In dialogue with Jeanne de Kroon, founder of ZAZI - how responsibility and courage can revolutionize the fashion industry
Jeanne de Kroon Founder of ZAZI
ZAZI is a luxury fashion label with a focus on sustainability as well as economic and social independence of women. The company's goal is to revive traditional vintage design by bringing traditional and organic materials back.
For this purpose, new pieces are created in collaboration with women and artisans all over the world. ZAZI pays fair wages, finances the education of local girls and supports local craftsmen. We visited the founder Jeanne de Kroon for you.
1. Describe ZAZI in one sentence?
A colorful and idealistic celebration of crafting creations by women, as well as the celebration of life through fabrics.
2. You founded a sustainable fashion brand. What was the motivation and inspiration for this decision?
There have been so many aspects of my life that have helped to find more meaning. I grew up with my mother, who used to be a fashion journalist and later became an art historian. She told me about these incredible and wonderful stories from the 70 and 80er years, such as Richard Avalon and Diana Vreeland and how she had met Westwood in her early days.
"Combined with my travels during my studies of philosophy, where I met so many women communicating their stories through fabrics, I began to realize how meaningful our clothes are."
A few years ago, I had my eye-catching moment: during college, I had my only modeling job for one of the fast-fashion giants, and in the end, they gave me a t-shirt. A few months later, I happened to meet a woman in the slums of India who worked in one of the factories where the company I modeled for produced their articles.
These women had to work for 16 hours straight, they couldn't even go to the toilet, so they had to wear diapers. They lived next to the polluted river, where the company processed their textiles with chemicals. I stopped modeling and changed my view of the clothes I was wearing. I took steps daily to spread this awareness.
3. The circular economy approach defines your collections. Can you tell us a little more about the fabrics and materials you use?
Given the large mass currently produced by the fashion industry and the incredible amount of waste that resulted from it, it was clear to me that I didn't want to use any more resources. At the same time, I wanted to contribute to the livelihood of women and artisans in rural and developing countries. 5 years ago I stopped buying fast fashion and mass-produced goods. Through my travels I got to know great families along the Silk Road.
"From Uzbekistan to Mongolia and from Kabul to Delhi, I gathered a whole network of vintage merchants who drank saffron tea with me while watching the velvet work from Afghanistan in the 1970 years"
This, with my connection to an incredible woman named Madhu and her charitable organization in rural Rajasthan, formed the foundation of my company.
The only real reason to buy something new is to support the people and the arts behind the clothes. The future of sustainable fashion, in my opinion, is not a plastic from the ocean swimsuit with a clever marketing campaign, but the change in our overall relationship with clothing.
"To buy something special that we can cherish for our whole lives - clothes that tell an authentic story, like your grandmother's scarf"
Almost 90% of the clothing we make with Zazi is made from recycled fabric. We therefore create collections based on the needs of the supply chain. This means that production is adjusted according to the capacity of our NGOs and social enterprises.
4. What does fashion mean to you and why should fashion be sustainable?
In recent years, I have been fortunate enough to learn from several women's communities around the world. From the high mountains of Tajikistan to the deepest villages along the Amazon. Women everywhere represent their faith and the divine through the creation of works of art.
"I do not believe in fashion, but I believe in clothes, luxury for me means freedom"
That way we can communicate with each other. Clothes that make you dream of the stories they tell - only this will ultimately make fashion sustainable.
5. You have managed to turn a NGO into a profitable company. What was the biggest challenge?
This is still the biggest challenge I face in every collection. The creation of Zazi was a kind of financial nightmare, but an idealistic super-dream that seems to work for some mysterious reason. If you really want to do everything right and also support the livelihoods of other people, the product will easily cost more than 100 Euro.
"Always choose something that lasts a long time and makes you feel like Beyoncé when you're wearing it"
I also made a conscious decision to lower the price to make my products more accessible. I also want to sell my pieces to women who do not have a luxury budget. The margins at Zazi are not amazing, but we are sold out and can grow slowly and steadily. It started in my bedroom with 500 euros and within 2 years I was able to secure the livelihoods of 180 women directly and indirectly.
Although it takes months to embroider one of our coats and weeks to carry it with donkeys across the Afghan borders, days to sew them by hand and then bring them to Berlin. This is what makes Zazi magical and what people feel when they wear our products.
6. What would you say to someone who is addicted to fast fashion?
Oh, that I totally feel you! Fashion is so much fun and fast fashion makes certain trends very accessible. It's okay to be in fashion, but you have to be ready to buy more second hand.
I grew up with very little money for clothes. With 20 euros pocket money, I had the choice either to buy two fast fashion pieces or to find the best cashmere sweaters for 1 euro in a small second-hand shop.
7. Our world until 2050 - how do you look at the future? And how will the fashion industry change over time?
The important thing is that we go through our little personal transformation. In the end, we need to establish a personal connection to everything we buy and value. From the vegetables we eat to the way we travel and work to the artworks we carry.
Based on consumer behavior, I think there will be a systematic change. How does that look? I'm not sure, but this uncertain, idealistic future makes me jump out of bed every morning.