Sustainable Fashion Review: Gårdendal

Hello everyone! I hope your week is going well so far.

In this post, I had the pleasure to interview Andreas, the founder of Gårdendal and learned about his experience behind his eponymous Swedish leather goods label, a story that interconnects Sweden with Romania.

What does Gårdendal mean?

“Gårdendal is a Swedish name that could be translated into ‘the garden in the valley’. Choosing my own surname as the brand name came naturally, but was certainly not easy as it gets so close to me as a person.”

What made you start your leather goods label – Gårdendal?

“In mid 2014, a friend of mine took me around to several garment, shoe and leather goods factories in Romania. What really struck me was the amount of luxury brands being made there and the fact that the shoes and bags were often a time stamped with ‘Made in Italy’ despite being made in Romania. One Italian factory owner even laughed at my remark and said: ’Has it ever been done in another way?’”

After the Romanian Revolution in 1990, the country undertook an economic downturn. The currency was drastically devalued and the unemployment rate shot up.

“Many Italian brands moved part of their production to Romania after the [Romanian] revolution to exploit the cheap cost of labor, however they continued labeling their products with ‘Made in Italy’. Those visits made me realize that the fashion industry is built around perceptions… We tend to think that a country, price point or brand gives quality or value to a product, when in fact it is the people and their craftsmanship that matter more. In that sense I have started to judge each product for what it is in terms of quality and give value based on each brands notion to social responsibilities and materials used.”

”But unfortunately there is little to no difference between the global players of today, be it a cheap or luxurious label, they are in large made the same way. They all tend to use their CSR as a mere excuse to the actual change of bettering working conditions and make radical sustainability improvements on the material side. This is why I believe that new emerging brands will slowly disrupt the market into smaller entities of specialized players where each give true responsibility to their niche, not driven by investment portfolios, but of actual passion and care for their cause.”

”So I wanted to take part and become a generator in this change, that we use to call the fashion revolution. I wanted to create a fashion label that pays fair wages to Romanian artisans and gives them credit for their unknowingly widespread work while using materials that stand the test of time.”

Since then, Andreas began his fashion journey and founded his eponymous label – Gårdendal, a minimalist leather goods brand that sources leather from Sweden and manufactures in Romania.

But why bags?

“I wanted to choose an industry that was historically well rooted to Romania and so leather craft came naturally. Besides that I didn’t want to make a fashion product that needed to be done in ten different sizes to fit various people, but a product that could fit anyone no matter gender or size, which made me choose bags. And neither do we want to expand beyond bags, we want to pertain our niche and become the choice for sustainable leather bags.

Why do you source your leather from Sweden?”

“We source our leather from a small tannery called Tärnsjö Garveri, in the heart of Sweden. This tannery sources from locally grown milk cows and has been in the industry since the late 1800s. Their leather is fully vegetable tanned, a process slowly disappearing due to the faster but more polluting way of chrome tanning used by the world players. Tärnsjö has for long made the world’s most organic cow hides, hides that stand the test of time like no other material and develop a unique natural patina. I was inspired by their story and the high quality leather they produce. Being from Sweden and sharing the same sustainable values as Gårdendal they were the obvious choice. As exclusive as they are, I don’t think we could be more proud than having them as the foundation of our business.”

How did you start Gårdendal?

“Being an architect design has become an aspect of everything in my life. Besides that, my mother is a tailor and so the needle and thread were sat in my hands as soon as I could walk. These two facets have been the best fashion school I ever attended and I so I started to sketch hundreds of bags and patterns and make prototypes with a sewing machine I borrowed from my parents. In the spring of 2015 I set up a company and developed my business plan and branding. So the summer came and I took of for a flight to Romania to visit one of the bag manufacturers from back in 2014. The owner recognized me and told me in private that he wanted to retire but had none that wanted to take over his business. He saw no other option than to close his business and let his employees on the foot. But then I told him about my plan on developing a new bag brand with a great company culture and sustainable production. We talked for a while and so he said to me, ”Well young man, if you are so full of passion for your cause and understand the market the way you do, why don’t you take over and continue my business?”. His proposal really struck me, at first I thought it was a joke, but I realized he was dead serious. He offered to sell his entire business to me.”

