An Interview with Jesse Junko Beardslee of Themis and Thread Part Two

continued from Part one here

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?

Help make others aware this is an ongoing problem, this is not in our past, and if you think you’re not privileged you must think again.  Luck of being born in a place where women and children working in poor conditions is acceptable is a privilege.  We can vote with our dollars, we can be vocal about injustices, we can ask our representatives and elected officials to fight against these policies politically.

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

I’m not sure why women are drawn to the industry.  I think I understand why women are drawn to fashion in general, but working within the industry…  Historically cooking, cleaning and sewing were domestic duties expected to be done by women, and techniques have been taught and passed down to young women through generations.  Many have fond memories of bond building through these practices.  I don’t know how much of that goes on in our society today, maybe women of the future will not have these skills or want to work in the industry.

Themis and thread wrap goddess dress

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

That I think that has to do with inherent masogny and the historic nature of men being the work force long before it was acceptable for women to work.  This is not unique to fashion but a systemic issue in gender equality at large.

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

It seems to me men are incentivized by money and power.  So are women, but in a potentially emasculating (a word which has NO feminine equivalent) position I think that most men selfishly need to benefit excessively to comply.  Which doesn’t make sense to me, because the ratio would be in a man’s favor if he happened to be available and looking for female companionship – not to mention the strong connections that are built between designer and client, these are things I think a typical dude would love to take advantage of!  I certainly went to college with guys who leveraged the fashion angle!  When I was making money altering clothing I had tons of women and girls in and out of the studio (which was my husband’s childhood bedroom, we live in the house he grew up in), lots of prom dresses, bridesmaid dresses and wedding dresses.  I think it’s hilarious to imagine how blown his prepubescent mind would be if he knew then how many naked women would be in that room one day!

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

I think that knowing we are on the right track to affect great change in the whole world is incentivizing to everyone!  The ethical and sustainable fashion world is a space that is challenging, rewarding and fulfilling, peace of mind and soul nurture are side effects of working in a field that supports and protects all life systems.

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

Absolutely. The more diverse and inclusive group in on any conversation, the greater the likelihood is of finding a successful and effective solution. Also seeing how valuable the work truely is cannot be ignored once in the discussion and on the ground.

Matching Father Son Bow Tie Set. *The purchase of this product insures a donation to The Navajo Water Project, providing running water for Native Americans*

What personal fulfillment comes from this work for you?

I really believe that even the tiniest drop in the bucket creates a ripple effect.  I am encouraged by playing an active role in ethical and sustainable fashion, I can sleep at night, I believe in what I do, I feel so lucky and fulfilled by fighting with fashion.

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

Themis and Thread has recently partnered with a master milliner to upcycle our cutting floor waste.

I’m also wrapping up editing a story about Themis and Thread’s journey for Shatter the Ladder’s next issue.

I’m always politically activated.

There is an evolving fashion item implementing technology that I have been trying to get off the ground, sourcing in The United States has proved problematic.  But we are trying hard to develop a top that is protective and responsive for activists being attacked, which we’ve sadly seen a lot of this year

It’s the holiday season and we just partnered with The Navajo Water Project to offer some gifts that give; donating a portion of sales of certain products directly to the not for profit who is providing water to Americans.

Wednesday I am riding to the state capital with a local group of water defenders for a conference and rally at Govenor Cuomo’s office contesting a potential hazard to our local community.  Gas Free Seneca is lead litigation not for profit defending Seneca Lake from out of state oil interests attempting to store gas within the abandoned salt caverns below the lake.

We have also fought this with fashion via our Activist Ts which have served as a fundraiser.

Tomorrow I am going to a native fire ceremony in solidarity with Standing Rock and continue to write about the injustices there.

Any recommended authors or fashionistas (or fashionistos)?

Kate Black and also the book “Women in Clothes.”

Any recommended means of contacting, even becoming involved with, Themis and Thread?

Tweet me @themisandthread, email jessecreates@icloud.com, or call 607-546-8040

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

Separating myself from my product.

Also, I had a really emotional experience sewing recently for a woman with cancer, I could tell you about that if you’d like.

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

I struggle with negative people who focus on the worst of everything.

What philosophy makes most sense of life to you?

The two things my father hammered into my head:

Treat others the way you wish to be treated.

Leave any space you’ve visited just as good or in better condition than it was before you.

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

Wow, that was great!  I didn’t read through first and was really pleased with the flow of the questions, great conversation, love where we just went – thank you!

My involvement with ethical and sustainable fashion began with a love for fashion and creating.  I feel like I’m an accidental advocate.  If there were not such rampant injustice in the industry and the world I would still be making clothing.  The fact of the matter is our entire world is under siege.  I can’t think about making beautiful clothing if the whole shit house is going up in flames.  This is about environmental responsibility and basic human rights (one of which is a healthy environment!)

Thank you for your time, Jesse.

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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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