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Celine Aagaard on the impact of seasonless, genderless and timeless dressing

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Envelope1976 is a Norwegian design label with a sustainable approach – focusing on seasonless and multiuse garments.

Celine Aagaard on the impact of seasonless, genderless and timeless dressing
Ever since her childhood, Celine was into art, photography, styling and redesign. For her and her partner at the conscious luxury label Envelope1976, sustainability is simply a way of life.

Can you tell us about yourself and your journey?

I’m founder, co-owner and creative director of Envelope1976. My journey started back in 1976, and ever since I have been inspired by my childhood, my parents and their creative friends. I was raised in a home filled with photography and art. I painted a lot when I was a kid. I knitted and was inspired by my grandmother to dress my dolls up in hand-knitted pieces. I redesigned garments I found in flea markets and I took a lot of pictures.

My dream was to become a photographer like my father. After elementary school I started out as a journalist and photographer in the local newspaper, followed by several magazines and publications. Among the highlights was my years in the magazine Topp where I got to interview so many cool people that I admired as a teenager. Then I got the chance to launch a fashion magazine and write a few books. I got my very first design out on the market with scarves designed for the Norwegian design brand HolzweilerM – a silk scarf and a cashmere scarf. It’s timeless, sharp and minimalistic – a scarf I can still wear.

What does a day in your life look like?

Every day is different, but morning routines are important to me. I wake up early, get on the yoga mat before a walk with my dog. Then I make my family breakfast and take my bike to the office. I don’t drive so I’m almost married to my bike, Pilen.

When it comes to work, I’m a “potato” (a Norwegian term for someone who juggles a lot of roles). We’re a small company so we have to take care of everything from packing goods and customer service to designing and selling the collections. We normally work with three drops at the same time – one in store, one to come, selling in the next drop, and designing the garments that should be out in a year from now. So there’s never a boring moment in our office! We’ve just moved into a creative space at Grünerløkka in Oslo and before Christmas we will invite press, customers and buyers for a visit to our upcoming pop-up store.

What does ‘sustainability’ mean to you?

All of our garments are designed to be worn in multiple ways – and to be worn again and again. The greener choices we took when we were younger is a way of life for us. When it comes to business, this is at the forefront of our minds and a natural way of doing business. For us, sustainability is not a trend. I have been a vegetarian for 24 years now, I don’t drive a car, I have always been a fan of reusing garments and was redesigning my clothes from an early age.

Our labels and hangtags utilise eco-friendly thread instead of the standard plastic thread. We don’t produce more than is ordered, make clothes from leftover materials and dye our fabrics without using toxic chemicals – we use vegetable tanning. We also use biodegradable materials such as Cupro.

The Envelope1976 collections offer a range of materials generally considered to be more sustainable. Our swimwear is made from recycled materials, we use organic and recycled wool and recycled cashmere and are always looking for the most sustainable alternative for our designs. We also try to make items locally, like our wool cape. For us, sustainability is about so much more than just the materials. it’s about reusing, reducing and recycling. It’s a way of life.

Photo: Julie Moene

Tell us about Envelope1976! What made you want to start a sustainable design label?

Envelope1976 is a Norwegian clothing brand with a sustainable approach, focusing on seasonless and multiuse garments. We want to include, not exclude, and we also try to make our collections as genderless as possible.

The concept had been on my mind for a long time, and after years in the fashion business it was about time to do something with the ideas. I met Pia Nordskaug, my business partner, through another project we did together, and she was about to start up the green clothing agency Eco.logic. Both of us were shocked that so many brands were making clothes – even luxury clothes – in polyester and lots of other oil-based fabrics! We shared the same thoughts and vision and during a meeting in Mykonos we got to know each other better and had the time to discuss the next steps.

Celine and her partner, Pia Nordskaug, shot for Monocle. Photo: Thomas Ekström

We were not in a rush, so we did a lot of research on production and materials before we started. Then we started to design timeless and versatile items. I wanted to create seasonless items that could be worn in multiple ways – so you get more styling options with less consumption. Our Cannes dress, for instance, can be worn with the buttons in the front or in the back.  We hope we can inspire the industry to be more sustainable and as transparent as possible. There is no one way to wear Envelope1976. Inspired by the past, made to last – with natural, vegan-dyed, biodegradable and recycled materials.

How do you ensure that your carbon footprint is as low as possible?

It has been an exciting and educational journey so far and we have spent a lot of time researching to ensure we can offer a more sustainable brand. The choices of collaborators, materials, packaging, color and transportation methods have been key in order to ensure environmental benefits at all levels. It’s by no means environmentally friendly to make and consume clothes, but we work hard to reduce our carbon footprint and hope that there will be ways to have zero emissions in the fashion industry over time.

We only use natural materials that are naturally dyed, biodegradable or recycled. In our collection we use leftover materials, Cupro, recycled cashmere and wool. We use organic cotton for our T-shirts and recycled materials for our swimwear. We also try to do more production locally.

What do you find most challenging about running a brand that is socially and environmentally aware?

We try to be transparent all the way. With all the greenwashing out there, it’s more important than ever to be open and transparent in all parts of the business – who we work with and what we do. It takes a lot of time researching and the materials are much more expensive, but for us this is the only way to go.

Apart from Envelope1976, which are your favourite conscious brands?

There are many more eco-conscious brands launching these days, like Bite Studios, and I think we’re moving in the right direction. I try not to buy clothes anymore, but when I do, I try to support local brands. There are many great designers to keep an eye on. I love vintage and if I buy something it’s normally reused items. Martin Margiela, Jil Sander, Céline and Acne are brands that have made timeless and iconic pieces that I love as they’re made to last. To find treasures in a vintage store from unknown brands is the best kick, because you will probably never see anyone else wearing the same piece.

What is your advice for someone wanting to start a more sustainable brand?

Be transparent and make a plan before you start. Stay true to your vision and take all feedback seriously. We all make mistakes, but if we all can be more transparent and open and share better ways to produce, that would be a step to the right direction. Reduce your volume and create clothes that don’t go out of fashion. Let your consumers take part in your journey!

Celine in vintage jeans and Envelope1976 Seoul knit

The world has changed in ways no one could have expected. How do you think this has affected the way people live and shop in 2020 and beyond?

After the global crisis of COVID-19 I think (and hope) people really understand that we all have to take responsibility when it comes to the planet we live on. I think we all understand that the only way for the future is to reduce our consumption and to focus more on timeless and seasonless items. Our vision is to provide more sustainable and ethical designs of high quality and thus increase environmental awareness. We hope we can inspire a more sustainable fashion future.

How do you envision the  consumer buying behaviour in five years?

I hope consumers will become more aware and support local brands with a more sustainable vision and products that you can wear forever. There’s still a way to go, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.

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