Luxury fashion pioneer Julia Leifert - Between ethics and aesthetics

"It's important to start somewhere - 100% is not a short-term goal, it's a vision"

Julia Leifert
Julia Leifert - founder of her fashion label of the same name

Julia Leifert is the winner of the New Faces Award Style 2020. With her designer brand of the same name, she brings German Luxury fashion to an international level - A strong woman with a conscious lifestyle launches high-end collections in harmony with aesthetics and the Environment. Her goal is to sensitize the fashion industry to more sustainability. Julia Leifert stands for a holistic approach to sustainable luxury. With us, the exceptional designer reveals why fast fashion is a problem, what has to change after the corona crisis and why sustainability is often called trending topic is abused.

Today's short life of products is a central problem in the fashion industry

One of the central problems of today's fashion industry is its speed and the associated short life of the products. According to the motto "Always cheaper, always faster, more and more", customers are continuously encouraged to buy new goods. This means that incredible amounts of clothing are produced every year. Not too seldom even under the previously calculated aspect that much of it will not be sold at all.

"In Germany alone, 391.752 tonnes of textiles are disposed of each year by landing in landfills or simply being burned."

The quality is inferior and the working conditions are catastrophic in many places. These products flood the market at ever earlier, now at completely acyclic times. This leads to discount battles among retailers in order to get even the last customers into their shops. This in turn means that the half-life of a product at which it can be sold at full price is getting shorter and shorter. And ultimately, gigantic quantities of overproduced products simply end up in the garbage - many without ever being carried.

Copyright by Julia Leifert - Autumn / Winter Collection 2019

This development of "fast fashion" has only existed to the extent as we know it today for a good 20 years. This creates another problem: environmental pollution and the depletion of nature. For example, the conventional cultivation of cotton and its further processing consume enormous amounts of water. Water, a commodity that is already scarce in primary growing areas such as India or China.

Another example of environmentally harmful actions in the industry: the consumption of polyester

While the consumption of polyester was 2000 million tons for clothing in 8,3, it has increased by 160% to date. Ascending trend. This is despite the fact that polyester is a synthetic fiber made from non-renewable petroleum and has to be declared as hazardous waste. Contrary to isolated measures, only 0,1% of the polyester is recycled to this day - in an inadequate quality, since it is usually not of the same type.

Unfortunately, the tendency for fashion to accelerate and collections to open up faster and faster on the market is a phenomenon that cannot only be seen in vertical clothing chains. There used to be a spring / summer collection and one for autumn / winter. However, today there is also a “Pre”, “Resort”, “Holiday” and various “Capsule” collections each year. In view of the global fashion world, there is almost no time in the annual calendar without a fashion week taking place somewhere.

"Fashion designers are also producing more and more seasons, driven by numbers and the hope of selling more and more goods faster."

Right now, in the face of the pandemic, this system has collapsed and has almost come to a standstill. Which results in unimaginable financial losses. In the luxury sector, up to 40% sales losses are expected in the first 2 quarters of 2020. A rethink is not only urgently necessary, but inevitable, because the system that was already ill is currently reaching its limits.

For me, fashion has been a passion since childhood, and healthy living a matter of course

As a teenager and adolescent, I used to design my own clothes at school and in my free time. That was not at all common in my environment. I grew up very close to nature. My sister and I learned early on from our parents what it means to take responsibility and to be mindful of nature, animals and our resources. Today, I am very grateful for that. A lot of what is called “sustainable” or “healthy living” these days, has always been a matter of course for me and part of my outlook on life.

"I noticed that I feel at home in the world of fashion, but not in this industry."

After completing my law degree, I switched to the fashion industry and was horrified by the poor conditions in the industry. Especially, in the factories in the far east inconceivable conditions that are reminiscent of slavery are observable. I noticed that I feel at home in the world of fashion, but not in this industry. That is why I started to look for ethical and sustainable alternatives that also have high fashion standards. As a result, ultimately as a kind of project and because of the lack of alternatives, I founded my own label in 2014, which I have now established professionally since 2016

Julia Leifert

Copyright by Julia Leifert - Spring / Summer Collection 2020

At first I had no idea what it meant to start a company - let alone what it takes to build an independent fashion label. Design, sourcing and production in the sustainable area do not follow conventional patterns and were completely new territory, and not only for me. I couldn't fall back on anything and had to learn and develop everything from scratch. To this day, I am mainly driven by the passion and curiosity for innovation, alternative ideas and a certain belief: The belief that there is the possibility to design and produce not only basic clothing but also designer fashion fairly and sustainably. Success quickly proved me right that I was not alone in my search for a new path for fashion. Today I am more convinced than ever that we have to and can fundamentally change something.

