On an unusually hot, late summer afternoon I visited the office of the Second hand chain Emmaus in Stockholm. I had booked a meeting with Satu Holopainen (S) and Ann-Sofi Kingborg (A-S) since they had been recommended as inspiring people by no other than their boss. They didn’t know who I was and I had never met them before. But when Satu opened the door and Ann-Sofi took my hand, I knew exactly why they were recommended. Both their styles had a sense of attitude, bravery, second-handish but also colourful and personal. Humble and rocky at the same time. I asked if I could interview them about their relationship with their closet. I was curious to hear their perspectives, since both of them work in the second hand industry.
How would you describe your relationship with clothes?
It has changed through the years. It used to be my way of expressing creativity. I used to redesign my grandmothers clothes! I listened to alternative music and coloured my hair black. Now it has changed, it’s more like a game and not necessarily an expression of my identity.
S: It's a complicated question. I appreciate aesthetics but it’s more complicated than that. It’s always, to some extent, about expressing ones personality and identity. What we wear is not a coincidence. For me, it has to be functional and practical depending on what I’m doing that day. I normally bike so my clothes has to be bike friendly, including shoes!
A-S: The practical outdoor part of my style came at a later stage. I’m older and more confident now. What I wear can be a funny story. For example, if I see someone wearing a cropped top and I like it, I feel inspired and will wear one as well. Who cares if I have given birth to two children?! I want to wear whatever inspires me.
S: I totally agree!
A-S: But if I’m going out in the forest to pick mushrooms I want it to be practical. But there’s a limit of being practical too because life is too short and I don’t want to wear regular working clothes every day at my job. People ask me what if they get ruined or broken and my answer is what if I die and I haven’t used the clothes in my closet? I have a huge closet. And the older I get the more my clothes feels silly.. like a t-shirt with a statement I no longer support.
S: I agree, you change throughout life.
A-S: I’m not scared though to use my clothes. But maybe a rhinestone dress isn’t what I would wear at work..
How would you describe each other’s style?
S: Ann-Sofi normally wear dresses and skirts.. like “girlish” clothes and they’re tight. Like skinny jeans. You also wear socks.. I believe socks are your thing!
A-S: That’s true! Socks are my thing!
A: You also dress with a lot of colours, not always but you’re not scared of being colourful.
A-S: Satu, you normally wear what you wear today! A t-shirt, shorts and overalls.
S: I love overalls.
A-S: You also wear white clothes and clothes with details. And you love kimonos!
S: That’s true!
A-S: Wide arms.. not so tight. Skinny is not your thing and you love hoodies. You love oversize and I do not, we’re different there.
S: You’re right about details. The more weird the details are the better!
A-S: Remember the blue shirt with the “image” of eyes on the collar? You love that one!
S: Yes! Actually one of my colleagues made that one and I found it here at the second hand market! How weird and wonderful isn’t that?
How would you describe your closet?
S: I need to clean it out!
A-S: I live in a house from the 50s and I have four big closets and my boyfriend one.. and it’s not like there’s only one dress on each hanger.
S: I don’t have so many items but I get anxious about the clothes I’m not using. I do reflect upon it, why are they still in my closet? Do I have an emotional attachment to them somehow? My perfect closet would be one only with clothes I use.
A-S: Once I gained weight, bought a lot of new clothes, then lost weight again and now I have boxes with clothes I don’t wear..
S. Me too, two in the basement but it’s all vintage clothes I want to spare.
A-S: I’m actually better at donating the children’s clothes than my own, my younger friends with babies are gladly accepting my gifts of second hand children’s clothes.
What is a sustainable closet for you?
S: For me it’s a closet where all the clothes are being used. You should have the knowledge on how to repair so if something gets broken, you fix it instead of throwing it away. In today’s society it’s difficult, people don’t have time!
A-S: I mend my clothes, even my stockings. I’m cheap! I don’t like to spend money on clothes.
S: Stockings must be the most boring clothing item ever.. It’s designed to break. I would like to add that a sustainable closet is one where you don’t buy new clothes all the time. You have to constrain yourself a little. Do you really need something new? Maybe you don’t? Think twice and if you really need something, buy second hand.
What needs to change in the fashion industry and the way we consume clothes?
S: The volumes of textiles! So much new production and the speed of it must slow down. Every week a new collection is launched. The quality must also increase. At the moment too many of the clothes in the second hand market are of low quality.
What can one do that seeks to create a more sustainable closet?
S: Map your needs, your lifestyle and reflect upon if your closet matches your taste and needs. Instead of shopping spontaneously here and there, have an holistic approach so you use everything in your closet.
A-S: A period of “purchase stop” in your life can be good. I believe a lot of people are buying clothes to be happy. Because when you buy something new you get a little bit high!
S: I believe there’s research about that..
A-S: You want to wear something new when meeting your friends, they like it and give you compliments and you get a kick. I believe you should seek that sensation in relation to something else.
S: You can also write down your expenses on clothes and keep track of how much you spend on clothes. Reflect upon it.
A-S: A little bit like the show The Luxury Trap..
And there our conversation ended. Satu and Ann-Sofie’s inspiring view on their closet ended with the perspective on what do we really need and how is that affecting our economy and wellbeing. Thank you so much for sharing your insights. Read more about Emmaus here!
If you want to be interviewed or recommend someone, please contact me!