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”The textiles are liberated from their previous, outdated purpose and get the chance of a second life”

Berlin-based fashion designer Nhu Duong joins forces with independent brewery Spendrups, fashion retailer APLACE, and circular fashion initiative Re:Textile in a special collection, made in Sweden of recycled brewery workwear.

Nhu Duong was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and immigrated with her parents to Sweden when she was seven years old. She studied Fashion Design in Florence and Stockholm and is, since a few years, based in Berlin.

— As I immigrated from Vietnam to Sweden at the age of 8, the question of fitting in and living between different cultures has shaped my experience considerably, she says. You naturally take things from one cultural context and put them into another. In a way, it is about bringing together the contrasting parts that exist both in different cultures as well as yourself. For me, fashion can be a way to fit in and stand out at once.

Now working as a designer, she’s tried to find her own ways of working and producing fashion and to set up a structure that allows her to work in her own pace. That includes working with small producers and source materials in Europe.

— It allows me to produce in a flexible way without much waste or overproduction. Today ethics and sustainability are often used as buzzwords to market products and have become trends in themselves. Therefore it is important to stay honest and transparent about what you do. I want to build something of lasting value and a community around my work rather than chasing the latest trend, she says, continuing,

— Just like with other cultural expressions, fashion is a reflection of the times that we live in. Technology is as much part of our cultural vocabulary as are past expressions and traditions. There is no recipe or formula to my work, I try to stay open to different influences and not exclude anything.

Swedish Spendrups is an independent Swedish brewery in the fourth generation, established in 1897 — and, according to Anna-Stina Hallberg, ”infernally inquisitive”.

— We simply like to experiment and discover new things, she states.

Enter functional drink The Naia Initiative, where Hallberg works as Marketing Director, aiming to offer drinks that do more than just quench thirst through transparency, clarity, and innovation. The launch, for example, is through their ”Friends”.

— They’re people who we are inspired by and we want to support them in their own cultural expressions through special initiatives and projects. What we make together is up to them as long as we share the same values. We wanted to support Nhu as a designer and her vision to make a sustainable capsule collection — that our old workwear, which was just about to be updated at the beginning of the project, could be the core of this is of course also a plus! Sustainability is at the core of our company. We use circular energy in our brewery and we are happy that we got to incorporate this circular mindset together with Nhu Duong. Her collection is a great example of how to make something new without wasting resources.

The collection is unisex and includes 15 pieces, where each piece is unique, made at Re:Textile’s factory in Borås, Sweden. By re-using and deconstructing dead stock worker wear and technical materials from applications such as airbags, the collection transforms these textiles through the act of adding and removing functional elements.

— I was approached by the team working on the Naia Initiative Campaign, including my old friend Kristian Rajnai, who is the founder of magazine and fashion and online plattform Aplace. We were excited about exploring the idea of producing a collection in Sweden and I wanted to create a collection that merged sustainability, fashion, and innovation, says Duong.

— It explores the question of functionality in fashion by playfully applying the concept of ”free-from”. The textiles are liberated from their previous, outdated purpose and get the chance of a second life and double-function. The resulting collection is a hybrid that merges past and present, functional and non-functional, fashion and non-fashion.

— Branded merchandise was something we were thinking of producing but wanted to make together with someone who is actually experienced in the field, instead of just printing T-shirts, says Anna-Stina Hallberg. We wanted to take it to another level and actually make something that people want to wear. We are now planning more projects together with our ”Friends” and have initiatives planned with Imenella, Madi Banja, Valdemar Fredriksson, Sofia Mattsson, Kajsa Rosén, and Najib Morllah throughout the year.

— I want to continue to slowly and in a sustained manner build up my brand in terms of both organisation and production, says Duong. At the same time I want to connect internationally and engage in a more critical discourse around fashion.

The Free From collection, available at Aplace’ stores and now. Photography: Rob Kulisek
Nhu Duong