Swedish shop Asket’s moral fibers
Asket leads the way in ethically focused fashion brands
It would be a push to say fashion can be sustainable — properly so — but some brands are bucking the tradition of perpetual consumption and newness. Asket, based in Stockholm, makes luxury essentials akin to Sunspel and James Perse, and lists the various production costs of its goods on its website. For example, a cotton sweatshirt is broken down as follows: fabric, £14.10; labour, £8.90; transport, 40p; giving a total of £23.40, which is then bumped up to £75 to make a profit. Asket claim the market equivalent would sell at £135. (You can definitely buy a sweat for less, but at least they’re being honest.)
“[People] have been concerned about the origin of the food we eat for quite some time,” says Asket co-founder August Bard Bringéus. “It’s only natural that we’ve started to demand more transparency when it comes to what we wear.” That transparency is extensive. Asket’s website has images and information on all the factories it uses, and shows what hours its employees work and even how much they earn. Asket’s 300 chinomakers in Milan, for example, work eight-hour shifts and take home €1,400 per month on average.
“With the constant race to stand out from the crowd and convince us to buy more, we’ve started spinning out of control and there’s a bullwhip effect across the whole value chain,” Bringéus says, “from the final garment all the way back to the cotton seed. Everywhere you look, [brands] are forced to cut corners, and customers are kind of the same. We’re intrigued by a €10 price tag for a T-shirt, instead of asking ourselves how it’s possible that a garment, made on the other side of the world, sold in a heavily-marketed, expensive retail location, can sell for less than a lunch.”
Asket will have just one permanent collection (each product, however, is subject to continuous customer feedback-led tweaking) and is planning to operate solely online. The footprint is small, but many brands with bigger feet are toeing the line, too. Stella McCartney recently expanded its sustainable, animal welfare-conscious luxury brand to include menswear. Gant is now pushing a green agenda, utilising dumped plastic recovered from oceans in its Tech Prep shirting collection. Elsewhere, the H&M group has announced that it is moving towards fully sustainable production.
Is Asket’s transparency setting a precedent? “I think traditional brands that rely purely on either high frequency or high value buying will have a tough time,” predicts Bringéus. “Instead, the brands that address the growing customer concerns and invite people to become part of the change will come out stronger. There’s a network effect to it; the more brands that provide transparency and set a higher social and ethical standard, the more customers will start seeing that higher standard as a requirement.”
We all need to be a bit more woke, and even if it’s just a drop in the ocean, a green flash in the fashion pan, then surely that’s better than nothing, right? Besides, Asket sells chinos, sweats and knitwear. It’s not like they’re getting all high and mighty about diamante cowboy boots.
The only way is ethics: Asket’s website openly declares the brand’s ‘Specialty Cottons Factories’ in Reguenga, Portugal, employ 70 workers earning around €800 per month each
Fabric £14.10 Labour £8.90 Transport40p Total £23.40 Our price£75 Competitor’sprice £135