Tobias Birk Nielsen uses recycled fibres to go back to the roots at Copenhagen Fashion Week
This week, the native Copenhagener presents his first catwalk show on Danish soil during Copenhagen Fashion Week where all showpieces have been carefully made with the dogma of ”bricolage”, which means being developed from what is already in hand.
31 Jan 2022

In 2017, right after graduating with a Master’s degree from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, the Danish designer started his brand ISO.POETISM BY TOBIAS BIRK NIELSEN. This week, he’s one of the three selected finalists for the Zalando Sustainability Award, securing his spot at Copenhagen Fashion Week’s official show schedule.

— Our brand has been built largely on international markets, with more than half of our sales in Asia. We’ve previously had shows outside of Denmark — as in Berghain, Berlin — and in Denmark, we’ve made some installation presentations. But this is our first time as part of the official show calendar — and it is truly a milestone for us and me personally as a native Copenhagener, Birk Nielsen tells, continuing,

— The AW22 collection is entitled The Echoes Which we Remain. It is a reflection on how to maintain and pass on the values of the relations with our departed ones, as well as inspire to cherish the current ones while they are still able to define. In short, the collection is therefore intended as a tribute to the circle of life and the vast beautiful aspects within.

Tobias Birk Nielsen.

As one of the three finalists in a sustainability competition, how do you work with it?

— While our vision for the brand relies on an emotional sustainable perspective, we encounter sustainability from the design dogma we work with on a daily basis, and several initiatives have been taken in terms of production and design crafting, Birk Nielsen tells. He continues:

— First of all, the majority of the collection is built upon Korean textiles, made from 100% recycled fibres certified with the GRS standards. Secondly, we only use our own developed dying techniques to maintain the ambition of the lowest usage of water and actual dye as possible. It’s based on a simple procedure that minimizes pollution by up to 50% compared with conventional dyeing techniques. Thirdly, we aim for a zero-waste design approach and use previously developed textiles in the terms of leftover cuts from prior bulk productions not fully used. For the AW22 collection, the leftover cuts have been upcycled and re-contextualized into garments. In addition, all showpieces for the AW22 runway show have been carefully made with the dogma of ”bricolage”, which means being developed from what is already in hand. This purposely avoids additional resource consumption, opposite of creating new items from scratch, so all these showpieces are created on the base from an artefact from a previous collection and then re-worked into the expression of the AW22 collection theme.

— Aside from the initiatives being directly linked to the development of our collections, the mindful perspective of consumption is also reflected in the communicative side of the collection. This means that for lookbook settings and the universe content, our installation environments have been developed from using what we had available and manipulating, modifying, and recreating something new. For AW22 we have used cut-off fabrics dipped in clay and recycled moss to create the manifestation of a volcanic landscape. Previous examples include upcycling car interiors, discarded parachutes, and ripped sails.

For Birk Nielsen, the brand’s sustainability work is about starting through micro eco-friendly steps, then patiently turning them into bigger movements.

— Also, I believe we should consider the meaning of ’sustainable’. I understand that this is the overall interpretation of challenging the conventional production in particular from the fashion industry, however, the fashion industry, in general, is very far from being sustainable. Being a designer in a world that doesn’t really need more clothes, I rely on the fact of being mindful in our approach to creating and ensuring what we do has a purpose. It’s without a doubt, that a ’sustainable’ approach from every angle within the fashion industry is becoming mandatory. My hope and expectation in regards to sustainable fashion are that this change of habits through every link of the chain will be just as mandatory as it has become not smoking inside in an airport or at a concert. It once was difficult to imagine due to many years of practice but once the change has been implemented, then it quickly becomes difficult to even remember a time prior to this — and difficult to understand why it had to take such a long time to turn the ship around, he concludes.