the swedish brand pushing for 100% traceability

ASKET wants to make this the industry norm.

by Douglas Greenwood
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Oct 2 2019, 2:02pm

Imagine how many T-shirts are stacked neatly in fast fashion stores around the world, or in warehouses waiting to be shipped to people who shop online. Do you ever think of what we sacrificed in order to bring those shirts into the world? ASKET co-founder August Bard Bringéus knows the statistics. “To make a T-shirt requires 2700 litres of water, enough to keep a person alive for two years, and puts out two-three kilos of CO2,” he tells i-D. “It has a total manufacturing time of two hours, but all of those resources are erased when we stand in a store and pay £3 for a T-shirt we’ll toss away after a weekend.”

Those statistics are terrifying when you think of the worldwide water shortages and the severe effects of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And for what? When there are billions of unused garments in the world, and brands out there -- like ASKET -- who are finding a way of creating in a way that lasts.

ASKET is the brainchild of August and his co-founder Jakob Dworsky, two men who graduated from school and looked to their wardrobes in search of their next bright idea. “We’d been filling our wardrobes with pieces that were compromised,” August says. “The garments we did use were always the same 15 out of a wardrobe of 100.” August realised that the ones they returned to were reliable: timeless pieces that fit perfectly. “The ambition was to create zero compromise garments, and solving what we thought was an impossible equation: combining fit, quality and a good price.”

The result is their mainstay collection: simple T-shirts, chinos, undergarments and sweatshirts that exist outside of the trend cycle; never sold out, and always being improved to make them last longer. The average high street tee lasts for 30 washes; an ASKET tee is designed to withstand anywhere between 170 and 300. By absconding from the seasonal schedule and cutting out distributors (you can only buy their pieces directly from them), they’ve discovered their USP: transparency.

“One and a half years ago, we decided that everything we make has to be fully traceable,” August says. “We need to put the information [of where everything came from] in the label of every garment, replacing the standard ‘Made in…’ tag, which tells you a simplified truth.”

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It’s a long and arduous process to produce clothes in a fully traceable way. After all, you have to know exactly where the materials that make every button and thread started its life; not just the basic cotton or wool that makes up most of a garment. With just four months left until the 100% traceable deadline they set themselves for their entire range when we speak, they’ve currently worked out exactly where 75% of the goods they produce found their roots. August relays some damning statistics to me: that 92% of brands don’t know where their raw materials come from, and 80% don’t know the origins of the fabrics they produce.

It’s a strange blindspot considering it’s possible to find the information out. ASKET have done it, and have managed to reach 100% traceability with their new merino wool collection. Comprising of roll necks, hats and zipped sweaters, they’ve gone back as far as the farm in Australia where sheep graze. The weather conditions -- wet and windy in the winter, baking hot come summertime -- mean the merino wool is perfect for switching seasons.

That breakthrough moment for ASKET brings their overall level of traceability throughout their collections up to 80% -- not quite the 100% they were searching for, but still impressive considering how far behind many are. What’s more, they’ve spotted the greenwashing and industry bullshit others are notorious for: “Traceability is not sustainability,” August stresses. “That’s such a huge word that’s misused in so many places, so we don’t use it. After all, the supply chain is so complex. Are these things sustainable in terms of water consumption? Chemical use? Land erosion? CO2?”

What ASKET’s approach points toward is a much more hopeful future; their motto, after all, is “The Pursuit of Less”. So why don’t we follow a similar mantra: buy more responsibly and consciously, and demand to know where everything we put onto our bodies finds its origins? Clothes, after all, are meant to be meaningful.

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This article originally appeared on i-D UK.