Gritt & Borris: a Danish Couple on a Mutual Pursuit for a Greener Fashion Industry

Eco-friendly clothing label from Copenhagen, Gritt & Borris, created by a couple, reflects their mutual pursuit for a greener fashion industry and ethos of minimising fashion's environmental footprint. Collection 17.1 brings us seasonless multi-purpose pieces attuned to the needs of the woman on the go, presenting a meaningful narrative inspired by the nostalgic feeling of gardening: how plants change throughout seasons and cope organically with changes in weather. Gritt Mortensen and Mikkel Borris share their inspiring journey of their eponymous label, reveal their insights on anti-consumerist Xmas and talk through the fashion industry's future with us.

Words: Hanna-Amanda Pant

  Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

As a couple both professionally and personally, how did you discover the mutual respect for the environment? Further to that, how did the idea come about to start your own slow fashion label? 

Gritt: We both grew up with parents who taught us how to value nature and our environment.  Both of our parents are so-called DIY-experts, who reuse and recycle, and genuinely have a huge gratitude for our nature.

Mikkel: We’ve been together since high school. Along the way, I think we just silently agreed that we wanted to make a change for the environment together. When Gritt was about to write her BA, we talked about it, and it was decided. Gritt & Borris was born. 

How do you feel, has the industry changed at all if you compare the two timelines - when you started out versus now? Has there been a major interest growth in sustainability? 

Gritt: Well, we have only been in business for two years. This year, we can really feel the interest for sustainability growing, not just with retailers and brands, but definitely among our friends and family as well.

Mikkel: The competiton has definitely increased in the few years we’ve been in business. We see a lot of new sustainable brands coming up all the time, and we think it’s great to see these initiatives popping up. On the business side of things, it’s a little scary. But it also keeps us on our toes and makes us strive to do even better.

Gritt: Also, it has been easier to find new suppliers this year compared to the other years. We have found an amazing textile supplier in India who is GOTS-certified, and makes prints with GOTS dyes and all-natural plant dyeing methods. This was also possible two years ago, but we couldn’t find a supplier then, who could meet our low minimum. 

"If you see the same tree in different times of the year, the trunk will remain the same, but the leaves change with the seasons. I like to think of our brand as the trunk of the trees, and our collections as the leaves."

  Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

In Scandinavia, I feel, sustainability has been encoded in your DNA, more or less. Why do you think sustainability is particularly developed in the Scandinavian region? What do you think would be the next big step that takes the value system to a new level?

Gritt: Haha, that's funny. We feel our little country is bit a behind compared to other countries. Of course, the minimalistic design DNA is a big part of Scandinavia, with timeless colours and silhouettes. But, regarding organic clothing and certifications, we are not as upfront as other countries.

Mikkel: There’s always room for improvement. With new materials and technologies being developed, we’re positive that we will see a huge rise in sustainable technologies and production methods, too.

Gritt: We are actually working on how we can encourage our consumers to keep their clothing for many years. We will soon have a repair service available, which we have thought about for quite some time. Last week, we visited one of our retailers in Copenhagen who has a ‘repairs' corner in their shop and it’s working great for them. And another retailer of ours in Copenhagen is doing the same thing: they have, though, outsourced their repair service to a freelance tailor. But it is the future. And it has given us so much inspiration to talk about a circular value-chain with our amazing retailers. 

How does Gritt & Borris as a brand reflect and communicate your own personal values? Have there been any serious clashes along the way concerning your creative vision and the direction you wish to take with the brand?

Mikkel: As we’re still a new, small brand, we expect the visual universe around the brand to change a lot, but the core values and vision for Gritt & Borris is something that we’ll never change. Sustainability and making environmentally responsible clothing is Gritt & Borris.

  Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

Gritt: As Mikkel said, these values are Gritt & Borris and Gritt & Borris is us. When we created the brand, we wanted to create a universe that reflects us and our beliefs. We have so many dreams about our brand, but the economy is making it a bit hard to accomplish. We could have started our business when we had saved enough money. However, we chose to start it when we felt we couldn’t ignore the need for making a difference any longer. This has made our journey a bit tough, but at the same time, we have only produced the amount of clothing that we knew we could sell. 

Mikkel: We hope one day to launch menswear as well, but we are patient and we will wait for the right time.

  Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

You are all for encouraging the modern woman to opt for a smaller closet. As a woman, I do understand how the longing for new pieces can be even addictive. In order to consider a step to minimising wardrobe waste, what are the key pieces every woman should own that easily help to transform different outfits every day? Especially concerning the winter season we are now entering. 

Mikkel: I believe this is out of my territory, Gritt?

Gritt: My go-to pieces are a pair of pants, a shirt and a cool jacket. I like my styles to have multiple purposes. For example, I use ALL my summer dresses in the winter as well. I just layer them up with a shirt or pants beneath, or use the dresses as skirt with a chunky knit. I use our handwoven Laura Kimono from our new collection over my jacket now, and I will use it the summer as a jacket. For me, it’s about using almost all my clothes all year around, and layer the lighter ones up when the weather gets colder.

Concerning the aesthetic you represent, what is the imaginative journey Gritt & Borris offers to the wearer? Are there any unusual sources of inspiration you are drawn to in your latest collection?

