An Interview with Gemma of IAIOS

Tell us about family background – geography, culture, language, and religion. 

My great great grandfather opened a little haberdashery in Granollers, a city near Barcelona. His son called Amadeu took over the business and started to manufacture knit clothing in a small manufactory. I recently found some drawings and notes of the original designs of his sweaters from the 1930´s (attached IAIO amadeu).  Since then, my father’s family worked in the textile industry, (I am the 5th generation).

IAIOS Brand was first created by my father in the 90´s, he was making t-shirts and sweaters but he was forced to close the production when the crisis of the textile affected the Catalan and Spanish textile industry. The local/foreign competition (multinationals) was so strong that it was not possible to produce locally anymore.

Last year I decided to make the revival of the Brand with a sustainable and ethical concept. IAIOS is made in by a local, small manufactory with regenerated wool.

What is your personal story – education, prior work, and so on? 

I studied Art in Barcelona, my work was specialized in video art and decide to live in Mexico and in Germany. When I came back to Barcelona I was not sure what to do next, so I decided to start again something new with a focus on social values.

IAIOS sweaters

How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion? 

I grew up in the shop of my father, so I have been connected to the fashion world all my live. When the economic crisis hit Spain, it was difficult for my family. This made me think about our choices and decisions. I realized how neocapitalism centralizes the money into the hands of a few while the rest have to work hard and lose more and more rights everyday.  The consumer has the power to decide the world he wants to live in and I was completely sure about the kind of system I did not want.

How did your educational/professional experience inform fashion work? 

I think my art studies are very helpful in my work, especially in my brand communication.

What is the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies? 

I don’t think fashion designers and companies have to change people’s mind or teach them what to do. Each one should work on thinking which way they have to make this world a bit better, mine is through fashion. The small initiatives, the unknown people, the anonymous consumers are the ones who can change something.

The actual system is not sustainable by itself and there is a lot of people who is already realizing this. To give my money to fair trade companies and offer an alternative fashion product with quality, style and ethical values, in this crucial moments, should be enough for me.

What is the importance of fair trade? 

It is the alternative to the actual system, which is unfair and non sense. Fair trade is the way to build a sustainable economy based on people. I am aware that there is a lot of work to be done concerning this issue because it means that we have to transform the current global structure.

What is IAIOS? 

IAIOS is a brand of sweaters made with regenerated wool, that means that we use the surplus of other confections and we recycle it to make thread. IAIOS sweaters are made in local manufactories, which respect the rights of workers and reactivate the textile industry of the region that has suffered a lot from the new aggressive models of commerce.

What inspired the title of the organization? 

IAIOS was the name of my father’s Brand. I decided to take the name of the Brand and apply a new fresh and modern concept.IAIOS is a name that we use in Spain to speak affectionately about an old person. That is why every sweater of the IAIOS collection is identified with an “old” person like artists, writers, philosophers and wise people who were able to leave a mark on our history and bring good things to the world.

I like the idea of how you can wear a Louise Bourgeois or a Víktor Korchnoi sweater because it lets you appreciate the value of wisdom and durable things made with care and consciousness for the environment.

IAIOS sustainable clothing

What are some of its feature products? 

I just make sweaters. I prefer to do a high quality product that is made to least long time than make a big collection. A IAIOS is just a basic sweater made with consciousness and ethics which fits with almost everything. But at the same time it is modern and stylish.

What are the main fibres and fabrics used in the products? 

The regenerated wool is a material made with recycled wool recovered from other confections. The wool is collected and separated by colours before it is being crushed and mixed with artificial fibres. With this mix, it is possible to achieve the twisting of the thread needed to start the knitting process.

Who grows, harvests, designs, and manufactures the products of IAIOS?

The thread comes from a small manufactory in Olot, a region in Catalunya with textile tradition. The sweater is knitted and readymade in Igualada. An historical tissue industrial city of Catalunya that suffered much with the closure of the factories during the crisis of the textile industry. The tags are made in Mataró, the merchandising in Granollers and I design the sweaters and communicate the Brand from Barcelona.

Will the fibres and fabrics for the products from the company biodegrade?

No, the artificial fibres will not biodegrade but they can be recycled.

What is your customer base – the demographics?

