Swedish Stockings targets international expansion for its eco-sustainable tights range
While an increasing number of labels are manufacturing eco-sustainable products, in 2014 Nadja Forsberg and Linn Frisinger, two Swedish businesswomen in their thirties, noticed that no one had yet thought about stylish, ethically sourced tights. From this premise they created Swedish Stockings, launching some thirty different sustainable models every season, including socks for the summer.
"In general, tights are made from petroleum and have a very short life, as they wear out quickly. They are a highly pollutant product to manufacture," said the Swedish label’s founders.
Swedish Stockings tights are produced using nylon offcuts discarded by traditional hosiery manufacturers. They are made by an Italian factory close to Lake Garda which functions using renewable or naturally generated energy only. Nadja Forsberg, who is in charge of style, and Linn Frisinger, more concerned with the financial side of the business, emphasised how their products have been awarded several certifications: Oeko-Tex Standard 100, which bans chemical tight dyes; ISO 9001, which guarantees manufacturing quality; and ISO 14001, which guarantees the company is environmentally responsible.
An ethical manufacturer isn't concerned with production processes only. This is why Nadja Forsberg and Linn Frisinger work with several research groups to develop a fibre entirely derived from recycled tights. In the meantime, they invite consumers the world over to send them their used tights - which they then convert into industrial oil and grease - in exchange for a 10% discount on their e-shop. Swedish Stockings's founders are also assessing whether they can recycle tights which incorporate pieces of jewellery. The packaging too is environmentally friendly, made of sustainably sourced carton.
In 2017, Swedish Stockings sold nearly 50,000 pairs of tights through their 500 distributors worldwide, a figure they expect to treble in 2018. The brand is well-established in eight countries, notably Sweden, the Netherlands and the USA (where it is available at Nordstrom and at the Reformation label's stores), and it is now keen to enter French department stores. It is currently negotiating with the Galeries Lafayette group and thinks this distribution channel would be ideal to win over French consumers.
As for other retail outlets, the brand is targeting establishments like hotels, restaurants and also the kind of directional concept store which could do justice to the products. Forsberg and Frisinger point out that the strength of their products is that they are fashion accessories, and attract the attention of ready-to-wear labels. Some have asked to use Swedish Stockings products in their catwalk shows, for example Filippa K, with which the brand has collaborated.
"We are the only eco-sustainable tights brand. It's hard to say no to working with labels who ask us, as we actively want to change the industry. But we don't want to associate Swedish Stockings with labels whose style we don't like," said the founders. They are therefore considering setting up a second, sub-contracting business to produce for other labels.
Forsberg and Frisinger attracted the attention of Lasse Karlsson, one of the founders of Cheap Monday, Weekday and Monki, and Jörgen Andersson, a former director at Esprit, H&M and Uniqlo, and managed to convince the two industry heavyweights to join forces with Swedish Stockings as shareholders. The four of them are hoping to see the brand's revenue grow from €900,000 in 2017 to €2.4 million this year.
To do so, Swedish Stockings is planning to further develop the e-tail channel, ideal for the brand as stockings are never tried out, not even in stores, and which currently accounts for 15% of the brand's revenue. Also, Swedish Stockings is looking for year-round business by entering Australia, where seasons are reversed compared to European ones, and Japan, where the sheer tights market is always buoyant, regardless of the season.
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