Simply put, Johanna Bjork is amazing. She wears many hats in the industry as the publisher and editor-in-chief of Goodlifer and writer for CocoEco. Not only is she an expert in the field of sustainable and eco fashion, but she has this awesome ability to articulate all of her intelligent thoughts in a powerful and interesting way. I was so delighted to get the change to interview her and I thought it was imperative to share her expertise with you all.
1. First off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to start writing for Coco Eco and Goodlifer?
“I grew up in Sweden, where a lot of sustainable thinking is ingrained into our daily lives. When I moved to Miami ten years ago I was struck with what I felt was a total lack of concern for the environment — it was impossible to recycle anything and people drove these big cars and ate all this highly processed food. I was very disheartened for a long time, and it wasn’t until I started putting together a sustainability-themed issue of a magazine for a design organization I was on the board of that I felt like I had found an outlet for the thoughts in my head. People don’t like to feel like they’re being preached to, even if they wanted the advice in the first place. I found the internet to be the best outlet for me, since people will not come to a site unless they were actually looking for something. I guess it’s a sort of passive preaching that suits me very well.
I started Goodlifer shortly after I had moved to New York. Like for many others, it was that classic moment of feeling down on the world after seeing “An Inconvenient Truth” and not knowing what I could do about it. The newsmedia just feeds us with all this negativity and it’s easy to feel powerless. I decided that I needed to find the good stuff that was out there — people and companies doing great things rooted in sustainable thinking — and figure out what defines Good Life in the 21st Century. Since I was doing all this, I felt like I wanted to share it with anyone else who may be in that same place. Thus, Goodlifer was born.
The team behind Coco Eco and I found each other through mutual friends in the sustainability world, and since our philosophies had many synergies we decided we needed to work together. When it launched two years ago Coco Eco was the first “glossy” magazine to go entirely digital. I’m not sure if there are others out there now, but that kind of trail-blazing spirit is what I think we need to create positive change in the world.”
2. What does sustainable fashion mean to you?
“Well, I think the term is sort of an oxymoron, because fashion, by nature, is based on the new and the now. The fashion industry today moves at a ridiculous pace. Instead of two collections a year there are now at least four, people don’t even have time to take off the price tags before something is last-season!
I’m more interested in style and individuality. Fashion bloggers and sites like Lookbook have changed the way we look at fashion and style. It’s not about trends and who has this or that it-bag, it’s about creating a personal style that others can be inspired by. Designers are increasingly borrowing inspiration from streetstyle sites like The Sartorialist (instead of the other way around). I’ve always shopped at second hand stores and I keep everything I buy forever. It’s about creativity. Creating an amazing look from things you have in your closet is so much for inspiring, challenging and innovative than buying a runway look off the rack.”
3. Do you think that the phrase ‘sustainable fashion’ could ever become redundant? If yes, how so?
“I hope so. In my ideal vision of the future, sustainability will be something that everyone just does—because it’s smarter, cheaper and more efficient. People are starting to question things, and nobody wants to wear something made with toxic materials or using child labor. Information is power—if we spread awareness, the industry will have to change to meet our demands.”
4. Are there any eco designers that you feel have already bridged the gap between mainstream fashion and eco fashion?
“I really don’t think there should be a differentiation between eco-fashion and “regular” fashion. Eco-fashion is just fashion that’s smarter and better. That said, John Patrick (Organic by John Patrick), Eviana Hartman (Bodkin), Natalie Chanin (Alabama Chanin) and sportswear company Patagonia are good examples of designers whose lines are being sold in mainstream stores.”
5. Do you think that eco fashion can be profitable? Do you have any proof?
“Yes, absolutely. Alabama Chanin’s pieces sell at Barneys for prices that are quite high. They do, however reflect all the work that goes into each hand-sewn garment. Similarly, Patagonia’s concern for the environment is a philosophy that is so well-aligned with their customer base (climbers and outdoorsy people) that people are willing to pay more for that. Sustainably minded designers are not taking the shortcuts others take in order to save money, and the true cost of the garment is reflected in the price.”
6. What standards do you go by when choosing what to post on your own personal blog or on Coco Eco/Goodlifer?
“I mostly buy vintage or second hand clothing, and I have a lot of stuff that has been in my closet for a very long time, sometimes over ten years. I always choose pieces that I know will last me a very long time over trendy fast-fashion pieces. Of course, I am not perfect. I do buy stuff at chainstores once in a while.”
7. What is the most intriguing thing that you have seen happen with sustainable fashion in the past year or so?
“I think a lot of exciting stuff is happening with materials and processes. The database Source4Style is making it easier for designers to find sustainable materials, and companies like AirDye (which uses air instead of water to dye fabrics) are pioneering the use of the processes that can radically reduce the environmental impact of a garment. Also, the use of recycled materials intrigues me. I’ve discovered many amazing bag companies, actually. ReMade USA, making bags from old leather jackets, Environment by Heather Heron, using recycled army fabric, and The Sway, utilizing production waste and leather scraps. These are all great examples of different ways to look at materials.”
8. What are your hopes for the future of the fashion industry?
“I hope we get some new blood at the helms of the big fashion mags, people who dare to take more risks and feature relatively unknown designers, more eco-fashion and less fur! I also hope the industry can agree on a certification standard, similar to our nutrition label, so that it’s easier for us consumers to make educated choices. I would love to see more designers daring to break the collections cycle, not making new stuff just because it’s a new season. That, of course, requires stores to change their buying schedules — it’s complicated, won’t happen in a day. Then I also hope that designers and scientists keep coming up with newer, smarter and better materials and techniques, and that people become more willing to pay the true cost of things and buy less but smarter.”
9. Do you have a favorite eco fashion designer?
“I don’t really play favorites, I support any designer I think is doing work that needs to be acknowledged. Right now, though, I am lusting over perforated flats and simple slip-in clogs from Swedish Hasbeens and a ridiculously soft organic cotton peasant top from Loup Charmant.”