Sustainable Fashion in the Wake of the Pandemic. Interview with The Lissome Magazine's Dörte de Jesus.
In the hopes of keeping informed those who may be interested about what’s been happening in the garment industry throughout the crisis, we thought we’d interview one of our most articulate and knowledgeable friends on the topic, Dörte de Jesus. Dörte actually helped us find our home for the HUNDHUND studio at Lobe Block in Wedding. It was her that told us about the building while it was still in construction. So thank you, Dörte.
But as well as being a good friend, Dörte is also the Editorial Director of The Lissome Magazine. The Lissome are a sustainable fashion magazine in Berlin who at the end of last year launched their first print edition. You can buy it here. We love The Lissome. But not just because they champion ethical clothing makers or because they shine a light on moral issues in the garment industry. What they do which we find truly admirable and important is they engage sustainable fashion with a holistic approach, acknowledging it not as an isolated industry, but rather as a puzzle piece in the wider context of environmental responsibility.
The Lissome have a wealth of fascinating articles and interviews on their website which we encourage you to explore.
How has the crisis affected you guys? And what lessons have you learned from this experience?
I can only talk for myself as all our life situations differ but I think it has affected us all in a variety of ways. Personally, I’ve experienced the current crisis as a slow down and a time of introspection and re-orientation, an attempt at sense-making. In the first weeks, I felt a strong need to give more space to my (mental) well-being in order to stay balanced, to let the significance of this new moment sink in slowly, and to hold a positive vision. In early March my spouse and I fell ill after returning from Spain and self-isolated for some weeks. During this time, I rested and read a lot, simultaneously relaxing and expanding my mind. I also took up balcony gardening and made new plant friends, started to get into fermentation and Kombucha brewing, and later extended walks and bike rides in nature have turned into a new and important weekly ritual.
I am usually very duty-driven and my moving away from ticking off to-do lists towards being more present in the moment and working with my hands has felt like a significant change and somewhat of a mental reboot. I’ve also experienced an immense feeling of gratitude for spending this challenging time in a safe space and the loving company of my very Zen best friend and husband, and for feeling the supportive presence of my family and friends, the Lissome gang and community, and our caring clients.
What impact have you observed of this pandemic on sustainable fashion/ fashion in general?
It didn’t surprise me but it still shocked me to find out that many major fashion brands and retailers were canceling orders and stopping payments for orders already placed even when the work had already been done, and how many of these big and powerful global corporations took no responsibility for the people working in their supply chains. Millions of garment makers have lost their jobs as a result and have no access to social welfare nets. I think it is so deeply inhumane and enraging, and it shows us how desperately we need to address inequality and act in solidarity on a global scale.
I would recommend listening to the podcast interview of fashion trend forecaster Li Edelkoort with BoF, it’s highly insightful. Li Edelkoort predicts an immense global recession that will affect the fashion industry severely but at the same time she is hopeful for “another and better system, to be put in place with more respect for human labour and conditions.” I was particularly drawn to what she describes as the rise of “The Age of the Amateur” - a movement of “local industries and activities gaining momentum and people-based initiatives taking over with bartering systems and open tables, farmers markets and street events, dance and singing contests and a very dominant DIY aesthetic.”
How do you see the conversation surrounding sustainability evolving over the next few months?
I think that we will move beyond talking about “sustainability” towards talking about “regeneration”. Sustaining the status quo is no longer enough, and it often involves fatal forms of greenwashing that not only ignore but also permeate the core of our current crisis. I strongly believe that we need to put environmental (and human) wellbeing and the restoration of our precious eco-system at the core of absolutely everything. Currently, the Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion is doing groundbreaking work in this area, and I would also like to recommend the Earth Logic/Fashion Action Research Plan by fashion academics Kate Fletcher and Mathilda Tham who have created a guideline for moving away from our current growth and profit logic towards a system that places Earth first.
How do you think this pandemic has reframed our relationships to the environment and to life itself?
This global pandemic has put into the limelight how our lives are so deeply interconnected. It’s highlighted the importance of solidarity and care for our wellbeing and vitality. As humans we are part of nature, we are nature, and we can only thrive in an alive and healthy ecosphere. For far too long, we’ve been living in a mindset of separation and competition, of competing with each other and “mastering” nature. It’s time for us to grow up as a species and move into a new age of mutual respect and care for all living beings.
In the wake of this pandemic, will the world be simply “picking up where we left off’ in relation to matters of sustainability? Or do you envision that society might approach these issues differently?
I hope that we don’t go “back to normal.” It would be devastating if we didn’t make positive use of this massive interruption of the status quo. The climate crisis is still looming and our current ways of life have caused so much destruction and loss of wildlife in the last decades. When I try to picture the future, I tend to see two opposing visions. One is a rather terrifying technological dystopia, a world of digital surveillance in which a small elite of billionaires is living on Mars and the rest of us humans are more or less surviving in artificial environments on a dead and toxic planet. The second vision is much more hopeful and involves moving away from the growth and profit logic of our current economic system. I see us living much more collaboratively and in balance with the natural world. Our energy, health, transport and education systems will be transformed. We will green our cities and our countrysides by making a shift to regenerative agriculture and small-hold farming, and restore the health of our forests, wetlands, rivers, and oceans. Consumption will no longer be the core purpose of our existence. The vitality of global human and environmental wellbeing will replace GDP and become our new focal point. There is a great inspiration to be found in the works of visionaries such as Charles Eisenstein, Kate Raworth, Toby Hemenway, and Helena Norberg-Hodge. At this time there is much at stake, and the future is wide open. We must remind ourselves that we are not just bystanders. We each play a part, no matter how small or how large, in shaping the changes that will unfold.
What do you see in the future of The Lissome?
The Lissome Magazine has been running online already since late 2015, but publishing our first print edition for 2020 has been an important new milestone for us this year. We’ve received some wonderful feedback, found some great stockists worldwide, and started to grow a global distribution network. Now we’d love to keep sharing our voice and vision and have started working on our second print edition for 2021. Hopefully, we will learn how to sustainably fund the magazine long-term, and it would be amazing if some thoughtful business expertise and mentoring would find our way.
Thank you to Dörte for your insightful words.
You can find links to The Lissome below.
Interview by Ewan Waddell.