Excess yarn becomes kimonos in sustainable winning collection Wabi-Sabi

Excess yarn forms the basis of Wabi-Sabi, the muted blue kimono duo with the playfully irregular pattern that won our latest Sustainable Design Contest.

“It’s fantastic to see how much work goes into every single garment,” says design student Kim Linghoff of her winner’s visit to KappAhl in Shanghai.

Our supplier of chunky knitwear in Shanghai is, as you might expect, home to large amounts of excess yarn from production. Much of this material is used, among other things, for new product samples, but it is much less common for it to be used to make new garments.

And that’s where fashion student Kim Linghoff comes in. In her competition entry for the second run of our Sustainable Design Contest – where design students put forward their innovative, sustainability-related ideas – she presented a smart, excess-yarn-based upcycling idea.

Playful and tasteful

And with that, she had the 2017 competition in the bag. “Playful and tasteful”, “new and exciting knitted products” and “a smart way of breathing new life into waste materials” were some of the things the jury had to say about her idea.

When it then came to putting the idea into practice, Kim collaborated closely with KappAhl’s team, which consisted of assistant designer Ann-Louise Wahledov, pattern-maker Lotta Silow, purchasing assistant Linda Olsson, purchasing co-ordinator Anna Persson and sustainability co-ordinator Lina Nyqvist. Getting an innovative design idea to work in a large-scale production context demands both experience and a certain amount of mental gymnastics.

“The design process was different and slightly complicated because the design had to be adapted to suit the yarns that were available in the greatest quantities at the factory. In the end, we used a viscose yarn in blue tones as a base, and that steered our later choices,” Nyqvist recounts.

Trip to Shanghai

After a couple of design meetings at KappAhl’s head office, Kim Linghoff’s prize – a trip to KappAhl’s production office in Shanghai – awaited. At the production office, she met product development manager Ingrid Ljungsvik, and Selena Han, who is our merchandiser for chunky knits in China. All three of them got the chance to see Kim’s garments during the production process.

“A fantastic experience. I saw the incredible amount of work that goes into every garment – not only mine, but all of them! The girls in the office are incredibly thorough. Not to mention very kind and welcoming,” says Linghoff.

They also managed to fit in a tour of the city itself.

“Shanghai is endlessly big. Wherever you go, it’s like you’re right in the centre of the city. And there are so many people! I’ve probably never been to such a crowded place. For the first few days I thought there must be some sort of special event going on, but that’s just the way it is – loads of people everywhere!”

Shanghai is a modern, urban, pulsating giant of a city, with 24 million inhabitants and an enormous choice of basically everything – not least fashion, of course. Anyone interested in design and trends will find floods of inspiration here.

“You really understand what an asset it is for KappAhl to have staff so close to production and the new trends,” says Linghoff.

The collection is ready

Over the summer, Kim’s kimonos have been refined and made a reality, and in the second half of September the Wabi-Sabi collection will be presented: one long and one short kimono, both of which in muted blue tones.

Where does the name come from?

“Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese concept based on conserving and loving the small defects in objects, and in life in general. It feels like a very topical message that we would all benefit from taking on board a little more, when it comes to both ourselves and others. In the garments, Wabi-Sabi is conveyed through the two patterns that are irregular and therefore “imperfect” in their form,” says Linghoff.

Wabi-Sabi will be available in selected stores and in our Shop Online.

Sustainable Design Contest

  • KappAhl Sustainable Design Contest is a competition for fashion and textiles students from Sweden, Finland, Norway and Poland who would like to get involved in developing the sustainable design solutions of the future.
  • Over eighty per cent of a product’s environmental impact is determined at the drawing board. This, combined with KappAhl’s ambition to help to develop new ways of working with sustainable design and production, inspired the competition.
  • Entries must feature innovative design ideas with a clear focus on sustainability that would work in a large-scale production context.
  • The contest was established by KappAhl in 2016.
  • The winner of KappAhl Sustainable Design Contest is given the chance to put their idea into practice with KappAhl’s designers, as well as to either go on a sustainable-production-themed trip to one of KappAhl’s countries of production or participate in a month-long internship at KappAhl’s head office.