“I originally wanted to contract out the production at one of the local shops and pay my workers more than they would normally get. His business had been running since 1991 with a team of skillful artisans. No doubt did I want to own it. But was I really prepared to take on such a feat? After many thought I came to the conclusion that this really would be the needed foundation for my new leather label – Gårdendal. Fortunately I had some good advisors at my side and could really think this through. With their help and some financial support I was finally able to buy the business. Two small clients wanted to remain and keep their production. Thanks to their trust in me, I am able to maintain the business.

What are the challenges you have encountered with Gårdendal?

Initially, the hardest part would be making high quality products itself. However, after a year of running it, the hardest part is actually managing and maintaining a good company culture, because creating high quality products requires meticulous attention, and it can get quite tiresome. That’s when a great company culture where people feel valued, understood and taken care of really matters so that everyone can remain productive even at hard times.”

What is your take on the production?

“Besides using the most organic real leather there is to find we prioritize minimalistic design, custom made hardware and a fun production process. We are not trying to commercialize our products in a sense of volume but only make our bags on demand. Because of these exclusive aspects we currently need to have a delivery time of up to four weeks. In this generation, we are used to getting new things fast and for every occasion, and so we end up having too many things. But if we only bought what we need, then we could afford a little bit more and buy the transparent brands that make sure the workers will really get their shares and being paid fairly, while often getting quality materials on the buy.

Having our very own in-house production with an expertise from 1991 there are very few brands that completely own and take care of their production the way we do. This care together with our exclusive materials wouldn’t make it fare to compare our pieces to any well known brand out there. Our philosophy and business model is just something unique.”

What are your goals with Gårdendal?

“We believe in slow fashion and making good designer bags that withstand the test of time and that both our artisans and clients could be proud of on more levels than just status. We want to educate people that every time you buy something you vote with your money and affect someones life. We want to encourage you to look for responsible companies to buy from, to look beyond the label and price point. We need to rethink our values of brands worth wearing and so Gårdendal wants to become the ”go-to” ethical bag label.”

I really enjoyed speaking to Andreas and learning about his story behind his company.  And I hope you enjoy this post too.

Smile and style on~

SK


Outfit Info

Bag :: Gårdendal, I adore their backpack here

Dress :: Reformation , another linen dress I love from them

Shoes :: JCrew

Sustainable Fashion Review: Thank God I’m Fabulous (TGIF)

Vietnam is famous for its fashion industry and its top notch silk fabrics.  When I landed in Ho Chi Minh City, I was determined to visit local fashion boutiques and hunt for unique pieces that I would never be able to find in the U.S.

Located on the outskirt of District One, TGIF is truly a hidden gem.  It took us a few missteps to find this place, as the boutique was tucked away on the second floor of an old charming building. But the hunt soon ended when we arrived to the end of the corridor and were greeted with a big door sign that said “TGIF”.

I set foot inside the boutique, and my eye gaze immediately fixated on a luscious teal dress. The designer and owner of TGIF walked out from the back room while I was lusting over the dress, and she told me that the dress was already claimed by another buyer and was the only one in store.

I was lusting over this teal dress, but it was already taken by another lucky girl 🙁

This was when I learned that TGIF specialized in high quality evening dresses.  Everything was hand-made in small batches in the slow fashion way, while special items were made only upon requests and all meticulously tailored so that the fabrics would hug perfectly.

The designer herself was so chic and dashing, but what attracted me the most was her charm and determination.  Graduated with a MBA in Singapore, she decided to pursue her dream to become a fashion designer and obtained another degree in fashion in Australia. When she returned home, she debuted her own fashion line – TGIF in Ho Chi Minh City.

The designer of Thank God I'm Fabulous The designer of Thank God I’m Fabulous

I really love this dress, but I didn’t get it because I have lace dresses already.

