Magnus Aasrum and Jo Egil Tobiassen sewing Ziplongs® in Magnus's kitchen in 2011

It all started with two sweaty friends and a YouTube sewing tutorial in 2011. We didn't think the clothes we had were smart enough, so we made something that worked better for playing in the Norwegian playground.

The idea was never to start a company. We just wanted to solve the problem of sweaty and cold underwear for ourselves. When our friends saw how we could zip and unzip whenever we were too hot or too cold, they got pretty jealous. We realized that we might have to start making products others as well.

After a fun and fruitful session on the Norwegian talk show Good Morning Norway, the world discovered Ziplongs®, and in 2014 things really took off. One of us quit our job, we found four investors who went in with 50,000 NOK each and Northern Playground became a stock-based company.

The small company grew every year. We won awards, and the innovations Ziplongs®, Zipbody™, and Zipbra™ were sold in stores all over the world. We did quite well, even if it was very hard work. But during this journey we understood that we had become a part of a big problem: the textile industry.

For a long time, we continued to tackle it by producing as responsibly and sustainably as possible. Influenced by the industry, we believed that we could actually make a difference with recycled textiles, organic textiles and other ways of using the "right" textiles and production methods. Fortunately, we discovered how fundamentally flawed this approach was.

The first eye-opener was realizing that for an average piece of clothing, fiber production accounts for less than 20% of the total emissions. Dye and finishing treatments make up about twice as much. In other words: In a sustainability context, it hardly matters what fiber a product is made of.

This was the start of a longer journey where we finally understood the essence: There is no such thing as a sustainable clothing production. No one is even close. The only thing that makes a difference is reducing the volume.

This is a scary realization for a company that makes a living from of selling clothes. In 2018, we jumped into another scary project: We started producing clothes together with the women's network Kulmis at Tøyen in Oslo. It went very well. Not to mention, it gave us the confidence to do even more to challenge the industry. It also made us realize that our customers are happy to pay more as long as the product helps make a positive impact.

Kulmis and Northern Playground: 2020

In 2020, we launched "Northern Playground 2.0." The idea was to spend two years making the transformation. When Covid hit, we decided to make the transformation in two weeks. New business model, new plan, new team, new vision. It was brutal and a lot of fun.

Zippers were once the foundation of the company. Our mission is now completely different, but Zipwear™ is still with us and these original inventions are good symbols of what we will continue to do in the future: Challenge conventions in an old-fashioned and dirty industry.

Our first brand film from 2018:

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