An Interview with Julia Eden of JuliaEden Designs (Part Two)

Continued from Part one

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?

This is actually an interesting question – in some ways, mostly very short-term, they can help the workers. But for the most part they are simply a diversion and the companies that employ sub-standard methods are never really held accountable. The amount of din helps the consumer to believe something is being done, even though nothing is actually changing. For more information, you can check out this article I wrote on safe working conditions in the wake of factory disasters.

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

Women and children are absolutely a focus, especially since they have less resources at their disposal that they can employ to affect change. But we should not be mistaken – the families these women and children come from also have men that are being equally as exploited, just in other industries. It shouldn’t matter if it’s fashion or a dog toy, being aware of the atrocities of the supply chain are a consumer responsibility and only by taking action (by supporting responsible companies) will we make things better for anyone.

Who is a womens rights and childrens rights activist or campaigner hero for you?

This may sound callous, but I am less concerned with human rights than animal and environmental rights. Humans have control of their existence. It is not always a lot of control, but their are always choices to be made. I am primarily libertarian in ideology so I do not believe in coddling people – whatever your situation, it is up to you to make it better. They have ways to fight their own battles. Animals, on the other hand, are truly oppressed and can not change their situation without our help. The environment then suffers the consequences of our actions, and soon none of us will have a choice about much of anything. I love David Suzuki, the Canadian environmentalist, for his ideas about working with the earth (for example, why do we farm cows in Australia where no cow exists naturally?). I also love Anita Roddick and Jane Goodall for the work they’ve done with animals. And I think Al Gore should be acknowledged for his efforts at bringing the idea of sustainability to the general masses.

The Gender Inequality Index (GII) relates to the empowerment of women, gender equality, and international womens 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?

There are certainly a lot of things that can be said about gender equality, but I think the aspect that gets lost in all of the din is the insidious detail of it. There are many large strides being made in effort of equality, but there is this unspoken stigma in being a woman that permeates your entire life.

When I was old enough to drive and work and make a life for myself, I would meet many new people, groups of friends would merge, overlap, or divide, and so I was often in situations where introductions were required. What I started to notice is that, if I was the only female in the group, I would not be introduced. It’s a small thing, hardly noticeable. But I noticed. And I felt it. And it shaped the opinions I have and the social niceties that I employ. So while I think we should continue working towards equality, we can’t forget to address the ideals and attitudes that shaped the inequality to begin with.

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?

The most important thing a consumer can do is vote with their dollar. If you don’t buy products that are mass produced using slave labour, require toxic chemicals, and basically just abuse the supply chain, they won’t make them. It’s. That. Simple.

From personal observations, more women than men involve themselves in the fashion industry by a vast margin of difference at most levels. Why?

Tradition? Fashion really became a woman’s game around the turn of the 20th century – early periods saw men’s fashion hold a much higher considered importance. There were a number of factors that lead to this, but I personally think those reasons are going extinct and we are seeing greater involvement from men going forward.

Also, more men than women appear at the highest ends of the business ladder in fashion. Why?

Again, tradition? Men have traditionally taken more senior management roles than women, and within fashion, the manager is not always the designer. I think many companies would have felt a man from a different field would make a better CEO than a woman from within the fashion industry.

What might make men more involved in the fashion world in general?

As we relax the stereotypes about what are acceptable behaviors/interests for males versus females, I believe men will look more towards the fashion industry as a way to express their individuality. As I said earlier, it took me a long time to realize that fashion designers are not fashionistas – there are many roles within the industry that would appeal to people that are not necessarily fashion-oriented, and designing is only one of them.

What might make men more involved in the ethical and sustainable fashion world in general?

I think the barrier to entry is the same for everyone: knowledge. The more you know the more you will feel the need to do better.

Will having men in the discussion and on-the-ground improve the implementation of children’s and women’s rights?

I’m almost a little offended by the premise of this question. It is not about women’s rights, or children’s rights, or men’s rights…It is about the rights of humans, the rights of animals, and the rights of the Earth.

What personal fulfillment comes from this work for you?

Every person who buys one of my pieces has made a decision to do better by the world. There are a lot of people that absolutely do not care, so having this reassurance, that someone besides myself does care, is the hope that sustains my optimism.

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

I’ve done a lot of volunteering in the past, but recently I turned my attention to writing. I have a wealth of information accumulated over the years, and I love sharing it with anyone that wants to learn. You can find my work on my website and on Socially Conscious Brands.

Any recommended authors or fashionistas (or fashionistos)?

For anyone just starting to shape their beliefs, I recommend Tom Robbins. I also love the Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel, and the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy by Douglas Adams.

Almost any dystopian speculative fiction can be eye opening to our current situation, but my favorite authors are Neal Stephenson and Margaret Atwood. Jennifer Nini is a (non)fashionista whom I follow – I love her attitude about life! I think fashion (should be) too personal to follow someone simply for their style, but Jennifer, TheYarina (Fashion Hedge), and Livia Firth are all spreading important ideas!

Any recommended means of contacting, even becoming involved with, JuliaEden Designs?

You can easily contact me through my website. I welcome all inquiries and am open to all opportunities!

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

Design can be very personal…I knew I was creating something different, something that doesn’t exist anywhere else, and that is very scary. I am still struggling to believe that there are enough people out there that also like what I do to sustain my business (and to help it grow to become the non-profit I am dreaming of).

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

I have dealt with a multitude of existential crises and a wealth of chemical imbalances, but the most recent example of emotional struggle that comes to mind is Bowie’s death. That hit me hard and I still have a difficult time when I think about it. The reasons why are pretty personal.

What philosophy makes most sense of life to you?

Whatever you get when you cross Taoism with Absurdism. I may not always achieve that level of peace with my surroundings, but it’s comforting to try. I think it was best summed up by Angel, “if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do”.

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

I think the main thing that people need to remember is that they have an incredible amount of power, and if they choose not to use that power by not being informed about the consumer choices they make, then that power is wasted.

Thank you for your time, Julia.

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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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