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In conversation with the founder of KnowledgeCotton Apparel

In conversation with the founder of KnowledgeCotton Apparel

When it comes to sustainability, a lot of brands talk the talk. But when it comes to walking the walk, their stride can be a lot less straightforward, bolstered more by marketing speak than any sort of meaningful credibility. 

As for Danish brand KnowledgeCotton Apparel, it's always been a few steps ahead. The family behind the brand has been pioneering the use of sustainable textiles for over 50 years. So when founder and CEO Mads Mørup set out to establish his brand in 2008, continuing that family legacy was a non-negotiable. 

We spoke with Mørup about the brand’s impressive eco credentials, the impact nature has made on its designs, and what it was like to push a sustainability narrative before the mainstream fashion industry was quite ready for it – and why it was worth every effort. 

Tell us about your background in fashion?

As a little kid, I was always hanging around in my dad’s textile factory, observing him in his work and listening to his dreams and visions. Later on I went on to get an education as a textile buyer and worked as both that and as a product manager. So, textile has always been a part of my professional life. 

Sustainability has been in the DNA of your family’s business for decades. How did that help to shape the KnowledgeCotton Apparel ethos?

The family business was all about acknowledging a responsibility towards our planet, its citizens, and our future generations. When my father started his business, he soon realised the downsides of the global textile industry: the devastating effects it has on the environment, wildlife, and all the people who depend on it for their livelihood. This was something he could never accept. And these insights were, and still are, the essentials when shaping our brand. The idea was to create a platform with the purpose to do good, restore our honor to Mother Earth and future generations, and stand up for the belief that we can make a difference together.

What made you want to continue the family legacy of creating sustainable clothing?

Over time I started to view the world differently, and I also started to view myself as a person from a new perspective. And in that process I gained a growing urge to be part of something that possibly could help create a better tomorrow. And since my family was already in textile, it just became natural to start there. But with a different platform than before, launching a wholesale fashion brand completely based on sustainable innovation and initiatives inspired by my family legacy.

What was the reaction to organic clothing when you started in 2008 and how has it changed since? 

Well, it was a struggle. Not really a struggle in terms of the designs we presented, more about getting the message through about why we’ve decided to launch the brand. Today, 13 years later, I understand just how naive our approach was back then. We wanted to tell the truth about fashion, and explain under what dubious terms this industry operates. We talked a lot about love and respect for Mother Earth, and presented facts, facts, facts…. Also, we talked a lot about the need for transparency and responsibility in fashion. 

Back in 2008 the market was just not ready for our attitude. Over the years, the world has changed. And consumption has become more value driven. Consumers and retailers are now more willing to support brands with a larger purpose than just making profits. So, we no longer feel alone is our quest – we feel as a part of the global environmental movement. And this is very inspiring.

How does your approach differ from the many other brands who are now getting involved in the sustainability movement?

It’s hard for me to evaluate how we differ from others since I don’t have a clear insight in their processes and working methods. But for us, certifications have always been a big part of our traceability and integrity strategy – it is a matter of credibility. Having the right certificates shows that we are a company that is serious about sustainability and determined to make a difference. With that said, we warmly welcome all initiatives that promote sustainability and responsibility; we believe it’s good for our brand. But most importantly, it’s vital for our planet.

Knowledge is obviously central to the brand ethos. Where do you seek knowledge when continuing to evolve and grow the brand?

It’s perhaps going to sound a bit heavy, but as a brand, our main inspiration comes from the great environmental challenges facing humanity. It’s really just that simple. To us, it all comes down to being aware of the impact we have on our Earth. That the responsibility is ours. And that we can and need to make changes. Having had sustainability at the core of our business since the start, we have the framework, the knowledge, and the determination to continue to show the way in sustainable clothing. 

How has your Scandinavian heritage influenced KnowledgeCotton Apparel?

We carry with us an understanding of the need for balance and cooperation as a key for success. We believe strongly in ideals of equality, justice, and respect. And the respect for nature is also deeply rooted in the Scandinavian soul; this is where we explore, contemplate, and source our inspiration. Nature is a part of our Scandinavian soul.

How would you describe the KnowledgeCotton Apparel aesthetic? 

The style of Knowledge is about attitude and clothes that take a stand. We consider ourselves an urban outdoor brand featuring products made for a wide range of activities. We believe in a multi-functional approach to fashion, offering a total look with casual fusion concepts, and clothing for adventures in harmony with nature’s elements.

What is the focus of the assortment for autumn?

The theme for our autumn collection is Escaping the city – Connecting with nature. Urban comfort together with contemporary fusion designs with references from sports and the outdoors. Whether you’re staying at home, at work, or seeking adventures in nature, we provide sustainable fashion choices.

The spirit of 1969 always influences your collections. How does that apply to this coming collection?

Going back to our roots, we’ve launched some of our key styles. Iconic 1969 heritage looks with a contemporary twist. Versatile items, easy to combine with your existing wardrobe.

Has the pandemic at all shaped the way you approach the collections?

Yes, consumers have recently rediscovered our shared enthusiasm for nature, shifting towards and easygoing practicality in style. Minimalism is embraced as a mindset rather than simply an aesthetic, with a focus on fewer and better instead of just plain. We’re going for a seamless transition from home to work to outdoor activities. 

Can you share one of the pieces you’re loving for the coming season?

The Arctic Canvas jacket gives me all the benefits of a solid multi-functional outerwear piece – always keeping me comfortably warm during the cold season up here in the Nordics. 

Shop more KnowledgeCotton Apparel 


Words: Allison Pavlick
Photography: Courtesy of KnowledgeCotton Apparel