“Less is more” means more than just words to Anya and Arina WORON, Danish designer duo paving their way through crafting the ‘Wonderbras' of ethical design. The sisters’ namesake lingerie brand includes everyday easywear to suit all women’s needs - from soft bras to yoga pants to bodysuits and tops, proving that what’s underneath can be sustainable, too.
What urged you to create the Woron brand producing ethical underwear essentials?
We founded the company because of the strong desire to share our personal take on the perfect lingerie line. We realised that the first thing we took off when we got home in the evening was always the bra; lowering the straps, un-hooking the back, quickly followed by an “ahhhh…” of relief. Our aim is to create the kind of lingerie that will be the first thing you want to put on and the last thing you want to take off. For us it’s all about comfort without sacrificing feminine shape, fashion and style— and style without sacrificing sustainability.
“We realised that the first thing we took off when we got home in the evening was always the bra; lowering the straps, un-hooking the back, quickly followed by an “ahhhh…” of relief.”
What has led you personally towards more sustainable thinking?
We are very passionate about our work and it is very important for us to feel good about every step we take with our brand. For us it is important to develop the timeless item that can stay in your wardrobe season after season, year after year. That means we are sustainably conscious from the crafting to the handling of each product. Sustainability is not just the future, it is now - it is the way to contribute to significantly decreasing the carbon footprint of each product we put out into the world, and consequently making each piece much more enjoyable.
We believe we all want to sustain that which is of good quality, and when its time has run out, we want to give it a good passing. It’s the same whether it be people, animals or small things, such as fashion lingerie.
I feel that lingerie is very personal to women, so individuality is often the key when it comes to choosing undergarments. How did you figure out what would actually attract the consumer and triumph in the marketplace?
We have worked within the fashion and beauty industry for years now (Anya has among others worked for DAY Birger et Mikkelsen and Preen in London and as Head of Design for Gestuz), whereas trend spotting and trend analysis have formed a big part of our paths of work. But most importantly, we create underwear based on our own needs, wishes and desires. The idea came through combining our personal differences and similarities.
Anya’s interest lies in everything that’s essential. What is ‘trendy’ doesn’t necessarily have to come first - it’s more important that its durable, has a timeless design and fits with everything, so that she doesn’t have to worry whether she has something that goes together with the rest of her outfit every morning. Arina is very passionate about fashion, following the latest trends and finding out how the fashion world could keep inspiring us.
The so-called 'slow lifestyle' is making waves now, perhaps more than ever. What's the message your brand conveys in that realm?
Slow fashion is just the reality that we all have to face at some point - that’s how we see it. The most important principle is that one doesn’t design only for a small closed circle, but to come out with a product that is accessible; that’s something that people can use and keep in their wardrobe for a long time. We are both very passionate about making a difference. We believe that Woron really becomes WORON when we combine all three aspects – sustainable fashion essentials - and it becomes a reflection of the universe we’re striving to create.
“The most important principle is that one doesn’t design only for a small closed circle, but to come out with a product that is accessible; that’s something that people can use and keep in their wardrobe for a long time.”
Why is it particularly complex to push forward sustainable thinking and the use of organic materials in lingerie design?
Our biggest hardship so far has been realising that saying something is not the same as doing something. There is a lot of greenwashing in the industry, so we have gone through a long road of finding the right production collaborators with whom we share a mutual interest in sustainability. We feel accomplished in that we have transformed our ideas not only into a universe of our own imaginations, but into a tangible product — so it not only benefits us in the thought state, but can give satisfaction to others in the material world. We think that sustainability has to be given to some extent — in the end, the customers have to be interested in the products, the various qualities etc, and not just the attraction of the word ‘sustainable’. So sustainability has to be seen as a whole; a way of thinking throughout the process — from idea, designing and manufacturing to the product reaching the end customer, and even further.
“We feel accomplished in that we have transformed our ideas not only into a universe of our own imaginations, but into a tangible product — so it not only benefits us in the thought state, but can give satisfaction to others in the material world.”
It would be hard to manage a brand that is sustainable without projecting the same values into your own everyday life. How do you both keep that sustainability policy going in your everyday lifestyle?
You are absolutely right. Shortly, WORON is us and we are WORON! So our interest and our striving to find new and more sustainable ways can not only be seen in our underwear but also our lifestyles.
Who are your main competitors in the Scandinavian market? How does Woron stand out?
The Swedish brand ‘Bread & Boxers’. They have made a classic underwear line in organic cotton. Compared to them WORON stands out because we dare to make more complex underwear such as soft-bras, bodies etc. We strive to use clean lines in design yet without compromising the feminine shape and delicate lingerie feel.
Describe the production process of your wonderful lingerie.
Each underwear garment is sewn from the sustainably sourced fabric called ‘Lenzing Modal’, which is a fine, smooth fibre made from beechwood. It is created by turning the wood into pulp, extracting the fibre and then reconstituting it, so that it can be spun into fabric. The beechwood used in our Modal production is from sustainable forestry plantations growing native trees. It is cool to the touch and very absorbent, meaning less waste of water. Modal textile is less resistant to shrinkage, fading and greying than cotton, therefore extending its lifespan — that is sustainability.
Our products are manufactured in a small family-owned factory that’s run by two generations. The factory has 32 employees and in-house cutting, sowing, quality-checking and packaging. We have been down there to go through everything ourselves, so that it meets our high standards. Since it's a small factory, it is much easier to keep everything have a transparent and clear overview of everything that happens under production. We chose to go with a smaller-scale factory as they often use a more personal approach with the workers. It’s easier to get our message across about our strive for transparent sustainability when we have a close rapport with each other.
What would you rather compromise - functionality or aesthetics?
We believe lingerie is the most personal garment whether you are passionate about it or not. It sets the base for all other wonderful clothing and either makes you feel good or it doesn’t. For example, [women will know that] a wrong pair of panties can make your entire evening uncomfortable, even if you have the loveliest dress on top. We love the power lingerie has, and the comfort it can give if it’s made properly.
“A wrong pair of panties can make your entire evening uncomfortable, even if you have the loveliest dress on top. We love the power lingerie has, and the comfort it can give if it’s made properly.”
It's a bit paradoxical that the idea of 'fast and more' describing today's social media is actually helping to promote and market everything that's still slow and authentic. How would you consider marketing your products if online wasn't an option?
True! But what we really like about online marketing is that you do not have a lot of physical print media involved. Through social media you can communicate directly with customers and with people that share similar interests. It is both inspiring and rewarding, but this also means that as a company, you have to become more transparent [in what you are doing]. If this was not an option, we would continue with the work we are doing with selected retailers. Furthermore, we would have to find an alternative way of selling that is just as good to monitor when it comes to keeping the selling and shipping process as sustainable as possible. So maybe, a pop-up shop concept would be the way to do it.
Your key guidelines for developing a strong brand identity?
Be clear in what your vision is, what your products offer and why your product is so important for your target group; it is key to have these questions covered and then you can build your ‘blocks’ on top of that.
What would be your advice to those who'd love to create their own lingerie brand, but haven't had a courage to do that yet?
Focus on developing the perfect product first! Perfect fitting, a look that is easy to understand for your target group - focus on quality and craftsmanship; yet do not compromise your ideas and vision. And keep on trying until you succeed.
Complete the sentence... "The woman who takes their WORON bra off last thing in the evening is... confident, feminine and sexy".