My customers come from Spain, most of them in Barcelona. (at the moment)

What topics most interest you?

Sustainable clothing (and Human rights).

 

 

There have been large tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse, which was the largest garment factory accident in history with over 1,000 dead and more than 2,500 injured. Others were the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (1911) and the Pakistan Garment Factory Fires (2012). How do tragedies shed light on work conditions in garment factories?

It is sad that only when those tragedies happen the press and public opinion talk about the unfair and critical situation of these people.

Women and children remain the majority of the exploited and violated work forces. What is the importance of the status of women’s and children’s rights in the ethical and sustainable fashion world too?

The ethical fashion is supposed to respect all human rights.

Who is a women’s rights and children’s rights activist or campaigner hero for you?

I was in Lesvos last summer as a volunteer for the refugees crisis. I knew many people working in projects who protect children and women who arrived to the isle. They are hero’s.

IAIOS children’s clothing

The Gender Inequality Index (GII) relates to the empowerment of women, gender equality, and international women’s rights. The progress for gender equity is positive. Regressive forces exist in explicit and implicit forms. What seem like some of the explicit and implicit forms observed in personal and professional life to you?

Women are in a disadvantage in their Jobs in Spain. For example the salary of the Spanish men is 19.3% higher than the women’s. Especially with the pregnancy issue, women have to go through difficult situations regarding their professional career. Last year our government tried to make abortion illegal. Being a single woman is kind of difficult in some situations of our normal life too.

Child labor and slavery are problems, major ones. These include children throughout the world. Tens of millions of children in the case of child labor. A few million children in the case of child slavery. According to the Minimum Age Convention (1973), labor before the age of 14, 15, or 16, dependent upon the country, is child labor. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) represent the importance of children’s rights on the ‘international stage’ in Article 2(2), Article 3(1), and Article 3(2). In addition, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) in Article 24(1-3) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) in Article 10(3) delineate the importance of children’s rights too. These stipulations about equality remain violated in the fashion industry, especially the manufacturing sector or the garment industry. How can individuals get the word out about these extreme children’s rights violations?

One of the perks of today’s technological advancement is the fact that we can access and distribute information more easily. We should use this technology for spreading such information not looking at cat videos.

What mass movements or social movements can fight for the implementation of the children’s rights outside of the fashion industry?

Every mass movement starts from the individual. The Fashion industry is a part of our rigged economic system; there are many places in which children´s rights are violated, not just in the fashion industry.

How can individuals, designers, fashion industries, and consumers begin to work to implement those rights so that these vulnerable populations, women and children, in many countries of the world have better quality of life?

We should not only be ethical, also communicative and transparent in all aspects, so we can lead by example.

From personal observations, more women than men involve themselves in the fashion industry by a vast margin of difference at all levels. Why? What might make men more involved in the fashion world in general?

To be honest, I do not think that is the case, if there is a gender difference in some countries, and then it is a cultural thing. I personally know a lot of men working in the fashion industry, also in my own family. It is true that in Spain for example most of the seamstresses are women, but I think it is something that has to do with the education the people received in Spain during the dictatorship of Franco (the women’s and men’s work were very sexist). But for example in Africa most of them are men.

 

 

What personal fulfilment comes from this work for you?

Every time I sell a IAIOS I steal a sale from Zara. (smile)

Designing a sweater for the collection

What other work are you involved in at this point in time?

I organize conferences in my father’s shop about different issues (for free). I work in communication for some retails and I am always taking courses about various topics to learn new ways and improve myself.

Any recommended authors or fashionistas (or fashionistos)?

I recommend the program “Fashion Victims” from Jordi Évole in Salvados TV program:

http://www.lasexta.com/temas/salvados_fashion_victims-1

Any recommended means of contacting, even becoming involved with, IAIOS?

I have information in my website and I also post videos and pictures about my sweaters and the way they are manufactured.

What has been the greatest emotional struggle in business for you?

Consistency and constancy.

What has been the greatest emotional struggle in personal life for you?

The refugee crisis in Europe makes me so angry!

What philosophy makes most sense of life to you?

Gramschi… I also like Situationism.

Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion based on the conversation today?

Thank you for your interest in my work. It is very important what you are doing, so I want to give you my congratulations.

Thank you for your time, Gemma.

Thank you!

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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