A man browsing in a clothing store
Photo: Victor Gårdsäter

The future of the fashion industry starts in Stockholm

The fashion industry is in the midst of a period of immense change. Many companies have adapted well to the new demands, while many still have a long journey ahead. What is certain is that knowledge-sharing and collaboration are essential to a more sustainable industry.

Stockholm Fashion District, a trade platform and showroom run by non-profit organisation Trade Partners Sweden, connects fashion industry professionals from across the globe. It’s a space for buyers to get up close and personal with the collections, for brands to meet and collaborate, and for everyone in the industry to inspire and be inspired.

“Fashion is a tactile industry, it’s very important to be able to feel the products. At the same time, we want to share knowledge and educate about trade. Our goal is to be very inclusive, very visionary, but also very close to the industry,” says Helena Waker, CEO of Trade Partners Sweden and Stockholm Fashion District.

Inaugurated in 2016, the Stockholm Showroom today has 600 brands on display, 40 percent of which are Swedish while 60 percent are international. Buying days, Fashion Week Trade, and textile fairs are among the in-person events that draw an international crowd to the venue.

But Stockholm Fashion District is much more than a place to display apparel and generate business. The platform plays a vital role in setting a vision for the industry’s future. Through its vast network, it spreads the word about innovations happening here in Stockholm to empower global brands to work in a similarly solution-focused way.

“Sweden is a leader in sustainability and we have a lot of research about sustainable fashion which we can talk about with an international community. There are a lot of tech innovations going on in the city, which the textile industry needs to reach its sustainability goals. And if we can show that to the world here in Stockholm, we can help other countries and companies to advance quicker.”

One example of this homegrown innovation is Renewcell, a Swedish sustaintech company with a unique textile recycling technology. Developed at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, the revolutionary solution turns used garments and textile production waste into a Circulose® branded dissolving pulp which is then fed back into the textile production value chain.

Solutions such as these are needed urgently, says Helena. From 2025, all textile producers and fashion brands will be responsible for collecting, sorting, and recycling their products at the end of their lives.

“We need the whole textile industry in Europe to be working on these solutions, and I think Sweden has come up with some excellent solutions. There are so many things we are working on that need to be shared internationally and, together with the industry, Stockholm Fashion District is in a good position to do this with all our international connections.”

Encouraging action

Several years back, it became clear to Helena and the team at Stockholm Fashion District that many brands were doing noteworthy sustainability work but seemed reluctant to speak out about it. They were concerned that if, for example, they spoke about using sustainable materials, another area of their business might be called into question.

To keep them motivated, Stockholm Fashion District instituted Encouragement for Action in 2018. The award, which is judged by a jury of renowned experts, is intended to encourage Swedish brands to keep doing what they’re doing while inspiring the wider industry with innovations and new business models.

“We saw that many companies were coming up with a lot of innovations, and we wanted to encourage them to continue the good work. We try to promote brands who work with sustainability, and also to show the buyers more sustainable brands because it can be hard to find them.”

Past winners have included Asket, an independent apparel brand with the mission to slow down the fashion industry and change the way we manufacture, market, and consume clothing; Guringo Design Studio, a crew of creatives committed to securing a circular society; and OnceMore by Södra, the world’s first process for industrial-scale recycling of textile waste of blended fibres.

Championing tomorrow’s solutions for today’s problems very much characterises the work done by Stockholm Fashion District. Being based in one of the world’s most innovative cities doesn't hurt either. With its strong academic profile, world-leading tech scene, and flourishing creative industry, Stockholm is awash with innovative, value-driven companies.

This world-renowned atmosphere of innovation is why people from across the world flock to the city to discover what’s next, says Helena. “They want to talk to us about Sweden and what we do and how they can take this kind of mindset back with them to their own countries.”