Tell us who you are.
Malin Busck: I’m the designer, manager, and a lot of things for my brand HI ON LIFE. I was educated as a Textile Manager, but I never worked as one because I became aware of the problems in the textile industry. I considered leaving the program, but we had a course about organic production and fair trade. I realized there were other ways of producing clothes. So, I decided the sustainable way was the way.
How did you start HI ON LIFE?
MB: HI ON LIFE was the name of a shop I started with a friend, selling sustainable fashion. We sold external brands, and over time, we did smaller collections by ourselves or with fashion students. We started our own production in 2015 because I was missing high-fashion products... in the sustainable-fashion scene.
What’s the designer’s responsibility in encouraging a long-term relationship with clothes?
MB: It’s important for the whole system, not only the designer and the race to present new collections, but also the marketing aspect. This fabricated urge for something new all the time. And then the price... if something is cheap, you don’t get the same connection to the product.
Should we pay more for clothes?
MB: Yes. Obviously, not everyone can be paid if something costs 9.99 USD, considering cotton production, spinning, weaving, stitching, sewing, logistics, etc. It’s impossible that people in the chain have been paid for making such a product.
I want normal people to be able to buy the good stuff. But if clothes were a little bit more expensive, people along the production chain could get more pay and afford environmental considerations. And people would keep clothes longer.
How can we have a more sustainable approach to fashion?
MB: The big problems are overconsumption and overproduction. A lot of people are involved in the system, and most of them are invisible to the consumer. A lot of talk is about who designed the garment, but not the people who harvest cotton, produce thread, or sew clothes. A transparent system might mean less clothes being thrown away.
Are any sustainability innovations happening in textiles?
MB: Yes, a lot is happening, like getting rid of leather and similar materials. If you bake milk protein in the oven, it becomes a fluffy, wetsuit-like material. But these things are far from the market and mass production.
What can we learn from people in Ghana about how we relate to clothes?
MB: They value clothes much more, because [you go] to the market to get fabric, then to a local tailor who knows your measurements, then decide what style you want. A few days later, you pick up a garment tailored for you. You’ve been part of the process, and you know the person who made it. So, people take care of their clothes. And if the clothes need mending, the tailor can do that.
It’s a completely different cycle. You invest in a garment you keep for a longer time.
MB: Yeah. Lack of connection to what you wear is at the core of the problem. Add more value to the clothes you wear, and you’ll relate differently to them.
What are you working on right now?
MB: I’m working on a project called Cyber Atelier, where the customer can customize fashion. I was inspired by my daughter and apps that let you dress dolls, changing patterns, colors, and style. I’d like to do this for real, so the customer can decide. Building your product is more personal, so you get the feeling it’s made for you. It’s also produced on demand, so only one is made. Nothing is wasted before the sale. I’m not yet there with the technical stuff, so I’m trying to connect with people that are. I hope this approach adds value to clothes. Hopefully, it makes you appreciate, wear, and keep them in a different way.
Malin Busck, designer and owner of the HI ON LIFE, trained at the School of Textiles in Borås, Sweden. HI ON LIFE has gained international interest and showed in Paris, Milan, Berlin, Copenhagen, and Stockholm. In 2018, HI ON LIFE won the international Rebelpin Fashion Award.