A Letter of Thanks
Early February 2022, as part of the Dutch Circular Economy Week, we held our first public-facing presentation as the Fibershed Netherlands Foundation. As an affiliate of California-based Fibershed.org, our organization aims to help (re-)build local, regenerative farm-to-fashion supply chains in support of soil, environment, and biodiversity. We are thrilled by the positive returns we have gotten in the past few days and weeks, especially also from companies and organizations along the Dutch farm-to-fashion circle. The openness and willingness to collaborate for greater common goals encourage us to proceed with determination. We look forward to our journey ahead and the projects we are hoping to launch with partners from the private, public, and academic sectors.
But our journey isn’t starting today. And we didn’t get here on our own.
In fact, if it hadn’t been for some of the inspiring people we met, the insights they shared, and the exchanges we had, we wouldn’t have reached the point we are at. So, through this article, we would like to take you back to where our journey did start and who those people were that inspired us along the way. In a way, this is also a letter of thanks to all those of you who were willing to share your vision and experience, planting new seeds of thought into our minds.
We launched Good Brand Guru with the objective of inspiring and connecting sustainability experts and fashion professionals. Not entirely realizing that, in the process, we would probably be the ones learning the most. In the past three years, through our various events and conversations, we were privileged to meet remarkable leaders and experts in the industry. No, not the CEOs of the biggest fashion houses, but those that are tenaciously redefining the rules of practice and setting new standards. They are the ones who drove us to pursue our path of spreading knowledge and connecting people for collaboration. They are also the ones who helped shape our vision of what the fashion system should look like, namely one that is social, circular and regenerative!
Social entrepreneurs such as Marian von Rappard showed us that if you don’t agree with the system, then take matters into your own hands and start a company where you set the rules. Business leaders such as Andreas Rohrich, who openly shared the names of all the partners that allowed him to develop C2C products, demonstrated the critical need for openness and transparency to be able to advance the industry. A string of circular business leaders we connected with, through our round tables, webinars, and articles showed us how we completely need to rethink our relationship to clothes and fashion. From different parts of the world, Amy Dufault and Ellie Skeele opened our eyes to the fact that we should be working with and for nature. Long-time fashion professionals with extensive experience in the field, such as Coty Jeronimus and Vera Galarza kept reminding us of how environmental and social concerns are inextricably linked.
The documentary Kiss the Ground made us think: why do we only think of the food industry when we think of agriculture and land when fashion relies so heavily on nature too? So, we sought out pioneers that are putting nature at the forefront in fashion for a panel discussion. We are extremely grateful to Beto Bina, Chris Kerston, Helen Crawley, Megan Meiklejohn, and Zachary Angelini who showed us that fashion companies can play a role in, not only protecting but also restoring nature. And, at the same time, Yanniek Schoonhoven, inspired us by the way she just went out and got her hands dirty, trying things out on a farm: if you don’t try, you don’t know. If you haven’t yet, please watch the panel discussion and/or this webinar by Chris Kerston.
With all the agriculture we have in the Netherlands, the level of knowledge around agriculture, a strong focus on circularity, a thriving creative sector, and many fashion companies, why aren’t we seeing a link between fashion and nature in the Netherlands? We decided to explore. A conversation with Nina Conrad, co-founder of Leit&Held as well as Fibershed DACH, encouraged us to look for possibilities to build local supply chains in the Netherlands, at first, specifically around leather. In discussions with Dieter van den Broeck from Commonland, and regenerative agriculture and creative commons advocate, Natasha Hulst, the idea emerged that … maybe… we could build a Fibershed affiliate in the Netherlands.
As both of us are Dutch but not based in the Netherlands, we reached out to Martine’s former colleague, Stijntje Jaspers, who was rounding off a master’s module ‘sustainability and systemic change’ on the importance of a local circular textile supply-chain. She was immediately on board. With her vision and energy, we could quickly move forward in establishing the Fibershed the Netherlands Foundation, with Stijntje as president and Martine as secretary. Fortunately, Lexi Fujii and Rebecca Burgess, from Fibershed.org were happy to let us be an official Fibershed affiliate too.
Since August 2021, the journey has gone into acceleration. We pitched our idea to creators, makers, researchers, farmers, and other land stewards throughout the farm-to-fashion chain. Thank you to Michiel Scheffer, Paula Konter en Maaike Hoitink for giving us insights into the limitations and opportunities of re-building local supply chains in the Netherlands, and fueling our drive to pursue. Today, we are extremely happy to count among our team Ingeborg Braaksma, and as advisors Natasha Hulst, Reina Ovinge, Annemieke Koster, Dieter van den Broeck and Antoine Heideveld.
To all those that planted seeds of inspiration, set examples of leadership, and showed us how things could be done differently (including all those we didn’t explicitly mention above), a heartfelt ‘Thank you!’ Despite still running on a shoestring, we are committed to pursuing our work and further spreading the ideas and visions that you planted within us. It is only in openness and collaboration that we can move towards a kinder, fairer, and healthier world. And, in the spirit of openness and moving forward for a higher cause: to anyone who might have read this and wants to learn, connect or collaborate;
We welcome you to join us on our journey towards a new fashion system that is social, circular and regenerative.
Bryony Jansen – van Tuyll, Martine Nieuwenhuis, Stijntje Jaspers
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