Next up in our interview series we talk with Nick Johannessen, blogger, podcaster and clothing enthusiast.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I’m Nick, 53 years old, a civil engineer by day, garmologist by night. I started the WellDressedDad blog about 8 years ago now, the Instagram account a year or so later, and the Garmology podcast a year ago. I’ve always had an urge to convey my interests to others, even as a little boy I’d be teaching my friends all about whatever had most recently caught my interest. There were a few years in my late teens where all my income was spent buying records by mail order from the UK so that I could share my excellent discoveries on our local radio station in Tromsø (a few hours drive past the Arctic Circle). So, when I took more of an interest in menswear, it felt natural to start blogging about it, the result is almost 600 articles over the years. These days the podcast and Youtube channel get more attention, as a change of platform is quite refreshing!
You must have met some interesting figures through your podcast, who have been the standouts and why?
Indeed I have, and I have long been of the opinion that almost everyone has a good story within them, though it may not always be obvious. When looking around for interesting guests for the podcast though it’s usually only the known factors that come into play, so it’ll likely be someone that has caught my attention by way of the various medias, or someone I’ve met and already know. Some of the best conversations happen
What do you see as the next trend in sustainable fashion, particularly in menswear?
There’s quite a gap between what I see and what I’d like to see, sadly. There is a building trend now within what I’d call virtuous fashion, where primarily ethical, sustainable and environmentally sound factors are in the front, often in non-fit unisex designs. And this is where a problem lies, so much of it is clearly another trend, it’s another wave of fashion. Yes, it may be less bad than before, but it’s also something that is unlikely to last. Why may this be? Because while we are encouraged to “buy better, buy less”, there is a certain joyless aesthetic in the current trend, and if we don’t enjoy the clothes, they will not endure. An overlooked part of the idea of sustainable clothing is that unless we wear things a long time, they’re not actually doing much good for anything. In this way, a well-tailored wool suit that can be worn for 25 years is much better than a t-shirt made from organic cotton, or a jacket made from recycled polyester.
What I would like to see is a dramatic shift in the industry as a whole, where the current business model of growing profits through increased sales is dumped and replaced by a new and more caring model that respects the environment, the labourers and uses sustainable resources. This means the current crop of fast fashion behemoths would have to close down, so realistically it’s never going to happen, but that would be where very real progress could be made. As consumers, we do have the power to spend our money where we like, but it would take a very concerted effort to really make a difference, and we’re up against a very finely developed marketing machine!
Following from the above are there any brands you can think of that are doing a good job on sustainability, taking into account not just environmental factors but also labour practices and design?
This is another tricky one, to be honest. A lot of the time it comes down to the proof being in the pudding, or it’s not what you say, but what you do (in this case, make). There is so much waffle and greenwashing being spouted these days, trying to align marketing to the hot topics of the moment, that just going by what the companies say makes it very difficult to really make a judgement. A good example is one of the supposedly greenest companies on the planet making polyester fleece garments. They say they are green, but use fossil-based fleece? And even recycled polyester is shedding micro-plastics, so it may be better, but not good. Good would be using wool fleece.
I’d be looking closely at smaller brands, those being very specific in what they make, making garments that are both so great looking and well made that you’ll not only be able to wear and repair for a long time, but also want to wear them as they are just so good.
Far too many new brands now are working from an idea to provide the best basics around. This is going for low-hanging fruit, the easiest way to start a company and get the marketing going. I see very little genuine understanding of the problem in such cases, we’re not going to save the planet no matter how many perfect white t-shirt they sell.
How would you describe the idea of "slow" fashion to someone? Why do you think it's important?
As I recently got into on the podcast, I think the “slow fashion” concept needs to rebrand away from using the word “fashion”. It’s a tricky one, as there is, as hinted at above, a very clear fashion around this idea now. There are many words that could be used, such as considered clothing, but we may really be looking at it from the wrong end, i.e. what is it that makes us want to buy many pieces of cheaper clothing versus buying fewer pieces? I think most of us would like to have better kit, yet psychologically the idea of more tends to win, be it discounted sales or the lure of a haul from a fast-fashion emporium. Rationally, having less and better stuff makes perfect sense!
There is also the case for what qualifies as “slow fashion”. I see jeans marketed as sustainable, yet they contain elastan. Shoes made from vegan leather, which in most cases is fossil-based plastic. Bamboo fabric, which is just viscose using the same vile chemicals but a different source of cellulose. Is there a way to ensure we are all on the same page as to what is sustainable?
To answer the actual question though, the concept really comes down to training yourself to make better judgements when buying things. Be more knowledgeable about fabrics, how it’s made and how it looks. Trying things on, considering whether they look and feel good and whether it deserves a place in your, and whether your life will be richer for it. Step outside the consumer madness, slow down and appreciate more.
Thanks to Nick for his time. If you're interested in exploring more you can check out Nick's content via:
Podcast: Garmology (available on all platforms/apps)