Julia Eden started making custom macrame hemp necklaces for friends when she was in high school. Twenty years later, she now has an ethical and jewelry brand of JuliaEden designs . A life long environmentalist, she is passionate about sustainability in the fashion supply chain and consciously applies this to her own jewelry brand. Read her story below.
Tell us about family background – geography, culture, language, and religion.
I grew up in a fairly average, suburban, American household. My parents are recovering monotheists, and my brother and I were always encouraged to forge our own paths. With such a casual family atmosphere, I was ripe for the discoveries of liberal ideas like environmentalism, and authors like Tom Robbins.
What is your personal story – education, prior work, and so on?
I grew up as a performer – mainly as an actor and dancer. Coming of age in the Seattle-adjacent Tacoma during the grunge era was incredibly liberating. I never felt pressured to be a “girly-girl”, instead opting for oversized pants and t-shirts. When I discovered fashion design in my early 20’s, I was surprised to find I have a knack and a passion for it. It took me a long time to accept that fashion designers are not necessarily fashionistas.
How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?
It was while I was completing a degree in design (clothing production), that I learned about the supply chain. I have been a self-proclaimed environmentalist since the age of 12, but it wasn’t until this education that I came to understand how grossly uninformed I was. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the internet at this point – this kind of information used to be difficult to obtain, but the internet made it easier than ever to be an educated consumer.
How did your educational/professional experience inform fashion work?
I’ve had a lot of jobs in a bunch of different fields over the years, but one role I can pinpoint as inspiration was my job as a bicycle messenger. The day-to-day toll that riding takes on your clothes are phenomenal. It made me much more aware of the need for quality, well-made pieces, but it also influenced my aesthetic. I find my style now is very industrial x Japanese simplicity.
What is the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?
We are at a point where we no longer have the luxury of being wasteful. All companies, not just fashion ones, need to look at the bigger picture in relation to supply and operations. The idea that corporations are somehow people, but are only responsible for the financial bottom line is outdated. Entities like B Corps are helping to create a more holistic standard of measurement, opening consumers’ eyes to the ills committed by companies in quest of higher profits. If we are going to continue as a species, we have to find a way to treat the earth better!
What is the importance of fair trade?
One my little quips, or mantras, is, “if you’re only paying $20 for that sweater, someone else is paying the difference”. That difference can be paid in many ways, but one of the most devastating is in the cost to the people who work the supply chain. From toxic chemical exposure causing disease and birth defects, to innocent lives cut short in factory disasters (think Rana Plaza), real people with real lives and names and hopes and dreams are being exploited and tortured so that you can pay $1 less for your shirt. Make no mistake – prices never go down because the company has cut its profits!
Who is a personal hero or heroine within the ethical and sustainable fashion world for you?
Honestly, while I am impressed by a lot of the people who are fighting the good fight, I would say the people I hold in highest regards are those that I get to watch change their minds. Sometimes it happens during a conversation about sustainability that I have with someone; that moment when their face scrunches just a little and you see them start to get it. Other times it’s in the comments you see on the internet. Basically, any time I observe that moment when someone receives new information and assimilates it into their views.
What is JuliaEden Designs?
JuliaEden Designs is a little brand with big ideas. I have many plans for the future, but right now I’ve started with 2 lines: you can find Protosaurus on Etsy, which is my shop for the samples I create during the design process, as well as handmade accessories like macrame boards and jewelry displays; River’s Walk is my first jewelry collection and features sustainably sourced, natural materials. While I have plans to expand the line, my range of bracelets, headbands, and necklaces are all custom, handmade, and feature traditional macrame techniques.
What are some of its feature products?
I think my favorite piece is The Snoose – a nine-layer wrap bracelet that incorporates macrame, leather, and Argentium Silver.
What are the main fibres and fabrics used in the products?
I use only 3 materials:
– Argentium Silver: this alloy is 93.5% silver with only a touch of germanium to inhibit tarnishing. It is sustainably produced in the USA using recycled content.
– Leather Cord: my leather is deer hide sourced from herds culled annually via the US Fish and Wildlife Service. A woman in California naturally tans and dyes the leather. I love love love this cord, and it’s the strongest leather I’ve ever worked with!
– Pima Cotton: this is the only hole in my supply chain as it comes from Peru and I am unsure about its production. Due to the requirements of macrame, I have been unable thus far to find a suitable product that is both local and sustainably produced. But good news! I have found a company that is working on recycling natural fibres and I am hoping to work with them on my next order.
Who grows, harvests, designs, and manufactures the products of JuliaEden Designs?
Once I receive my supplies, I am the only person to touch them until they get to you! I design and hand-make all of my pieces to the highest possible standards. Wire is turned into jump rings which are soldered closed. Cotton becomes macrame focal points. Leather ties it all together.
Will the fibres and fabrics for the products from the company biodegrade?
Yes – I do not believe synthetics should be used in fashion, ever (another mantra: There is never a good excuse for polyester!!!). Using only natural fibres ensures that my pieces do not add to the mountains of waste that will never break down!
What is your customer base – the demographics?
My pieces are unique, and as such, so is my customer base. They are mostly women, though I have male pieces available as well, and their ages range from 20’s to 70’s. They have variable incomes, lifestyles, and even environmental attitudes. What links them is a desire for jewelry that is
Continued in Part Two…