Strong Voices Interview #21: Jennifer Dixon - Co-founder of the wearness
Your experiences in the fashion industry are colorful - from classic journalism, over founding your own sustainable marketplace to currently functioning as the Head of Marketing and Communications at a high-end designer label. Which experiences and milestones were the most formative and what was your motivation behind them?
I studied Fashion Journalism at the Akademie Mode Design (AMD) in Hamburg. During my studies, I had to do two internships and I remember applying to a student internship at InStyle, because I have known them from the US. At that time, InStyle was still relatively new and unknown. I ended up doing both internships in the fashion department which clearly shows how comfortable I felt in that sphere. During my internships, I realized that I really wanted to work in this field after finishing my course, however, I also realized quickly that writing would not be an option for me and that I would much rather create concepts for fashion and flat lay pages. After my studies, I slowly but continuously followed my passion and my own path - from a fashion assistant to a junior editor, then into an editor role and ultimately as to become the fashion director. After 14 amazing years, I changed in 2016 to Stylebob.com as their Editorial Director, building the whole editorial team from scratch. I was responsible for all fashion onsite content: content on the website, in the magazine as well as the newsletter communication, and for the styling and description of the looks we have used. It was new and exciting and obviously a massive advancement from my previous jobs.
With the wearness you have created a market pace for sustainably produced products. What has motivated you to found your own business? (Especially while functioning as the Deputy Editor in Chief from not only one, but two lifestyle and fashion magazines at the same time!)
Sometimes a simple talk with one of your colleagues can change your whole perspective - that’s at least what happened to me. After spending 14 years working for a fashion magazine and then working as the editorial director for a luxury platform I realized: It has always been about bringing outstanding clothes to women. There was never a break to catch a breath and ask yourself “Is that not too much”? The subject of sustainability was for me, like for many others, not really present at that time. Only after having dinner with Julia Zirpel (Jennifer's co-founder at the wearness), I started questioning the methods of the fashion industry - the idea of the wearness was born. Meanwhile, I am convinced that a responsible approach to fashion is possible if we all take part collaboratively. I think that every way, that leads away from mass production, is the right way. With the wearness it is important for us to showcase, how beautiful, but also how luxurious fair fashion can be. Formerly, for us as fashion editors the whole subject of sustainability had a sense of an outmoded environmental image, here at the wearness, we show fashion that we ourselves like to wear.
Founding a sustainable marketplace also shows that sustainability is not a standard in the industry. What do you think needs to change so that we progress into a more sustainable future?
Society talks a lot about sustainability, but fair and ecologically produced fashion is still rarely being produced. Still, sustainability-sourced fashion is often wrapped in an old - fashioned image. The wearness wants to provide a smart shopping alternative: You can shop fair, transparent fashion with a clean conscience - without cutting back on style and quality. We all love fashion. As long-standing fashion editors, we all witnessed how the fashion industry has changed over the last few years. Over the last years, the industry has been becoming faster and more and more ephemeral. Collections change more often than ever and the worldwide textile consumption has doubled since 2000. More and more clothes go straight from the shelves into the wardrobe and straight from the shelves to the landfill. Fashion has no meaning anymore. It has become a disposable good. Fashion has nothing to do anymore with a good feeling or personal expressions. The dramatic consequences? Mountains full of thrown-out clothes, that have been produced far away as cheap as possible. How a garment has been produced, who has worked on the garments and under which conditions - that is barely retraceable. It is a fact that the fashion industry holds second place in the most polluting industries, just shortly after the oil industry.
How do you combine sustainability and consumption at the wearness?
The wearness makes it easy to choose the right products. We only work with brands and labels, that conduct business based on respect for the planet and the people and who comply with our three main criteria: spectacular design, perfect quality and sustainable production method. It is not always easy to recognize, if and why a product deserves the predicate “sustainable”. That is why we use ten icons for sustainability, to check labels and looks. Only if a brand complies with our sustainability standards, we showcase their collections for purchase on the wearness.
In retrospective: Which encounters challenged you most when founding your own company? How did you overcome them?
In reality, I was only self-employed for a very brief period, in the early stages of the wearness. Afterwards, I decided to return to permanent employment and to start freelancing for the wearness - simply, because I feel more comfortable and safe. Founding my own company would have never been an option for me on my own. The whole founding process, including many ups and downs and even more learnings and amazing experiences, I have mastered with my co-founder Julia Zirpel. We have always asked for support when we felt insecure about something and we have always accepted help when we did not know what to do next. That’s what I would recommend to everyone, who wants to embark on this journey: You are not a lonely island and everything will be easier if someone else is there with you.
Which moment made you feel the happiest when founding the wearness?
The many first times: the first label that wanted to work with the wearness, the launch 2016, the first article about our idea, the first customer, the first panel-talk in Munich - all emotional moments, which I like to think about whenever it gets unsteady.
Cards on the Table: How do you manage to do it all: your full-time leading position in a fashion luxury house, your journalistic tasks as the fashion director at MaxMagazin and your role as a co-founder?
That is only possible because I truly enjoy everything that I am doing. And obviously one should not forget: I am not doing everything completely alone.
What do you do on those days, when everything is simply too much?
I live in Hamburg with my boyfriend and our dog. The daily walks with them are my highlight and balm for my soul. Also, our little house in Denmark is our small, quiet oasis.
Personally, which advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
Unfortunately, I am really bad at conserving important moments and beautiful memories. My advice for me would be: take more pictures and write a journal - for your personal and your professional memories.