Trine Young is the founder and CEO of Rodinia Generation, a revolutionary system designed with the purpose of making the fashion production process as sustainable and affordable as possible. After graduating with an MA degree in Womenswear Technology from London College of Fashion, Trine went back to Denmark to start her career with plans to introduce sustainability into already established fashion brands. She soon discovered that the problems she was facing were deeply rooted in the product supply chain behind each garment, and something drastic needed to change in order to make the process sustainable.
Trine left her job and started designing solutions towards one of the biggest sustainability problems within the fashion industry; welcome Rodinia Generation. The production process uses no water, minimal energy and non-toxic biodegradable dyes for printing. It is a sustainable and 100% local production at affordable price for small and medium-sized brands. Sounds like a dream, right? I sat down with Trine who told me about her background in fashion and how she came down with her discovery…
How did your career in fashion start, and how did you get involved with sustainable fashion?
It actually started in college where I had a huge interest for molecular biomedicine, and I originally applied to Copenhagen University for bio studies, but my number 1 priority was The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. I knew it was very difficult to get in so I was mentally prepared to start at Copenhagen University, but to my surprise, I was accepted onto the Womenswear design course. During my studies I became interested in lectures on chemical recycling in fashion, and that’s how I started my research into recycling in the fashion industry.
Sadly at that point I realised that the fashion industry was in a horrible place in terms of the environment and many other factors. At that time, Kate Fletcher also published her first book, which was a huge inspiration for me, and I found out that she was working with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion in London. So, after my graduation I decided to apply for the MA in Womenswear & Technology at the London College of Fashion which was linked with the centre, so that I could get closer to her work.
Were universities in London at that time focusing on sustainability in fashion?
I had a pretty naïve idea at the time about London being ahead of everyone. I was really interested in getting to know the other students and working across disciplines in order to pursue more sustainable outcomes. It was quite a shock to find out that no one was really interested in that field, it was very frustrating. As a result, I took on some extra courses in MA Fashion & the Environment to learn more about sustainability and fashion, and I started an internship at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. There I met Kate Fletcher and many other people who I had looked up to, which was pretty iconic for me, and even though I only worked there for 3-4 months it had a huge impact on me.
How did your career in sustainable fashion start after graduation?
Arriving back in Copenhagen, I was quite determined to pursue a career as a designer. I wanted to use the experience I had gained in London and my technical abilities to do good. I got a job at Baum und Pferdgarten where I was able to push my sustainable agenda further. Surprisingly, I learnt that it is actually very difficult to develop sustainability into an already established brand. I was in charge of the print design and production supply chain during my time there, and was in touch daily with many different suppliers around the world. I was able to see first hand all the challenges that designers and suppliers face. Baum und Pferdgarten had very good control, much better then any other brand I know of, which was comforting.
How does it affect an already established business to introduce a sustainable way of producing?
You can’t turn the brand 180 degrees when you have a booming business and loyal customer, it has economic expenses. Wherever you go, money and profit for the company always comes first, even when your values run deep – We obviously could not turn the whole company around in a couple of months. So, my plans for the company turned out to be really hard and difficult, it wasn’t anyone’s fault. Suppliers are locked down to business models so they can’t be flexible, as it involves expensive machinery that has the purpose of mass production, it was a major eye opener for me.
How did the discovery affect you?
I decided to quit my job last summer at Baum und Pfergarden, which was an extremely hard decision, the people that I worked with were like family. It was hard, but I knew I tried to push my beliefs as far as possible and that was all I could do. It was a good decision which they understood, because they knew I had visions. The problems were a lot greater than what I had focused on and I had to look at the bigger picture, I wanted to bring a major change to the production chain as we know it today.
What is it in the industry that needs to change?
The word ‘outdated’ is the best word to describe the fashion industry, I think. We can change everything If we can just change the production supply chain. Brands are locked to a production chain that is fixed and rigid, there is basically no innovation or improvement in the technical part of the industry. People tend to think that if it works, they can squeeze the lemon a little bit harder; get people to work harder and faster to the point that it cannot be supported anymore. The supply chain is both economically and environmentally unstable and unsustainable for the future. I thought this was a pretty basic idea, and that I would be able to find something or someone who was able to make the supply production chain sustainable. I was very wrong.
When you discovered all these facts about the production process, what drove you to reinvent the process?
I wrote down the issues that I had come across, and realised that I could produce a new business model to change the production chain. That system turned out to be something that didn’t need all the different machineries that we use today. I took the whole factory idea to a minimum, scratched all of the unnecessary parts, and made one system that can process almost all kinds of fabrics.
Who can use it?
We are very picky and steer clear from fast fashion and we don’t support the old production models. This production system could potentially disrupt the entire fashion industry. We have a lot of small and medium-sized fashion brands and pretty few big ones, as the small/medium-sized brands have a lot of trouble meeting the minimum requirements for mass production. They often have to pay 40% up front for the product and then maybe have to wait for months after to receive their product, which can kill a brand very quickly. In those terms, we are way ahead of the old production model.
What types of brand will have an access to the system?
We have brands in mind that share values and goals, and want to create a sustainable fashion industry. I have no interest in including people or investors with the wrong mindset and don’t understand the ambition or purpose for Rodinia, this is very important to us. The business’s ultimate goal is to show the world that when you are smaller and have values in the right place, you can compete with the bigger brands.
Images by: Sigrun Larusdottir
What does this mean for the fashion industry, and what are your visions?
It could go in a lot of directions, but my personal vision are in terms of outsourcing – instead of outsourcing we do back-shoring, that way we bring local production to local areas, that is the future business model. We could expand to Germany and other European countries, and find places where there is not a lot of local work so people could be hired in this nano-factory. That could create activity on the market, and help the local community to blossom without harming the environment or human rights – so it would be 100% sustainably made in X, Y or Z, based on location. I love the idea of helping people and the environment in as many ways as possible.
We can’t wait to for Rodinia Generation to launch and see how it will change the fashion production industry and the give small brands the start in the industry that they need!
Naja Lauf is also looking to change the fashion industry, but in a different way. Read all about it in our interview >>>
Tags: fashion, rodinia generation, sustainability, sustainable fashion
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