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Sustainable, but Sexy: Let’s Talk about Jan ‘n June

How hard is it to connect sexy and sustainable? Apart from the problems of finding solutions to produce fair and ecologically correct, the fashion industry is struggling to discover a way to communicate these garments. It is also true that many designers with no clue about fashion and aesthetics, but with tons of ideology, simply aren’t helping by making horrible clothes (but this is another topic…).

For those who love fashion itself, it is an issue to switch from traditional fashion houses to “eco” ones because they are not fashionable or desirable enough, and if they are, they (mostly) are expensive.

But have a look at Jan ’n June collections. Founded by Juliana Holtzheimer and Anna Katharina Bronowski in 2014, the brand from Hamburg, Germany, follows the Bauhaus motto “less is more” and produces simple, clean, and as Juliana defines it, “a little Scandinavian” clothes. The best part: it’s affordable (I don’t mean cheap, but the prices are fair).

The most important thing here is that their philosophy is to be fashionable, cool, and sustainable — everything in one package! And so far, with two collections produced, they have met their claim.

Shoshanna Silky

Ted Long

There is an attitude about the clothes. Shoshanna Silky is a little black dress with a cutout on the back made from 100% recycled polyester interlock; Rachel could be a boring grey sweatshirt made of 80% recycled cotton, but a delicate cutout on the elbows changes everything; and Illa Black is a pencil skirt with an indiscreet detail made of organic tulle.

Transparency is another important value for Jan ’n June (shouldn’t it be to anyone?). On their online shop, it is possible to find out who designed and made patterns, where the materials came from, their components, how to take care of the pieces, if they’re certified, vegan, or recycled and so on. The designers also keep a big eye on the suppliers. “At least twice a year we visit our production. We've just returned from Poland last week,” explained Juliana when I interviewed her in November 2015.

By email, we talked about the communication battle on the sustainable fashion field, customers, and a little bit about the future. See the interview below and stay tuned: SS16 is coming out in March 2016 at www.jannjune.com

Why do you think it is still so hard to communicate "cool" when the matter is sustainable standards in fashion?

We think there are still a lot of prejudices about sustainability. There are a lot of different ones but what we hear most often is: “Sustainable? So everything is in greenish and brownish colors and has a bulky fit?" No, of course not! Also, caring about sustainability in the fashion industry means to change your whole shopping approach. And because we are not directly affected by the problems and consequences yet it's very inconvenient to do so. We think that sustainability won't be the only reason someone buys something. The whole communication of a brand and product has to fit to our lifestyles.

You say on your website that "Jan ’n June communicates sustainability differently", but the terms like "vegan", "eco", "green", "sustainable" are also there. How do you think your communication is different?

Especially the German words (“öko”, “ökofair”, “nachhaltig”) are connected to certain images. We try to avoid those and work with simple words, very often in English. Furthermore, we think every step towards a more sustainable lifestyle counts. In the sustainable fashion industry, everyone tends to be kind of radical. This is important on the one hand, but also tends to discourage customers on the other. We don't want to give people the impression that they have to be 100% perfect in their behavior from the start on. To change our shopping habits is a process we have to work on all together, little by little.

What kind of customers does your brand attract: “eco” or fashionista?

It's definitely a mix! But what we hear a lot is: "Finally there's a brand that is ‘eco’ but doesn't look like it".

Do you have any project to take care of the clothes post-consumer?

Not yet! But this is an issue we are very conscious about and we need a solution for. Or, actually, the whole textile industry needs a solution for. Cradle-to-cradle is something to think of. As soon as we grow (it's still just the two of us), we will try to implement something to close the lifecycle of a garment.

Text: Maíra Goldschmidt

Photographer: Johanna Güttner Photography

Model: Alina Muschalik

Hair & Make: Evelyn Innenhofer