment. Technological innovations within clothing and fabric for optimal performance in skiing, running and biking are welcomed by many people, especially high income families. However, this development consists of a dilemma because the consumption growth takes place within activities regarded as simple and in a contrast to modern excess consumption and environmental strains.

Our study shows that outfits for outdoors activities are integrated as part of the skills and knowledge to perform and participate in the activities, and that few reactions to the consumption growth arise because the consumption contributes to activities seen as healthy and valuable. Functional clothes and equipment makes the activities safer and funnier, and therefore motivates increased participation. To be outdoors in the nature and do physical activities is something many Norwegians desire to do more often.

Click here to read the full article here (brill.com).

Sustainable clothing design: use matters

Kirsi Laitala and Casper Boks


Many life cycle assessment studies document that the use period is the most resource-demanding phase during the clothing life cycle. In this paper, we discuss how design can help to reduce the environmental impacts of clothing. Motives behind clothing disposal, acquisition practices and maintenance habits are analysed based on two surveys, qualitative interviews of households, and examination of disposed clothing. The main reasons for clothing disposal were changes in garments, followed by size and fit issues, taste-related unsuitability, situational reasons, functional shortcomings and fashion or style changes. Several design solutions can enable the users to keep and use the clothes longer, and reduce the need for laundering, thus potentially decreasing the total environmental effects of clothing consumption.

Click here to read the full article (inderscienceonline.com).