Behind The Brand: Sandermann

Eco-Friendly. Small Scale Production. Heritage.

The base material of each SANDERMANN collection is wool from sheep that are bred for other properties than wool, a by-product which is often burned in Denmark when the sheep are shorn once or twice a year.

Unfortunately, there is a widespread misunderstanding that this type of wool cannot be used for anything - a claim SANDERMANN has set out to prove wrong. The brand has established a close relation to their suppliers – the sheep – as they collect the wool themselves, sort it, and have their own yarns spun on the island of Funen. The yarns are then used for knitwear produced in Ikast, Denmark. SANDERMANN also source deadstock fabrics from the local remaining textile industry in Denmark and use them for skirts, trousers and tops which are cut with a zero-waste approach.

SANDERMANN’s latest collection, Stories of Stranded Lives, is made solely of local waste materials and it was inspired by lighthouses on the Danish West Coast and the maritime life connected to them. The collection consists of knitwear made of Danish wool, which would have otherwise been discarded and deadstock fabrics from the remaining Danish textile industry. The sewn garments are even cut with a zero-waste pattern design approach.

As part of our 'Behind the Brand Series', we talk to Stine from SANDERMANN about their 're-thinking waste' philosophy and their beautiful collection.

What inspired you to set up Sandermann?

The seed to setting up SANDERMANN was actually planted back in 2012 when my mom had a phase where she loved to spin her own wool yarns on her wooden spinning wheel. I was one year into my studies in fashion design and knew nothing about wool, or sustainability for that matter, and out of boredom, I went with her to collect raw wool from a local sheep breeder. When we drove home I asked her what the sheep breeder would do with all the bags of wool we didn't pick up, and she answered that he would just burn it. It was a jaw-dropping experience for me, so in 2014 when I had to do my final bachelor's project, I chose to investigate this further and create a collection from this type of wool. I discovered that, because these sheep are bred for their meat and other properties than their wool, the wool is coarse and it has basically just become a burden for the sheep breeder.

What were you doing before?

I did a bachelor's degree in fashion design here in Denmark, and after doing the final project and gaining insights to how the fashion industry works, I decided that I did not want to part of that system. I knew early on that I wanted to be an entrepreneur but I also knew I had to know more about my niche and therefore I enrolled myself in the MA Sustainable Textile Design course at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL, where the main focus was on sustainable practices. When I finished my studies in London I moved back home to Denmark and started setting up SANDERMANN.

Tell us about the production of your collection - where and how is it produced, and who produces it?

Since the beginning, which was 2 years ago, local production and thorough control have been of great importance to me. I started out knitting products on my domestic knitting machines and sewing small quantities myself. Last year I started "outsourcing" the sewing process to a local manufacturer, which is a company based on a social economy concept, located 5 minutes from my office. My mother and I (my mom helps me a great deal) still produce the knitwear ourselves, but this process is soon to be outsourced as well if it's possible to find the right solution locally.

Why is sustainability so important?

I've spent a great deal of time looking into how the fashion industry is run, and especially what fast fashion is doing to people, nature, and animals in its supply chain. I have read stories of children being tortured in textile factories in Bangladesh and how an ecologist found that tiny plastic fibers from clothes are one of the biggest polluters in the ocean, and the worst part is; no one wanted to talk about it. Until now, at least. So I began to see the bigger picture and be aware of the choices I make - and their consequences. It is said that 80% of a product's environmental impact is decided at the design stage, so we as designers actually have great power, but I think this is not something most designers are aware of, sadly. 

Who is the Sandermann customer?

The SANDERMANN customer is a woman (or a man, for that matter) who is very independent, creative and someone who enjoys to express herself through her clothing without compromising on the story behind the product.

What's coming up in the future for the brand? 

Lots of things are happening all of the time, but a new outfit from the Stories of Stranded Lives collection will drop in April, and at the same time, I have slowly started designing a new collection. The next collection will be a bit bigger than the last one, and I have really awesome ideas for this one. In general, we're working on upscaling SANDERMANN a bit, so that I, and hopefully others, can make a living of it in the near future. That's the ultimate dream.