If we want to reduce our footprint, it is better to own less, share more and consume fewer things. Preferring quality over quantity is one way to change one’s buying habits. Janita invites us to think about sustainability in fashion, responsibilities of a designer, and so much more!
Janita, how do you define yourself?
In general I don’t like to do any strict definitions about myself or my brand because I believe people or things are rarely so simple that you could define them with a word or sentence. But if I have to define myself in a simple line, I could say that I’m a slow fashion enthusiast. I believe that our world would be a much better place if people would do more sustainable choices when shopping clothes and accessories. Sustainability in fashion means ecological and recycled materials as well as paying attention to the appropriateness and life cycle of the final product. In a few words: buy less, but better!
If you are a vegetarian/vegan, then what is vegetarianism/veganism for you?
I don’t follow any strict vegetarian or vegan diet but with my family we have decreased the share of meat and we are increasing the share of vegetarian food in our everyday life all the time.
What were your reasons being establishing the brand Annie Eleanoora? What does the Annie Eleanoora do?
I established my own brand in 2014 beacause I love design and making things by hand. I have also a degree in business administration so it was quite easy and natural for me to become an entrepreneur. The most important thing for me while running my brand is that I do my own thing and don’t try to be someone else or copy some general design.
Annie Eleanoora makes jewellery and small accessories. Minimalistic forms and simple shapes are the basic elements of the design. All products are designed and handmade in Finland.
Why sustainable design?
Originally I was interested in sustainable design when writing my master’s thesis at the University of Helsinki where I have studied craft science and education. In my thesis I studied the question why people easily say they prefer sustainability in their choises, but do the opposite when actually buying fashion. My outcome was that people would probably sincerely like to buy sustainble fashion, but when they have to do the actual desicion, price and other things are often more meaningful than aspects of sustainability. But I think think these questions are bigger and it’s not so simple that consumers are the only ones responsible for the sustainable development of the planet earth. Our society should also do something to help people to live more sustainable life. By this I mean for example regulating the internation fashion industry etc.
You were the first brand using SnapPap, a vegan leather paper in Weecos (a Finnish online sustainable marketplace). What kind of a material the SnapPap is?
Vegan leather is a new material which consists of cellulose and natural rubber latex. The material is also called as a washable paper. You can wash vegan leather by hand or in a washing machine. You can also iron creased vegan leather. Vegan leather is ecological and does not contain any toxic subtances like pentachlorophenol, PVC or BPA. The material is completely vegan. I found the material first time when I visited the Craft Fair in Tampere few years ago. First I was a bit sceptic that will the material be useful in actual everyday products. I ordered a small amount of the material and tested it in a hard way. The material turned out to be just as great as promised and I was convinced that it could really be a sustainable choice for recycled leather which I had used earlier. I feel that new materials like vegan paper are excellent examples of creative solutions that can rise the business in a new level.
What are the grand challenges in producing environmentally and socially responsible design?
Challenge in producing environmentally and socially responsible products are often higher production costs. When using a new and not so well known material like vegan leather, I also have to do much more work telling people what is this material and to convince people that it really is a long-lasting material in products.
Creating low-impact design is more complicated than making fast design. What motivates you to keep going? Also, will the whole industry change eventually?
Fast fashion and things like planned obsolescence in industrial design make me so sad that I with my own design I want to offer some better choises for people. I believe that the industry may change eventually but it is not possible without international regulation.
How does one become a successful designer in the field of sustainable design?
Believe in what you do and don’t do any compromises in important questions.
How does one become a successful sustainable designer in the field of design?
Do your own thing and don’t be a copycat.
What are the main ways designers can contribute to social impact?
Designer should always know where and who produces the materials they use in their products and choose only socially responsible producers. Also designers can take part to campaings where you donate all or part of your revenues to support socially important issues. I have for example taken part to campaings where you support the human right organisations like Pride Helsinki and Pride Turku. I have also taken part every year to the Weecos Bright Friday campain every year. Last year Bright Friday campaing brands donated certain amount to the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation.
What sustainable designers, activists, minimalists, etc would you say have influenced you the most, and why?
Some years ago I appreciated strong Finnish design brands like Marimekko and Iittala, but unfortunately they have moved most of their production to cheap countries and I can’t say anymore the same. These days I have many favourite small brands but if I had to mention one, it would be the Estonian brand Reet Aus. I love their concept as well as their beautiful minimalist design.
What are your hopes and dreams both regarding sustainability and the Annie Eleanoora?
In future I hope more and more people won’t just say that they appreciate sustainable design but that you can see this opinion in their everyday choises.
Weecos (online shop): https://www.weecos.com/fi/annie-eleanoora