Wool Quest

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Wool Quest

Award-winning Norwegian designer Elisabeth Stray Pedersen set out on a quest to optimize the value chain of the wool fashion industry. Along the way she created her own brand ...

In just four short years, recent design graduate Elisabeth Stray Pedersen has established her own clothing brand( E S P), taken over the well-known Oslo-based Lillunn factory, was a finalist for the International Woolmark Prize, and last year won a Jacob Award,  for excellence in design.

For a recent graduate, any one of those would be a major achievement, but Stray Pedersen takes it all in stride.

“I feel as if a change is taking place," she says in an interview after beinig granted the 2018 Jacob Award. "There is a shift in trend towards everything from food to clothes, in that we are becoming more and more concerned about howeverything around us is produced. Whereas the previous generation was, if I may be so bold, preoccupied with consumption and cheap goods, it seems as if more and more people are interested in ‘the real deal’ nowadays. They want to know the origins of their belongings and that they’re not contributing to negative impacts if they have a choice. E S P is all about giving people that choice by focusing on high-quality materials and more sustainable production methods.”

E S P has justifiably attracted considerable international attention. One reason is that super model Gigi Hadid has been observed swathed in a wool coat from E S P.

The brand can be found in shops in both Europe and Japan and there is increasing interest in the designer who, according to the jury responsible for the Jacob Award, “represents a generational shift that views opportunities to propel Norwegian textile history into a new era with new eyes.”

Pedersen & Wool: How they met

“I’ve dreamed about having my own clothing brand since I was a child and was allowed to sew the oddest creations on my mum’s sewing machine. We agreed about the importance of being well dressed, but style was another thing altogether,” laughs Stray Pedersen.

With its self-cleaning ability, exceptional insulation and extreme flexibility, wool is being rediscovered among designers and consumers alike, especially since fleece was exposed as a heap of  loosely compiled microplastics. It seems as if people just can’t seem to get enough of it (wool, that is) and Elisabeth Stray Pedersen believes this is just the beginning.

“Wool is a fantastic material with endless creative possibilities. It can be stretched, knitted, felted and woven and can be thin as silk or thick enough to protect a baby from an Arctic winter. Wool  clothing also lasts five times longer on average than other materials. Wool is also 100% biodegradable if no harmful chemicals for colouring and post-treatment are used. In fact, you can bury it  in the ground and, six months later, it will have turned into soil. What’s not to like?”

Changing the industry

 Pedersen did her Master’s thesis on the value chain in the clothing industry and discovered there is significant room and potential for improvement in numerous areas.

 “Put briefly, I discovered that the model is simply not sustainable in the long term, neither economically nor environmentally. It’s ineffective, resource-draining   and leads to overproduction. I researched the aspects that made the model unsustainable and developed hypotheses for what could be done differently, which is actually what I’m doing with E S P [her clothing brand].

“Today, it’s relatively expensive to produce the way I am doing in Norway, but I also believe that a change is taking place that will have major consequences,” she says and talks about a workshop she attended, where they demonstrated pattern design in 3D.

“This is technology that is still in its infancy and demands both enhanced competence and more testing before all the possibilities are known. But it is merely a question of time before this also becomes part of the everyday routine of individual designers. After all, it removes an entire chain of intermediaries that don’t have anything to do with prototyping today and the fact that you don’t have to send samples back and forth alone saves a ton of time and money. I think this will lead to a paradigm shift in how we use resources in the clothing industry and, hopefully, will have a positive effect on how we assess quality.”


Full interview in Norwegian on: https://doga.no/aktuelt/nyheter/jakob-prisen-2018-ullvinneren/ 

Credits to: 
Photo: Simon Skreddernes
Hair: Pål Berdahl
Makeup: Sarah Schultz Pedersen
Model: Lina Stensjø/ Heartbreak Model Management 





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