December is one the few times of the year people can expect to find something good in their stockings. But a hosiery brand from Sweden hopes to change that forever.
After seeing the documentary “The Light Bulb Conspiracy,” which explores the planned obsolescence of consumer goods, Nadja Forsberg had a lightbulb moment of her own.
“Pantyhose was brought up [in the film] as a product that has gone from a top quality product that used to be repaired by tailors in the Sixties to becoming a common wear-and-tear clothing item,” she explained. “On top of that, pantyhose is a petroleum product and the production is very harmful to the environment. Based on these facts we created Swedish Stockings in November 2013. We believe that sustainability can be achieved along with great design and quality.”
Though she had no experience in the industry, Forsberg who studied journalism and worked for Swedish broadcasting, and her cofounder Linn Frisinger, who was in finance, began a socially and environmentally sustainable hosiery line, working very closely with a manufacturer in Italy.
The Swedish Stockings production method collects polyamide floor waste, melts it down and makes it into new nylon yarn, which is knit in 3-D — all in solar-powered factories. The process is zero waste, energy efficient and saves water.
Swedish Stockings can now be found in around 400 retailers in Holland, Canada, Germany, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Denmark as well as in the U.S. at a few small boutiques and online sellers.
At home in Sweden, amongst others, the brand is sold in Åhléns department stores, and entered & Other Stories online this month. And it launched in worldwide Filippa K stores with a collaborative collection for fall 2016.
Prices range from $16 for micro net knee-highs to $36 for the newest style, 180-den Tencel tights aimed to counter chilly winters. Other styles are sheer, and have back seams, dots, or subtle glitter.
Despite the variety, Forsberg says the firm’s biggest challenge at the moment is design.
“We are to some extent restricted to do certain models because of the recycled materials that we are working with,” she conceded.
The material world impact’s their product’s second life as well. Swedish Stockings offers a recycling program for hosiery of any brand, to keep them out of landfills. Customers can send in three or more pairs of old stockings back to the company to receive an online discount code for their next purchase.
But the very thing that makes most hosiery cling and contour causes recycling headaches — separating stretchy elastane from the polyamide nylon.
“We’re stuck in one phase, because when it comes to separating pantyhose, elastane is a b—h,” she told an amused crowd at a sustainable fashion summit this fall in Berlin.
Instead, the materials are repurposed into fiberglass tanks — hardly glamorous, but environmentally on trend. And for the long term, the Swedish Stockings team hopes to crack the problem of separating hosiery’s fibers and to create fully recycled and recyclable legwear.
This year has been a positive one for Swedish Stockings. The company expanded into multiple retail points and won Elle Sweden’s “New Brand of the Year Award” for 2016. Forsberg said the brand will have a turnover of six million Swedish kroner, or $641,826 at current exchange, this year, and is aiming to more than double that in 2017 — to an estimated 15 million kroner, or $1.6 million.
They’re about to get some company in the sustainable legwear field. In January, German hosiery giant Kunert will launch its first eco-collection, Kunert Blue, made from recycled fishing nets and other nylon. This could represent competition for the small Swedish upstart, but for Nadja Forsberg, it’s great news.
“Swedish Stockings’ mission is to influence and change this industry,” she said. “So for us to see that other brands take eco-friendly initiatives is great. We all need to contribute in order to create awareness and behavioral changes.”