Founded behind the principles of ‘buy less, but better’, ASKET produces a range of menswear classics that you can wear season after season.
The brand prides itself on using organic fabrics and producing in family owned factories in Portugal, ensuring every step of the process is transparent. To gain further insight into the brand’s ambitions and sustainable credentials we spoke to co-founder of ASKET, August Bard-Bringeus, who sheds light on slow fashion and what it takes to craft a capsule wardrobe.
Why did you start ASKET?
We started ASKET out of our own frustration. Jakob and I had grown tired of not being able to find pieces we love and wear the most: timeless, well-fitting wardrobe essentials. Instead we found shop shelves filled with clothes featuring unnecessary details, designs and colours that would be outdated come the next season, overpaying for “quality” or paying too little for garments of dubious origin. We realised that the fashion industry was fuelled by fads and encouraged mindless consumption.
So when we first started out, our idea was to create timeless wardrobe essentials free of compromise: full of quality, fit and craftsmanship. Throwing out everything that didn’t add value to the product and investing only in what did. But with every garment we made it became clearer that we weren’t just making better items we were actually changing people’s perspective on clothing - they started to consider garments an investment rather than something disposable.
And as we started to learn more about the fashion industry, we saw what an inherently exploitative industry it was. Fashion requires a huge amount of resources, leaves behind a lot of pollution and relies on a lot of skilled labourers, who more often than not work in unsafe and unfair work environments.
That’s when our mission shifted to transforming how the entire industry operates. So that’s where we are today: We want to slow down fashion, establish a balance across the value chain and restore meaningfulness in our wardrobes.
What are your earliest creative memories?
Well, if the above answer wasn’t an indication we’re both more on the nerdy end of the spectrum than the creative end - it’s something we’re proud of because we were able to see an entirely new logic. Of course, it goes without saying that we both also have a strong sense of the type of aesthetic we have in mind of ASKET.
My time in Germany and Austria definitely influenced my sense of taste and maybe the Bauhaus sensibility of designing with function in mind comes through in the ASKET permanent collection.
Did you always see yourself going into fashion?
Neither of us had worked in fashion before but then again ASKET isn’t your conventional fashion label either. As I mentioned, we met at university, studying business in Stockholm, but we soon realised that the usual career path from business school into a bank or a consultancy wasn’t for us. Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve wanted to create something of my own, something with a lasting impact.
Looking back now, not having any prior experience probably worked to our advantage. It gave us a healthy dose of naivity and an outside perspective that allowed us to see industry rules and standard processes very differently – that comes in handy when you’re trying to create something fundamentally different.
Was sustainability a factor of the brand from the outset?
We’ve actually banned the word ‘sustainable’ from our lexicon, so you won’t find it anywhere on our website or our materials. What we have to realise is that everything a company produces and every purchasing decision a consumer makes has an impact on the planet and people.
The mantra “Less is More” has been part of our DNA from the get go. It’s the idea of creating long lasting garments, which are inherently better for the environment, while taking pride in the human work that goes into creating every piece.
Rather than sustainability, we call it responsibility. And we’ve continued to expand on our notion of responsibility: from never having sales, to boycotting Black Friday, to introducing our traceability standard to most recently introducing our guiding principles document, which governs every business decision we make.
What inspires your designs?
The permanence of our collection remains our guiding principle. It influences every aspect of the design process; from deciding what qualifies as a wardrobe essential, to selecting the most durable and quality materials as well as creating timeless designs that won’t fall out of fashion.
In terms of style icons, we look to the Steve McQueens and Alain Delons of the world; their casual sensibilities would look as comfortable on the cover of GQ now as they did 60 years ago. Over the last 20 years the simplicity of these garments has been corrupted, with useless pockets or unnecessarily deep neck lines being added in the pursuit of creating new trends.
We want to restore that simplicity, stripping garments back to their very essence and instead focusing on perfecting the quality, fit and design.
Which of your products took the longest to develop?
By far the chinos took the longest to develop and get right. We’d already launched the T-shirt, sweatshirt and Oxford shirt, amongst other tops in our 15-tier size system, but trousers brought with it a whole new set of challenges, not only coming at it as fashion outsiders but to make things even more complex we also introduced a new sizing system for trousers too.
We introduced a build metric, so that one fit would be available for multiple body types, whether you’re a skinny or athletic guy. All in all I think it took two and a half years from initial design to the official release date. We’re firm in the belief that good things take time, so whenever we launch a new product, it goes through various stages, starting with wear testing - our team wore the prototype chino for a year and half to fully appreciate the ins and outs.
What has been the hardest step in creating ASKET?
The nature of running a start-up is that it’s a constant roller-coaster; challenging product development processes, a brand launching with a painfully similar name (we’ll let you work that one out), trademark infringements overseas, growth pains and global crises. But it’s kind of addictive and we thrive off these challenges.
Starting out just the two of us, we could be close to every aspect of our business, but now that we’re five years in and the team getting bigger, the hardest part is maintaining our ethos as we gradually scale. But we have a fantastic team, who we trust to make the right decisions, even if I still have a little trouble letting go.
What’s one ASKET item that you can’t live without?
No wardrobe is complete without a quality white T-shirt, One that lasts five years, not five washes. The classic tee is my personal favourite. I wear them every single day, it’s a uniform. They’re gaining on five years now and won’t go out of rotation any time soon.
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