SEZ consultation with: Jakob Mast

Jakob Mast is 18 years old, a student at the Freudenstadt Waldorf School and has only worn sustainable fashion since he was 14 years old. His favorite outfit: Veja sneakers, Nudie jeans and a shirt with graphic flowers and owls from KnowledgeCotton Apparel. During the SEZ consultation hour, we ask an expert about the topic of the SEZletter. Today Jakob reports on how he became a convinced fan of sustainable fashion and how he orientates himself in the ever-growing slow fashion market.

SEZ: When did you start working on sustainable textiles and conscious consumer behavior? Was there a pivotal moment in your life for this?  

Jacob: It was more of a process. After I bought my first clothes myself at the age of 14, the question arose in my mind as to what the clothing value chain actually looks like. My parents have always valued a sustainable lifestyle. I grew up knowing that our soil is the most valuable thing and that it needs to be protected. I have also known for a long time that we are currently using more resources than is acceptable for the ecosystems. In our everyday family life, this only applied to our food consumption. When I was 14 years old, I sat on the train and read Götz Werner's autobiography. So I started talking to a trainee teacher who was sitting across from me. We talked about economic issues and post-growth ideas. This is how we came to the conclusion that we bear a great deal of responsibility with our daily purchasing decisions. For the retailer, paying for something means: well done, keep it up! It is an expression of appreciation. Demand and supply shape our world. Therefore, where there is demand, sooner or later there will also be supply. It was clear to me at that moment that my sustainable purchases in the future could not only refer to fairly traded organic food, but that this would actually have to apply to all of my consumer goods, especially textiles. The person I spoke to on the train came from Freiburg and told me that there is a store in Freiburg called Zündstoff for sustainable textiles that also look good.  

SEZ: How satisfied were you with your first sustainable clothing items?  

Jacob: I was very pleased. The quality was very good and I have only had favorite clothes since then. After my first purchases at Zündstoff, Avocadostore, Greenality and Glore, I asked myself more and more questions about sustainable textiles. I asked myself more and more what the point of doing this was. It became increasingly clear to me that our consumer behavior bears a responsibility for many other people, such as the seamstresses in Bangladesh. We determine their lives with our purchases. We also influence which pesticides are used to poison cotton fields and soil by people in Africa, for example. Somehow we are also guilty. I simply didn't want and don't want a lot of the way things are going anymore.  

SEZ: How many clothes do you own and how do you finance this sustainable consumption?

Jacob: I probably own a lot less clothing than many people. That's why I really enjoy wearing them all. I have a sweater, 3 pairs of nude jeans and a few shirts from KnowledgeCotton Apparel. I made an agreement with my parents that I would have a certain amount available each year for my clothing. How and what I spend it on is up to me. So I decided less is more. When I was younger, I got all my clothes from my older cousins ​​when they were too small for them. For me, this is also sustainable textile consumption.

SEZ: How do you orient yourself in the ever-growing market?

Jacob: I primarily pay attention to whether the garment is GOTS certified. GOTS stands for Global Organic Textile Standard. Here, the raw material production, i.e. the cultivation or production of the fibers, the production and further processing of yarns and fabrics into a finished garment and the transport route from one production step to the next to the end consumer are checked. I also find the seal of the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) very helpful. For me, these two seals cover important aspects of the value chain. I still like to look online at Zündstoff, Avocadostore or directly at my favorite brands. But I prefer going to the shops. You can easily do this on the internet platform Find and get seal clarity there.

SEZ: What do sustainable textiles mean to you?

Jacob: For me, sustainable textiles mean producing and consuming beautiful things with respect and respect for those who grew and made them. In short: responsible business.

SEZ: How do those around you, such as classmates and friends, react to your consumer behavior?  

Jacob: Appreciative and I have often received compliments on my KnowledgeCottonApparell shirts. Sometimes friends also tell me that they find the topic important. A few also buy sustainable clothes. We can inspire each other. 

SEZ: Why is it that relatively few people are still willing to consume more sustainably, especially in the area of ​​fashion?

Jacob: When I go shopping with friends, the price is often an obstacle. However, if you buy a little less and only buy your favorite clothes, then it's not as expensive as it seems. In my opinion, a second inhibition is that people think that their own consumer behavior won't change anything. Buying is not just about paying, but also about commissioning. My responsibility when buying is just not as obvious as when I make a contract face to face with someone who is in precarious circumstances, but actually it's the same thing. Another inhibition is habit. Change is always stressful if you are not simply swept along by the mainstream. The slow fashion movement mainly consists of many young labels, all of which are still growing. I think it takes time for them to become established, like organic food or fair trade coffee. 

SEZ: Many people know that someone pays the price for a $5 t-shirt. Nevertheless, they do not change their consumption behavior. What do you think is the reason for this?

Jacob: I also think that many people at least know that things cannot continue as they are now. I also assume that almost everyone knows that he or she can make a difference by purchasing a product. I call this passive responsibility, which we all bear through this knowledge. Responsibility for the working conditions of the people employed and responsibility for the ecological compatibility of the production of my consumer goods. The active responsibility lies in actually doing something. I think many people are paralyzed by the thought that one person alone cannot save the entire world. Because it seems like there are just too many problems in the world right now.

SEZ: And how do you deal with this responsibility?

Jacob: My aunt, who is always on her toes, always says “just do it!” And experience proves her right. Once you get started, it's actually quite easy to change something. My guitar teacher says the same thing: “If you're wondering whether you should practice or not, don't think about it for too long, just sit down and do it.” The problem is usually that there are just too many things to say "Just do it". In nature you can observe many things that are symbolic of human phenomena. The polyp is a very simple creature. He stands with his foot on the sea floor and waits for food to swim by. As soon as food is nearby, it stretches out its arms to enclose the food and then digest it. However, if two pieces of food are at the same distance from the polyp in opposite directions, it stretches one arm in one direction and the other in that direction. In theory, he can starve like that. Fortunately, there are currents in the sea, so this will never happen. We can't just make decisions from our heads. We have far too many options for that. If you have moved it in your heart, you can decide it from your gut. You can plunge into the unknown and leave your comfort zone; you shouldn't stop at yourself. The opportunities that lie within each individual are so incredible.

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