Who says social responsibility can’t be stylish? From zero-waste designers to “greener lifestyle” stores to boutiques offering eco-friendly alternatives to wardrobe staples, Malmö is tailor-made for a sustainable shopping spree.
“People think I’m running a shop,” says Elisabeth Gudmundson. “I’m ending poverty.” She owns Uma Bazaar, which sells clothing made from sustainably produced materials, by people working in safe conditions and paid a living wage. Gudmundson is part of a movement known as Who Made My Clothes. Launched following the deadly collapse of a clothing factory in Bangladesh, it promotes socially responsible fashion.
At Uma Bazaar, best-sellers include Kings of Indigo jeans, Veja sneakers — made with organic cotton, “wild rubber” soles and recycled plastic — and Hasbeens eco-friendly wooden clogs. Gudmundson’s aim? To show that social responsibility shouldn’t mean sacrificing style. “I want to make it easy for people to make the transition to slow fashion,” she adds.
Malmö is pancake flat — making it easy to explore on foot — but there is also a fleet of bright-green buses ready to help you on your journey. They run on renewable energy — mainly biogas produced from household waste — making them an apt choice for any sustainable shopping spree and the perfect way to travel across town to sustainable shopping centre Mitt Möllan.
It is packed with fun shops, but few catch the eye like Helgrose — an atelier founded by designer, seamstress and pattern maker Birgitta Helmersson. Helmersson — who grew up in Australia and returned to Sweden in 2018 — makes clothes using recycled and second-hand material. “We create unisex garments, which we make in-house, using sustainably sourced materials,” she says. “We’ve also incorporated a zero-waste system into our practice.” She points to a new piece — a denim jacket made with off-cuts. Then there’s a loom, which Helmersson uses to weave scraps and other remnant materials into rugs. “It used to belong to my grandmother,” she says. “I brought it here from her farm in southern Sweden when we made the move from Melbourne.”
Helmersson says Malmö’s sustainable shopping scene is growing — and there’s plenty of evidence of that in the Davidshall district alone. With its elegant wooden counter and vintage tiled floor, Liebling screams “slow fashion”. Founded by designer Li Aronsson Jensen in 2005, the boutique only sells items that match its values: sustainability, timelessness and respect for the material and the people who make it. Besides trendy brands like Veja and Sneaky Fox, Liebling stocks its own line of clothing, which is made at a women-run factory in Lithuania.
Then there’s AB Småland, which dubs itself a “greener lifestyle” store. Set across two floors, it sells everything from home furnishings, plants and bed linen to clothing, cosmetics and antique furniture. Designed as an “inspiring meeting place with a creative atmosphere where everyone feels welcome”, AB Småland has a café and a lovely studio that often hosts painting classes.
Our final stop is Green Stories, a boutique that rents shelf space to designers and importers who want to give shoppers a sustainable alternative. There’s jewellery, toys, fair-trade chocolate and some wonderful baskets designed by the Finnish firm Mifuko and handwoven by women in Kenya using partly recycled materials. The shop’s co-founder Gunilla Green showcases local designer Linnéa Havfjord Lindgren’s drawstring bags, which are “upcycled” from net curtains. “They’re ideal for shopping for loose items like fruit and vegetables”, Green says. Perfect for bring home some of the sustainable produce that is growing in abundance in Malmö.
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