An Interview with Fredrik Stenvinkel of 15:21

15:21 is a Stockholm-based brand with a love for functional minimalist design. We make everyday essentials – the things you touch and hold the most (lovers aside) – in natural cork. 

Cork Wallet, iPhone 6 Cork Case, Cork Passport Holder and Cork Cardholder

Tell us about your story – education, prior work, and so on?

I have no prior experience working with fashion. My past working places we’re rectangular and the work monotonous which inspired me to create the creative space which is 15:21.

How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?

I’ve always have had a strong passion for creating a sustainable future and fashion. Starting a accessory brand creating cork accessories just seemed like the natural way of integrating my two greatest interests.

What seems like the importance of a (relative to the country) living wage?

I personally believe that sewing clothes is a great first step for people to get out of poverty. For this to be possible, living wages is a necessity. All companies working in the field of fashion must start to take their responsibility to ensure that their suppliers are paying the workers enough.

The iPhone 6 case, cardholder and wallet

What makes slow fashion better than fast fashion?

You know how you begin to form an emotional connection to a clothing item you’ve had for ages? That’s slow fashion. Fast fashion clothes just doesn’t have that kind of durability to survive long enough for you to gain any kind of relation with it, and that’s a deal breaker, at least for me.

The Pythagoreans, the Neoplatonists, Aristotle, and the Stoics, William Wilberforce, Baron Erskine created the ancient thought about animal rights. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, discussed the suffering of non-human animals. Peter Singer argues for non-human animal rights too. The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and others work to support animals and work to enforce their rights. Some fashion manufacture processes violate animals’ rights. What is the importance of animal rights, especially in an ethical and sustainable fashion context?

The thought of animals being treated badly just for the cause of creating as cheap as possible leather is horrible. I believe that ultimately it’s up to the consumers to change their behaviour and take a stand for animals’ right by purchasing goods produced responsibly. So if you’re considering buying a cheap leather wallet, you should probably just go for cork instead. Nobody want’s bad karma in their pocket.

Climate change represents one of the biggest medium- to long-term threats to human survival in reasonable forms. The Government of Canada, NASA, the David Suzuki Foundation, The Royal Society, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and numerous others discuss this. Ethical and sustainable fashion relates to it. The reductions in hydrocarbon production from sustainable materials seem imperative sustain the further deterioration of the atmosphere, the biosphere, and the environment. What seems like the responsibilities of ethical and sustainable fashion companies in the prevention of climate catastrophe?

I’m a big supporter of H&Ms initiative to recycle worn clothes in all of their stores! Since 2013 they have collected enough garments from consumers to produce 150 million million t-shirts. I hope and encourage more companies to involve their customers in creating a more sustainable fashion industry in the near future.

It’s also very important that all companies working with fashion take responsibility of the impacts caused by the value chain. Materials, Working conditions, fair Wages, Fire & building safety, Animal welfare, chemicals, climate & emissions and use of Water are all crucial areas within fashion that generally needs improvement.

Cork Wallet

The Ethical Fashion Forum developed the Ethical Policy Framework. An ethical policy framework tool for those devoted to enactment of ethical and sustainable purchases, production, and business decisions. What do services such as these perform for the public, consumers, producers, and businesspeople?  

These types of initiatives are just great as they connect sustainable brands with consumers wishing to contribute to a better world. They also help businesses like us to find responsible producers.

What is 15:21?

We are a Stockholm-based brand with a love for functional minimalist design. We make everyday essentials – the things you touch and hold the most (lovers aside) – in natural cork.

The concept behind 15:21 is to blend Scandinavian simplicity with nature’s own aesthetics. All our products are made in fine quality Portuguese cork. It’s our belief that nature should be nourished, not exploited. By working with cork, we do exactly that

What inspired the title of the organization?

It all started with a missed train to work.

Arriving at the train station at 15:21, I was a few seconds late but just in time to watch my train to work close its doors and slowly roll away. Instead of feeling frustrated, I had a moment of lucidity where I came to realize how my life was built around routines and my soul-less work. I began to pick up on an old project and started sketching on new ideas.

That’s how 15:21 came about.

What are some of its feature products?

Our collection is currently slim. We’re offering wallets, card holder, passport holder and iPhone cases all made in cork. Keep an eye on us because exciting products are soon to be unveiled.

Card case

Who grows, harvests, designs, and manufactures the products of 15:21?

The cork we use for our carrying collection is sourced in Braga, Portugal where they also are made. The products are designed in Stockholm.

What is the customer base – the demographics?

We like to describe our customers with one word – conscious.

Child labor and slavery are problems, major ones. These include children throughout the world. Tens of millions of children in the case of child labor. A few million children in the case of child slavery. According to the Minimum Age Convention (1973), labor before the age of 14, 15, or 16, dependent upon the country, is child labor. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) in Article 7, Article 24(1), Article 24(2), and Article 24(3), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) in Article 10(3), The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) in Article 2(2), Article 3(1), Article 3(2), and Article 19, the Vienna Declartion and Programme of Action (1993) in Section II (Paragraph 45-48 and 50), and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (2000) delineate children’s rights. These stipulations about equality remain violated in the fashion industry, especially the manufacturing sector or the garment industry. How can individuals get the word out about these extreme children’s rights violations?

There are several ways to force manufacturers to do the production in the light of day. I personally believe that short interviews with children working in production of fast fashion clothes on social medias will in the long run have the biggest impact on the consumers.

How can individuals, designers, fashion industries, and consumers begin to work to implement those rights so that these vulnerable populations, women and children, in many countries of the world have better quality of life?

Companies working fashion obviously have the biggest responsibility but anyone can support a better quality of life for workers in the manufacturing sector. By simply demanding slow fashion companies will have to adjust their strategies to stay in demand. I personally believe that companies that take social and environmental aspects into consideration will be most successful in the end.

From personal observations, more women than men involve themselves in the fashion
industry by a vast margin of difference at most levels. Why?

I believe that we’re slowly going towards a gender equilibrium in fashion as men becomes more interested in fashion and style.

What personal fulfillment comes from this work for you?

The reason for choosing to work with cork besides it being aesthetically pleasing is by using the material incredible direct and indirect effects are made on the environment. For example, trees are never cut down or harmed in the process of sourcing cork. Rather, more trees are planted and the cork forests nourished with increased production and becomes protected as it acquires an economic value. A harvested oak is by law left for 9 years to regrow it’s bark. During this time the tree absorbs up to five times more co2 which has led to Portugal’s cork forests absorbing more than 10 million tons of carbon dioxides annually.

A great personal fulfillment for me would be to play a part in making the fashion industry more conscious.

Any recommended means of contacting, even becoming involved with, you?

I encourage all curious about what we do to contact me at fredrik@1521store.com.

Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion based on the conversation today?

Consumer awareness is definitely the key in my opinion to solve the social and environmental issues of today’s fashion industry. Therefore, it makes me really excited to find organizations like trusted clothes raising awareness and educating people of the effects caused by fast fashion. I believe that the future is bright for slow fashion as an increasingly amount of people are enlightened of the true cost of suspiciously cheap clothes.

Thank you for your time, Fredrik.

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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