Issue 5 out now – Get your copy!
Why not buy your christmas gift from ”the world’s smallest webshop”?
One Dear Thing rejects mass-consumption and connects the world — one piece at a time.
Marcus Bergman and Maria Trapp is the duo behind One Dear Thing.
MB: I was born in Borås, the Manchester of Sweden, in a family that’s been in the textile business for generations. Textiles came naturally to me, both as a passion for both home furnishings and menswear, but also as a profession. My formal training and education, however, is in social sciences, so I guess I’ve just tried to combine my interests and ended up where I am today, in the field of textile sustainability. It’s a field that is quite difficult to define, ranging from social issues to technical development. But that’s also why I enjoy working in this field, in spite of the great challenges. I’ve worked for larger corporations as well as being an independent consultant and academic, but I’ve always found it crucial to work in real life, from field level and throughout the production chain. The last decade has been an almost constant journey for me, and I’m still passionately interested in trying to figure out how stuff works and being both an advocate for change and a practical change-maker. If you see the changes in material technology, production and retail that are happening right now from an historical perspective, it’s really something special. The industry is transforming. From a sustainability perspective, there are still huge problems out there, but there’s also believable hope.
MT: I have a different background from Marcus except that I also are born in Borås, where I got to know Marcus in the early 90’s. I have a background in the rock material industry and as a technical consultant in buildings and geotechnics. My family business, that has invested in Galantus, was the first in Sweden with a technology for mobile rock crushing. A development that reduced transports within the industry. I’m an engineer, and having worked for a few years in our family business after university, I went on to work for a global engineering consultancy firm for 16 years. In spring 2017, I decided to invest in and form a company together with Marcus, a sustainability strategist. One of my great interests is building preservation and I and my husband own two older houses as well as a forestry property.
Tell us about your connection with Peru.
MB: When I was 11, my parents began working in Peru, starting the first commercial organic cotton project that we know of. Their ambition was to develop methods that could replace the harmful pesticides used in cotton agriculture. Today, we all know about these issues, but in the 1980’s the problems were kind of unheard of, and environmentally friendly methods didn’t exist. So it took a lot of research and work to turn organic. At first, crops were much lower than with conventional methods, but after a few years they were back to previous levels, and subsequently even better. It proves that cotton should only be grown in the right climate. We need less cotton, but of higher quality. The project turned into a Peruvian company, Bergman/Rivera, that is doing very well today.
And they have an amazing story to tell from a factory in Estonia.
MB: Some ten years ago I visited Narva, the easternmost town in Estonia, just by the Russian border and the major textile producing town in Estonia, with weaving, printing and sewing facilities that were huge, and situated in historical buildings. They had kept textile traditions alive, and managed to shift from bulk production to high-end printing and sewing. But this was the aftermath of the financial crisis, and the town took some hard blows. The largest factory went bankrupt and unemployment rates in Narva was 40 %. It was really gruesome. When preparing production for One Dear Thing, we heard about a guy in Narva who had opened a specialized sewing workshop, employing some 40 skilled women, making smaller production runs also in home textiles. We went there and found a town that had a completely different atmosphere from ten years ago. The guy, Sergei, turned out to be a real entrepreneur with perfect understanding of how to make efficient production, and with a super sense of quality. He had taken the best practices from the old days, but adapted to a textile landscape that is completely different today than it was just ten years ago. And we saw signs everywhere that Narva itself has changed. It’s still a historic place, and sure, there are derelict buildings left. But the vibe is great and there are restaurants and bars opening up. Ten years ago, I thought I’d never come back, but I come back and really enjoy it.
How do you work with sustainability?
MB: In our opinion sustainability means economy, ecology, ethics and aesthetics. When all these components are in place, in a product or service, then one can use the word sustainability. Emitting one of these components simply means that the process or product is not really designed well. We try, as far as we can, to take all this into consideration. And we are strong advocates of quality, which of course can be many things but is seldom a coincidence. Buy less, buy dear.
Tell us about your first product launch.
MT: We wanted to give an example of our thinking, and bedding came to mind. Home furnishings is a market where textiles have become devalued, you can go into a high street shop or a huge store and it’s the same story, four meters of fabric at a price point that doesn’t even cover the raw material cost, if you ask us. We started thinking on how to change this, how to give value to the product. First, we came up with the idea of selling only one product at a time, thereby getting the chance to tell the complete story of a textile product. From the cotton field, through all the production steps. Then we started discussing designs and patterns. Our original idea was to put together an archive of modernist textile designs, but as we went through all these patterns, we grew tired of old stuff. We wanted to deal with the classics of the future, not the classics of the past. And when we found the Worldscape pattern by Sara Gullman, originally created as part of a graduation project from The School of Arts and Crafts at Gothenburg, everything came together for us. The pattern is inspired by the global movements of Doctors Without Borders, and this became part of our manifesto – to create products that not only fulfil our sustainability criteria but are also designed with a conscious effort to highlight societal issues. Kind of like what William Morris would have done, if he would be working today. In that sense, our thinking is classic. But our products are more in tune with a contemporary lifestyle. Living with less things, but better things. Not really caring for identikits, but choosing each possession individually and as part of a collage.
How come that you call yourself the world’s smallest webshop?
MB: It’s a play on words. Our first idea was something in the line of “the minimal shop”, but that hinted at a certain style. We don’t want that. We like to think of our style as timeless, and also transcending ideas of geography and demography. MT: Of course you can say it’s a play on words. But I it is also true, since we only sell one product at a time. It´s difficult to be smaller than that. Also, one can say that we are a quite large shop, as we tell so much about the product.
MB: The next edition of One Dear Thing, product number two, will be something completely different. But it will have a story that involves materiality and will be presented in the form of a journey, just like our first product.
MT: One Dear thing is a project within Galantus, our company, and we parallel are working with other projects in the sustainability field. One that is a material development projects in collaboration with others. We are also helping other companies to develop sustainability projects and sustainability plans.