Sustainability has become an increasingly common topic in clothing and fashion

It's a nice development. There are more and more brands that - like me - are starting a company. To this end, existing brands are more concerned with their working methods and materials and are working on new solutions. Even if vertical clothing manufacturers are now designing individual lines sustainably, one thing should not be forgotten: it is still an extremely niche topic.

"Sustainability is a trendy topic, which is why it is unfortunately often used as a selling point to lure customers."

Sustainable structures are expensive and require a lot of commitment. In particular holistic sustainability, as I understand it, is implemented by very few, since it does not only involve the use of ecological materials. It's about CO2 reduction, fair working conditions, circular solutions, animal and environmentally friendly as well as plastic-free innovations and social responsibility. Everyone can freely define and use the term for themselves. There are no regulations for this, and seals rarely help.

Julia Leifert

Copyright by Julia Leifert - Autumn / Winter Collection 2019

Emerging designers of every era have dealt with the themes of their time

Design and fashion is always a political and social mirror of the time. It is no different today than it was in the 60s, 70s or 90s. Every epoch and every culture has its own values ​​and visions. Accordingly, they are processed in art, music and fashion. We designers today may think a little more globally and have other tools for communicating our fashion. Nevertheless, fashion is always concerned with the designer's perspective on what is happening in the world. The events that shape her and his own story, which finds expression in the designs. I think it will always be that way.

Traditional craftsmanship makes the difference to mass-produced goods

At the beginning of my trip, finding materials was one of the biggest challenges. I work exclusively with high quality and exclusive fabrics from the European area. When I started my research, however, it was unusual for many distributors or manufacturers to understand the origin, cultivation or processing of raw materials. It seemed strange to them to ask such questions to their suppliers themselves. It was correspondingly difficult to get information. I traveled a lot, questioned a lot and learned a lot in the process.

"Many thought I was crazy when I wanted to know all the little details about the fabric manufacturers."

It was also difficult to find productions. I manufacture within a radius of 150 km around Berlin. The location is very important to me because I have a very close relationship with my productions. I work with small craft businesses run by women and families that specialize in high quality tailoring. I rely on traditional handicrafts because on the one hand I can keep it economically alive and on the other hand it makes the decisive difference in quality compared to mass-produced goods. Since the fashion industry migrated to the Asian countries and Africa, there has been very little industry in Germany and neighboring countries. So it was anything but easy to find suitable companies that fit my philosophy.

Julia Leifert

Copyright by Julia Leifert - Spring / Summer Collection 2020

The first step to sustainable fashion is to question your own consumption

The first step to sustainable fashion is to question and consider your own consumption: Am I shopping out of boredom or because I really need something new? Clothing is often consumed as a sort of disposable item. For the act of buying. It's a big win here to make it clear that we don't need the tenth T-Shirt that we know about when we leave the store, we won't actually wear it anyway. Fashion also has something to do with emotions and memories that are stored in a piece of clothing. It is therefore much nicer to buy something of high quality that you can wear often, for a long time, because it has many beautiful memories.

It would be important for designers to see fewer seasons after the Corona crisis

Everyone has their own approach of integrating sustainability into the corporate culture. I think it's great when something like this happens. This means that the implementation is preceded by a much earlier, intellectual process that usually triggers more. Nobody is perfect.

“We work in an industry that produces articles that nobody really needs to survive. With all our love for fashion, we mustn't forget that. ”

It is important to start somewhere - regardless of whether there is a long way to go before something is "100%". 100% should not be the short term goal, but a long term vision. Change takes time, and especially with structures that have grown over many years, radical change is neither advisable nor economically sensible. It would be an important step if we saw fewer seasons after the corona crisis was overcome. The goods that have already been produced and are now in the stores and cannot be sold in the coming weeks will remain in circulation for longer.

Julia Leifert as a designer brand and ambassador for sustainability

With my designer brand, I promote the return to the value of fashion and handicraft. In 10 years, I would like to be perceived as an established part of "German fashion" at home and abroad. I hope to raise awareness of the fashion world for a more conscious and better approach and to help shape the fashion industry of tomorrow.

Thank you very much for the interview, dear Ms. Leifert!



Always informed about the latest lifestyle trends, architecture, design & interior, as well as current technologies around sustainability.

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