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

The Mission of Themis and Thread is to continue dedication to victimless fashion, wearable art, healthy environmental practices and equal human rights. Owner Jesse Junko Beardslee creates fashions from concept to completion in Hector, New York with as many American made fabrics, trims as well as recycled materials. Read more about her below. 

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

Both of my parents were artists.  I don’t know much about my father or his family.  My mother raised my younger brother and I in Central New York, a rural lakeside community in The Finger Lakes Region.  A hippie and a farmer, my mother taught us to be free thinkers and hard workers.  Growing up in a relatively homogeneous, poor, white, agricultural area did not prevent us from experiencing and celebrating diversity and culture. (English speaking, no religion)

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

I went to college for fashion at an art and tech school in the early 2000’s, though I never subscribed to much of the industry and was never interested mass production of garments.  I’ve always created, though most of my early work experience was in the service industry.  Since 2004 I have freelanced art, custom design, and alterations.  In 2013 I launched Themis and Thread, a micro manufacturer of clothing and jewelry created with sustainable materials.  I also continue to produce custom gowns for private clients.

How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?

Probably when I actually started to create fashion as a teenager.  Although I’ve always been aware of the injustices within the infrastructure of the fashion industry.  As a kid I was aware of slave and child labor and dangerous working conditions, but thought it wasn’t something I could do anything about.  It makes me really sad to know that it’s kind of a running joke to the average American.

I’ve always been interested in self sufficiency.  Figuring out how to do things for myself has been a passion, probably from watching my mother do it all on her own when I was a child.  So sustainability in all aspects of life is revealed once you consider the hows and the whys to anything.  Fashion is just the same.

When I started making fashion items I started thinking about the processes and components.  Being poor made think about sustainability because I couldn’t afford certain materials, and on a quest for self sufficiency researched how things are made.  I have always been interested in working with items others consider garbage.

Working with what you’ve got is how I began creating jewelry when I was dead broke.  Living on the road also taught me about sustainability, space for tools, opportunity for sales.  Themis and Thread combines all of those lessons and puts them to work for our eclectic line made of organic and upcycled materials.

How did your educational/professional experience inform fashion work?

Pretty classically.  I took courses like “Clothing Construction”, “Draping”, “Pattern Drafting”, “Fashion Illustration” and so on.

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

The global enormity of the fashion industry allows ethical and sustainable designers an awesome opportunity to make real change and impact.  There is a systemic malady deeply ingrained in today’s society that is resulting in ecological devastation. The simple fact that the fashion industry in whole employs some 60 million people means that ethical and sustainable designers and companies have great influence.  Just think of the resoration possibilities if this giant industry turned away from unjust, inhumane, dangerous, dirty, practices and instituted ethical and sustainable systems.  That’s what we call fighting with fashion.

What is the importance of fair trade?

Fair Trade is a great start, although local sourcing eliminates pollution and underrepresented costs during delivery.  Fair Trade is important because the value of a human’s skilled work is important and deserves to be acknowledged.  The message we’re sending when we toss out a cheap article of clothing is that human who made it was a throw away person.

 

Themis and Thread Alpaca hood. Made from custom felted vintage and reclaimed materials, lined with cruelty free alpaca

What is Themis and Thread?

A micro manufacturer of clothing and jewelry made from 100% American made sustainable materials.

What inspired the title of the organization?

Themis is the name of a goddess representative of many things including justice and seasons’ change.  I first discovered the word while nurturing my obsession of my favorite band, The Doors.  Jim Morrison’s girlfriend had a boutique in LA in the 1970’s that was named Themis, when I looked it up and found out it meant The Goddess of Justice I knew my business name would include it one day.  Other than indicating a component and process the word Thread in the title is to remind us there is at least one common thread which binds us all and that is our humanity.

What are some of its feature products?

Goddess Wrap, Merry Gold Belt Pouch, and Guitar String Bracelets.

Themis and Thread bracelet made from reclaimed guitar strings

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

Organic Cotton and Vintage Fabrics.

Who grows, harvests, designs, and manufactures the products of Themis and Thread?

American farmers in Texas grown, harvest, sort, spin, mill, knit or weave the fibers.  Some are dyed with low impact techniques there, some are GOTS dyed and printed in The Carolinas.  We have a mostly one-woman operation in a sewing studio in New York where most of the designing, drafting and constructing takes place.

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

The organic cotton is made from a seed hair cellulose and does not undergo any chemical treatments, so not only will it biodegrade, but it will do so safely.  Our Merry Gold Belt Pouch is made from an in house designed textile whose base is untreated art canvass we steam printed w marigold petals in a process we call Heavy Petal, no heavy metals are used to affix the natural dye, dissimilar from conventional fabric dyes.  We also use some other American made non organic cotton denims which will biodegrade.  The varied nature and unknown content of available vintage textiles we use makes that difficult to detmine.

What is your customer base – the demographics?

Our customers are activists and educated educators, they love life and are awesome!  18-60 college educated, interested in environmental policy, altruism, American made, organic living.  Many of them are artists and homesteaders themselves.

What topics most interest you?

Sustainability & Self Sufficiency, Enriching & Healthy Wholistic Living

Did you have a mentor in this work?

Have had many, still do!  My Mother, Mother-n-Law, and Grand Leslie, Marie Fitzsimmons and Mary Wittig, beautiful enlightened inspiring women.

Continued in part two here.

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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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