Meet the Female Led Community Demanding Change in the Fashion Industry
Fashion Changers are an incredible Berlin-based organization founded in 2017 by three passionate women: Vreni Jäckle, Nina Lorenzen and Jana Braumüller. They founded this community with the aim of making fair fashion more visible in the media. Through creating inspiring content and set sustainability agendas, they bring media together, both online and offline. Through their book, they curate twenty designers and labels to showcase how sustainability can be put at the forefront and fair fashion can change the world. For their 2020 edition, they selected none other than neubau eyewear to be a part of this select group!
To celebrate the launch of their book and our part in it, we sat down with the ladies behind the scenes to discuss their early days, fashion activism and a lot more!
Q1) Can you tell us a little about Fashion Changers and how the three of you came together?
Before we met in real life, we met on the internet. All three of us used to have blogs and magazines touching on sustainable fashion. Vreni set up a Facebook group wondering who else is out there writing on sustainable topics — and that’s how we met digitally. In 2016, a former colleague of ours organized a get together for fair fashion bloggers and that’s where we met for the first time in real life. In January 2017, we decided to put together another community meet-up. From then on, we were inseparable and kept organizing community events for content creators. From the very beginning, the idea was to bring the fair fashion community together, create synergies and mobilize people for action challenging the status quo of the fashion industry. It was Vreni who eventually came up with the name “Fashion Changers” — that’s how we call everyone who wants to change the fashion industry for the better.
Q2) What is fashion activism and how can one be a fashion activist in their day-to-day lives?
To us, fashion activism goes beyond writing or talking about the issues of the fashion industry. We want others to rethink our designated roles as so-called consumers and reassume our roles as active citizens demanding a fashion industry that puts people and planet over profit. We are all part of the problem but we can also all be part of the solution. Use your voice — online and offline. Online: sign online petitions and use your social media wisely. Offline: talk to your friends and family and take your demands in the streets (but for now: stick with digital protests). Overall, it’s important to ask yourself: What are my values and how can I make sure I live by those. When we call ourselves feminists, our clothes should embody exactly that — the belief that all people are equal and that we can’t exploit women in one country to empower them in another.
Q3) Sustainability has recently become a buzzword being used by too many fashion brands—how can one differentiate between an authentic and non-authentic brand?
First of all, it’s great that sustainability can no longer be ignored — neither by politics nor by companies. As content creators, it’s our job to make sure we ask companies the right questions. And that we look out for any greenwashing indicators. If the company doesn’t provide any information on social and environmental standards on its website or makes only very vague statements, that’s a red flag for us. Also as consumers, it’s best to stay away from company-owned certificates — always look out for independent textile certificates. Companies that don’t allow external audits are also suspicious of greenwashing — transparency is key! What we need conventional companies to do, is to change their business model. Instead of adding so-called sustainable collections to their regular collections and throwing tons of money on marketing campaigns, companies should reduce the number of collections per year and invest money and resources in improving supply chains. Greenwashing is definitely a huge concern which is why we included it in our book.
Q4) Another important aspect of Fashion Changers is the relationship you’re developing between fashion and feminism. Could you explain this connection?
In fashion production over 80 percent of workers are women. Women, who often are exposed to sexual harassment, unpaid overtime, poor and unsafe working conditions, no support if they are pregnant, with a wage that isn’t enough to support themselves or their children. Those are the women that sew the ‘girlpower’ shirts we can buy in fast fashion stores. This is not only problematic because it is a double standard. We have to become aware that feminism is not something only we should benefit from. Feminism should always be intersectional. A shirt – with a ‘girlpower’ slogan or without should empower both: the woman who wears it and the woman who makes it.
Q5) What are some of your successful projects from the past and what are you working on currently?
Our book just got published which is super exciting and a huge milestone for us.We supported (and still do!) the #fairbylaw petition that was initiated by Lisa Jaspers. We handed over the petition to the Ministery of Labour and Social Affairs last year. Now we continue to work towards a law that would make companies responsible for their supply chains.Our next big project is the Fashion Changers Conference that will take place this fall. We want to create a space where professionals from the fashion industry can specifically learn about sustainability and connect with each other.
Q6) What are some obstacles you face in changing legislation/ policies and perhaps even on changing people’s mindsets?
Changing legislation is a long process. For the campaign #fairbylaw we collected over 157.000 signatures. A lot of companies are also in favor of corporate duty of vigilance law. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has already prepared a draft bill, but the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Chancellory oppose a law that holds companies accountable for their supply chains. Both are trying to delay possible legislation (which is part of the coalition agreement between CDU/CSU and SPD, in case a ongoing monitoring shows that companies can’t identify their supply chains), which in our opinion is a fail of democracy. Our government shouldn’t protect companies, but its people. It is our job to understand these power dynamics and economical interests and dismantle them one by one. And we have to keep up the public pressure — bringing together private citizens, non-profit organizations, companies and politicians and reminding policy makers of their responsibility.