For Finnish fashion house TAUKO, it all started out from an ideological desire to have a positive impact on the textile industry. Its recycled designs have found an audience among socially aware and other fashionistas
The number of bed linen, tablecloths and other textiles in the hotels and restaurants of the world is immense; and they’re constantly used, washed, used again, and discarded. Mila Moisio and Kaisa Rissanen, the co-founders of TAUKO, don’t want to see high-quality and well-kept fabrics being burnt en masse.
“There’s a huge textile waste issue, but it’s not particularly talked about in the general consumer market,” Moisio explains. “Many textile companies are by default keen to co-operate, as for them it’s just as saddening to see vast amounts of good material dumped.”
TAUKO’s mission is to design and produce womenswear that weaves together contemporary art, design and respect for sustainable values. Every year, it launches two collections made from local, discarded rental textiles and other raw materials such as surplus knits, yarns and organic wool. Most of the materials come from the textile partners of Finnish and German restaurants and hotels.
Together with its collaborators, TAUKO is always looking for new methods to utilise recycled materials. The production itself takes place in Finland and Estonia.
From Cuban poetry to political fashion
TAUKO was founded in 2008, initially as a side project, but it has slowly and organically grown into an international business. The concept created by Moisio and Rissanen is unique, at least on a commercial scale. However, neither of them has a background in fashion or textiles: they’ve both got degrees in art research.
“The topic of my master’s thesis was Cuban poetry,” Moisio says laughingly. “So we’re self-taught in that respect, and in the beginning our contacts were mainly in art and theatre.”
On the brink of graduation, the two friends were wondering what to do next. They had already sewn their own clothes and, as Moisio describes them, were both dyed-in-the-wool idealists.
“We share the same set of strong values, and TAUKO is based on our belief that running a business can have a more direct impact on our society and its structures than academic research. It’s all pretty political for us.”
Actually, TAUKO wouldn’t exist to begin with if its founders didn’t think they could do business sustainably and use it for bettering the world. Moisio says the changes in consumer behaviour are inevitable, and big brands seem to be taking note of them, too. She believes that, in a few decades, sustainability won’t be a selling point but something that’s expected of everyone.
Not just recycled sheets
Despite the omnipresence of the company’s core values, TAUKO doesn’t appeal only to socially and environmentally aware fashionistas. Moisio emphasises that the quality and originality of design are just as important.
“Not all our clients really think about the ethical aspects, they’re more interested in our style. That’s no problem: we sell design, not recycled sheets.”
Be it because of values or fashion, TAUKO has attracted customers in its core markets, Finland and German-speaking Europe. The reason the duo chose Germany as their base in continental Europe is that there’s pretty much an endless supply of raw materials that suit the company’s purposes.
“Initially we were concerned that our production wasn’t scalable to international markets because we might run out of materials,” Moisio tells. “Finding partners abroad also helped us to realise the immense scale of the issue, as we understood how much textile is actually going to waste globally.”
The word ‘tauko’ means ‘a break’ in English. For Moisio, it was important to find a meaningful name for the company – bear in mind, she has written an entire thesis on poetry.
“As a word, tauko is also handy. Unlike many Finnish words, it has no ä or ö letters, and it’s not that long or difficult to pronounce.”
The TAUKO recycling process — From discarded products to high quality sustainable fashion textiles
Text by Mila Moisio
How is to make use of discarded textiles for fashion production? What steps are necessary before the regular production can start? Here are the steps we take before we send textiles to the sewing company. Important in the design of this pre-production chain was to find treatments with as little as possible energy consumption, while maintaining the high quality you know and love about TAUKO products.
Our long-term collaboration with Finnish and German textile rental companies allows for a seamless workflow. Together with them we choose the highest quality textiles for the TAUKO fashion line. Approximately 30% of all discarded textiles from these companies are re-used by us.
Working with materials that already had a previous life constantly pushes us to search for new and innovative solutions. Nevertheless, the TAUKO recycling process is based on infrastructure already existing in the textile industry. Since conventional fashion production and its machinery is mostly based on raw textile being on rolls, our used textiles need to be made fit e.g. by sewing together single sheets of bed linen or cutting them to the right shape.
Most of the raw textiles used for our collections are dyed with reactive dyes. Fabrics intended for jackets are additionally made weatherproof for endurance by an additional coating. We work together with various dyeing companies from Poland, Estonia and Finland to make the dyeing process as environmentally friendly as possible. These small companies are putting a lot of effort on finding new methods that save energy and decrease the usage of fresh water in the dyeing process.