A grounded but heartfelt one-on-one with Founder and Editor of eco-fashion SIX Magazine, Estonian-born globally-dragging-around-her-luggage Alina Raetsep (you should have seen her pack up the Beijing apartment where she and the hubby resided for two years, even I felt the despair). No frills, no fringes; Raetsep, the floor is yours!
1. SIX magazine in SIX words (maybe I should have added “please”. Oh well, Dutch cliché “courtesy”.)
Innovation, tradition, sustainability in design & fashion. Can I cheat with “&” this way? (Habes, Alina.)
2. What is eco-fashion to YOU?
“Eco fashion” is quite a limited term in a way that it only describes ecologically sound fashion. I prefer to refer to the umbrella term “sustainability”, as overused as it might be, because it covers all of the SIX aspects of what any industry should be – including fashion. To me, sustainability is the formula of “respect + preservation + innovation”:
1) respect toward the environment
2) respect toward the people who produce the product / service
3) respect towards the end product and its lifecycle
4) respect toward the consumer
5) preservation of tradition
6) making use of and driving innovation.
3. Generally speaking: what’s your take on the China fashion landscape anno 2015?
China is really coming into its own in terms of developing styles that don’t just copy Western ideas of fashion, but rather refer to the roots of Chinese heritage. Subtle use of traditional lines, materials, methods and cuts mixed with innovative ideas are slowly but surely starting to give shape and voice to the creature that is modern Chinese design.
4. China meets eco-fashion. Huh? China does eco-related stuff, really? Go!
Concern with eco fashion doesn’t start with fashion, for many consumers it’s a natural progression from their interest in organic food and cosmetics. in China, as I suspect in the West, new parents are at the forefront of this group, followed closely by those who take keen interest in Western trends. And eco fashion is for sure a major Western “trend” that’s starting to spread eastward. Still, the majority of the Chinese designers are hardly aware and possibly don’t care about eco textiles or eco production methods. The one factor that points at the eco fashion movement among the Middle Kingdom creative talent is their reference of traditional production methods (Vega Wang) and, sometimes, collaboration with local artisanal communities (Angel Chang, Atelier Rouge de Pekin). Which is already a big step forward toward one of the very important elements of sustainable fashion – preservation of tradition. The engine behind the eco fashion movement in China are still expat / foreign designers and brands, for their majority, such as Neemic.
5. Eco favorites of the mainland/Hong Kong? Gimme three!
They might not be entirely eco, but they have fantastic prospects of becoming that way eventually – Vega Wang and Neemic have been my firm favourites ever since I discovered them when I started researching Chinese fashion in 2011, and I am torn between Angel Chang, who works with local communities across China bringing back traditional designs and textiles, and Atelier Rouge de Pekin, a Franco-Chinese design duo crafting Mao-inspired styles with a Parisian twist.
Raetsep and her two men, one big and one small, currently reside in Tallinn where the “ethical Vogue” founder is slaving away on the new SIX issues. Coming your way soon!