Forging a Sustainable Path
We would never do something that wasn't both cool and sustainable. It wouldn't have worth to us.
In six short years, RAVE REVIEW, founded by design duo JOSEPHINE BERGQVIST and LIVIA SCHÜCK, has had a meteoric rise, undoubtedly a burgeoning star of the fashion industry. A feat in itself in that overcrowded space and even more impressive when you acknowledge that the pair are simultaneously putting Swedish fashion on the map and redefining the minimalist aesthetics the country’s fashion has previously been known for. Despite this success, the label almost never came to be. Disillusioned with the industry, particularly its monumentous amounts of waste and undeniable environmental impact, BERGQVIST and SCHÜCK grappled with the idea of becoming part of the machine; especially since the only viable option for Beckmans College of Design graduates like themselves was to end up working for fashion behemoth H&M. A conundrum that was only exacerbated (at least at the time) by the disappointing lack of sustainable design labels in the luxury realm. The only solution: forging the path themselves.
“If we didn’t work sustainably, I would have a hard time justifying RAVE REVIEW”, SCHÜCK explains. “That’s how we felt in school and what we would talk about before starting the brand, but it motivates us to express ourselves in the way that we wanted to.”
Taking off from those initial conversations and frustrations with the lack of sustainability in fashion, the pair connected over a shared love of breathing new life into previously loved materials: old curtains, vintage blankets, anything they could get their hands on. From their debut in 2018, it was clear that the upcycling element that was inherent to RAVE REVIEW quickly set their designs apart from those you’d typically align with “sustainable fashion”: frumpy, ill-fitting, and devoid of colour.
“While sustainability is important, we really value aesthetics, that’s equally important to us,” SCHÜCK says. “We would never do something that wasn’t both cool and sustainable because it wouldn’t have any worth to us.”
Instead, the garments created by BERGQVIST and SCHÜCK are full of colour and life, a mix-and-match of patterns and prints, often spray-painted for additional dynamism, yet deeply sophisticated thanks to the pair’s adept sweeping cuts. Since their debut, the duo have continued to hone and evolve their unique aesthetic, hitting their stride with outerwear that has become a staple in street style photography at fashion weeks around the world. Instantly recognisable, the mish-mash of tartan check retains the essence of the blanket that gave life to it, with playful fringed tassels lining the hem.
“It’s amazing to see people actually buying and wearing it; it’s such joyful clothing, super colourful statement pieces, so it’s fun that people have the courage to wear it,” says BERGQVIST.
Photography: Isak Berglund Mattsson-Mårn
“If we tried to be 100% sustainable, then we wouldn’t make any im-pact, so we try to be as sustainable as possible."
Despite RAVE REVIEW’s unquestionable impact on attitudes towards sustainability within the luxury sphere, their reticence towards claiming the term is understandable given the industry’s complicated relationship with the movement, quickly evolving from being viewed as taboo by most of the industry, to becoming the newest trend.
“There’s been so much talk”, asserts SCHÜCK. “We obviously don’t believe it’s a trend though, it’s the next step for the fashion industry. For us, it’s just natural. We’re not communicating that we’re a sustainable brand. We talk about the work we do with upcycling, that’s part of our DNA and always has been.”
The designers acknowledge the timid steps taken by industry giants towards a sustainable future and they urge the major fashion houses to take more than just a single page out of their book and use the bountiful resources available to them, becoming the change they want to see in the industry.
“It’s quite hard to understand if they are actually sustainable,” questions SCHÜCK. “We need to come to a point where they’re proving what they’re doing. It feels like some companies are talking a little bit too much about it rather than actually doing it. There’s a lot of greenwashing going on everywhere."
Yet, despite the rest of the industry’s shortcomings, the pair are still pushing themselves to lead by example with their offering, starting with an important acceptance: there’s no such thing as “perfect” sustainability. “If we tried to be 100% sustainable, then we wouldn’t make any impact, so we try to be as sustainable as possible,” SCHÜCK explains. “We do most of the production in Sweden and if we need to produce somewhere like Portugal, we would source all the fabric from there.”
With the indisputable shift the pandemic has had on the industry, as well as rapid advances in the digital realm, it begs the question of how necessary it is to continue the standard of presenting two collections (if not more) annually, something the duo have been pondering themselves recently.
“The fashion industry is built on something that isn’t sustainable, but when we started, we really wanted to be in the luxury segment, so we adopted those rules,” SCHÜCK says. “As we’re growing, we want to develop our own way of doing things. Maybe in a few years we won’t have to care about the systems anymore. That’s something we will do when we have that power.”
“We’ve al-ways been very ambitious and put so much time into this. Creating garments is addictive, like taking a drug.”
Now, six years into their journey, the design duo are taking time to reflect on their journey to date, setting their sights on where they plan to take RAVE REVIEW in the future.
“We’ve created a system that is not 100% scalable, but it’s scalable enough to not block growth”, SCHÜCK says.
“We’re mixing up the assortment of deadstock fabrics with fabrics that have recycled fibres—it’s about finding the balance between the two, because working with home textiles will always be at the core of our brand. We can’t really scale it to the level of a huge fashion house, but we can survive and grow.”
The fate of that survival hinges on this crucial moment in RAVE REVIEW’s journey, starting with BERGQVIST and SCHÜCK, slowly evolving to bring in more structure with a growing team.
“It’s always been the two of us doing everything, so that’s been stressful”, SCHÜCK reflects. “It feels like it’s been 10 years already, but at the same time I’m hopeful about the future. We’re speaking with investors and we want to be able to hire people to give the brand the best chance it deserves. The work we’ve been doing so far is really good, but to take it to the next level and compete with the big brands in fashion, you have to keep levelling up all the time. We have so much to offer, we’re just lacking time. We’ve always been very ambitious and put so much time into this, Creating garments is addictive, like taking a drug.”
Wherever RAVE REVIEW is headed in the future, the pair’s positivity has them unsurprisingly optimistic, with SCHÜCK sharing with certainty: “You will see a lot more from us in the future.
Photography: Isak Berglund Mattsson-Mårn
This interview is an edited version which was originally published in SFC (BOOK) X NUDA PAPER