Gritt: We are very much drawn to nature, moods and memories when we design. For example, our 17.1 collection was first created by a memory of playing in the garden as kids, while our fathers where planting vegetables and our mothers planting flowers. It’s really an inspiration that all our customers can relate to in one way or another..

Mikkel: Our 17.1 Collection is partially inspired from the way plants change throughout the season. If you see the same tree in different times of the year, the trunk will remain the same, but the leaves change with the seasons. I like to think of our brand as the trunk of the trees, and our collections as the leaves. Our collections change in an organic way, and it follows how nature dictates.

"Fashion has become so affordable that we don’t value it as much any longer. We want to change that with a 'buy less, choose well' approach."

  Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

Concerning the sustainable movement in fashion now, what do you think can still be done by activism work to make it even more grounded, a norm rather than exception?

Gritt: When kids learn about sustainability and environment in school, it’s mostly about CO2, the ice melting and pollution from cars. But what they don’t learn is that every time they buy fast fashion, it has consequences on our environment, too. And the kids are our future. I am imagining, if more kids were sustainably aware of their choices, and wouldn't just buy a T-shirt because others in school have it, or because the T-shirt is so cheap that they prefer to have it in three different prints, it would make a significant difference. Awareness about sustainability is much more than CO2, and we need to cover more aspects of it. In school, for example. 

Mikkel: Documentaries, such as The True Cost, should be mandatory in school. It’s a true eye- opener if you don’t know the process of fast fashion. I am imagining, if there could be a law to be implemented, that each company could only produce collections containing a maximum of 50% unsustainable textiles. We are all very much aware of our food and and where it comes from; we are concerned if it’s organic or not. We need to have the same approach to clothing and other lifestyle products. Fast fashion is just as bad for our environment as non-organic food. 

"Awareness about sustainability is much more than CO2, and we need to cover more aspects of it."

  Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

Your slower production model encourages to keep the collection and pieces alive as long as possible (e.g. depending on fabric availability and consumer interest), so they could be pretty much considered seasonless pieces. Why do you think it is important to encourage such model within the industry, e.g. ditching the cycle of seasons that create more waste?

Gritt: The current flow in the fashion industry is insane, an incredibly sad, too. The waste of the clothing industry truly shows the lack of appreciation and gratitude in terms of clothing and what we wear. We want to show that a small wardrobe is just as good as a large one. 

Mikkel: It’s partly the fashion industry that has created the constant need for new clothing out of nowhere. Nobody really needs that much clothing, as the industry wants us to own. It is important for us to show that it is fine not to buy clothing all the time. The magazines tell us what we need to own this season and the next. But it is cool to make your own conscious choices and not to look like everybody else.

  Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

Gritt: Fashion has become so affordable that we don’t value it as much any longer. We want to change that with a 'buy less, choose well' approach. If you buy one of our handwoven styles, you truly value the effort put in to it. Each metre takes 3-4 hours to weave, and in our Ingrid coat, we have spent around 2-3 meters for each coat. That is just the weaving. Then there is the hand-dyeing with plant dyes, the whole design process, the proto-making where we use 2-3 women in size M with different body shapes. Then comes the production and afterwards photo shoot, sustainable packaging and so on. There is a lot of effort put into one collection, and by being so transparent, we show our customers to value our products. 

  Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

Image: Collection 17.1 / Gritt & Borris

Mikkel: And we are currently working on being more transparent, which is very exciting.

What qualities in a woman does Gritt and Borris wish to enhance and cherish? If Gritt and Borris could symbolise only one iconic personality trait, what would it be?

Gritt: Gratitude for sure. We feel an enormous gratitude for being able to make a difference and support the weavers and factories who are producing clothing in a sustainable way. 

Mikkel: I believe our customers have gratitude as one of their personality traits, too. When we engage with them, we can really feel that they value the process of our collections, textiles and design. It's amazing to experience and also very inspirational.

On another note, what's currently on your Xmas wishlist? Through your lens, how can we reverse the effect of Xmas seen mainly as consumption?

Mikkel: My wish for Christmas is a bicycle helmet. I really need a new one. The one I use right now is around 10 years old, and hasn’t grown along with my head. Haha. I bike to work every day, and things can get a little crazy on the bike paths of Copenhagen! Xmas is really a time of overconsumption, and I think the actual values of the season have been forgotten. Instead of buying everyone a lot of presents, spend time with them. Your people. We just need to get everyone involved in this idea, and it starts within ourselves.

Gritt: I agree. We actually don’t give nor receive presents from our family any longer. We just exchange gifts between ourselves and our parents, and have a small surprise for the kids in the family. But else, we have stopped the present game. Instead, we are trying to focus on quality time and, most importantly, relaxing. I hate that Xmas for some is a stressful time, and it's been like it for us too for a while. It shouldn’t be. That’s why we have stopped the crazy present game. Furthermore, there are so many family events in the season, and sometimes all I need is just a few days doing what I love and relaxing with Mikkel. For our own sanity, we have stepped back a bit, and only participate in 2-3 events during the holiday. Oh, and I wish for a concealer duo from Miild Makeup, a Danish sustainable makeup brand...