After trying on many dresses, I bought this off-shoulder dress at a price considered expansive in Vietnam, but still reasonable by the US standard.kim_i_SK (12)kim_i_SK (11)

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Made out of fluid silk, the type of fabrics Vietnam is known for, this plush dress has an elegantly draped silhouette with an off-shoulder design that highlights the designer’s contemporary approach to cut and proportion. To offset the rich navy hue, I paired the dress with minimal orange accessories.

 

If you are visiting Ho Chi Minh City, I highly recommend you to pay homage to TGIF. I promise you too will be delighted.

Hope you enjoy this post!

Smile and style on ~

SK


Outfit Info

Dress :: Thank God I’m Fabulous

Capsule Wardrobe: Tobi White Halter Tank Top with H&M Green Floral Shorts

Happy Friday, everyone!

This is my first pairing from this capsule wardrobe challenge.  These green floral shorts are from H&M and I have worn it here before!

I don’t buy shoes that require an initial “break-in” period. To me, a pair of shoes is in or out. And these Madewell sandals are absolutely wonderful. I bought them right before my Vietnam trip, but I didn’t get any blisters during the trip, nor did they require any break-ins at all. If you are too looking for comfy shoes, these will be my No. 1 recommendation!

Hope you enjoy my 1st outfit pairing, and have a great weekend ahead!

Smile and style on~

SK


Outfit Info

Top :: Tobi (Old), but a similar cheap version, and expansive version

Shorts :: H&M(Old), but a similar cheap version, and super doper expansive version

Shoes :: Madewell

Capsule Wardrobe Challenge Summer 2016

Happy hump day! Hope your week is going well so far.

When Styles For Thought turned one, I challenged myself to go on a capsule wardrobe challenge. In September, I will be creating 4-6 different outfits strictly using these ten items below.

 

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As I am blogging more about sustainable fashion, I wanted to jog down my thoughts on the topic.

1) You can support sustainable fashion by buying less and buying high quality pieces.

As you scroll through all the clothes I have ever featured on the blog, you will realize that I don’t always buy from “brands” that heavily advertise themselves as ethical or sustainable.

With only a handful of “ethical” brands to select from, it’s difficult to find stylish pieces at a reasonable price. More often, I feel that these brands are using “ethical production” as an advertising tactic to put on an outrageously high price tag.

Do you always have to pay $$$$$ in order to support ethical fashion? The answer is no.  I have met a lot of independent designers that produce their clothes ethically, but still sell at a reasonable price range. If you are looking harder, you can find brands that are ethical but do not necessarily advertise themselves that way. Here is a list of ethical brands that I have compiled.

As an alternative approach to support sustainable fashion, you can also give yourself a portion control when shopping – shop less and if shop, invest in good quality pieces. Right now I am limiting myself to two items a month and also challenging myself to this diet too.

2) “Made in USA” does not always translate to “ethically made”.

People often use “Made in U.S.A.” as an easy way to judge whether the clothes are made ethically. But in reality, this is not a good meter to use at all because 1) the federal government does not actively check or audit if something is truly made in the US, and 2) just because it’s made outside of the US, it doesn’t mean it’s not made ethically.

It’s possible to buy ethically made products that are not made in America. To give an anecdotal example, Everlane outsourced in China too.

So think again when you see the “Made in USA” clothing tags. Don’t impulse buy when you see “Made in USA”. Ask yourself – Do you actually like the clothes? Is it high quality? Will you see yourself in it in the next five years?

Supporting sustainable fashion takes many forms, and one way to do it is to buy less and buy better. Hope you enjoy this post! Leave me a comment below to tell me what you think!

Smile and style on~

SK


Outfit Info

Jeans :: 7 for All Mankind

White Top :: Tobi(Old), but similar herehere

Floral Top :: Keepsake(Old)

Floral Skirt :: Keepsake(Old)

Floral Shorts :: H&M

Pants :: Chanel(Thrifted)

Flats :: Jcrew, similar here

Heels :: Jimmy Choo

Sandals :: Madewell