Interview by Nicole Adler
Interview Maison Katz / Laura singer https://lakatz.com
Maison Katz, your new label. How did it come about and why is it a personal concern of yours?
Regardless of fashion, I was frustrated by how destructive we are in discussions about sustainability. Instead of presenting holistic solutions, the common tenor is: Reduce. So less flying, less buying clothes and feeling bad about it. Basically, it just means: making the bad less bad. This is not a real solution and only postpones the problem. We are able to think intelligently and creatively. So instead of just improving partial aspects, why rethink the product? Instead of saving a few liters of water in the production of jeans, why not create jeans that are truly sustainable, i.e. intelligently thought through from the yarn to the packaging? Especially in fashion, the production method has become very much separated from design. In my opinion, good design includes not only aesthetics but also high quality. A designer dress made of polyester or viscose is a contradiction in terms for me. Aesthetics and ethics should always go hand in hand.
Long story short: For me, fashion is the industry with the greatest backlog demand to produce truly sustainable clothing. Greenwashing is a huge issue.
La Katz gives me the opportunity to express my love for colors and fabrics and at the same time create a completely new product. La Katz does completely without synthetics and harmful substances. Clothing that is not only beautiful, but also healthy for the skin.
How & where do you produce your silk collection?
The silk comes from India. It is certified organic silk which, in a unique process, does not kill the silkworm as in common silk production. Instead, the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly takes place. Silk is normally produced with similar problems as conventional cotton: With pesticides and chemical finishing methods – the process is not only harmful to the environment, the end product is also very far from a natural product.
All other materials come from Germany and Austria. Tailoring is done in Germany.
It is incredibly exciting to see how much innovation there is in Austria. For example, the packaging comes from Austria from the world’s first Cradle to Cradle certified print shop and is completely biodegradable.
What are you wearing personally. Are you just as consistent in your choice of clothes?
I would like to be more consistent. Unfortunately in many areas there is often a lack of healthy clothing. Yoga clothing for example. The wellness area is permanently flooded with new products, but almost all manufacturers still use polyester and elastane for their yoga leggings. So while I wear poisonous plastic on my skin, I drink my organic matcha tea. A complete paradox.
I no longer enter big fast fashion houses. Not only for ideological reasons, but also because my quality standards are no longer compatible with the clothes I wear. The classic effect: the new top looks great the first time it’s worn, after the first wash it has lost its shape and color. By the way, this is due to the chemical finishing process. All that matters to the manufacturers is that it looks good in the store at first glance. When you wash it, the chemicals come out and the initial effect disappears. This is also the reason why you always have the feeling that you have nothing to wear, even if the closet overflows.
I try to have a curated closet. Classics from Missoni and Etro. I am a big Wolford fan. Her turtlenecks are never missing on my trips. They have a certified Cradle to Cradle line, which they are constantly expanding. They are absolute pioneers when it comes to sustainability and combine perfectly healthy clothing with timeless design.
What has to change in order for a sustainable change to gain a foothold in the fashion business?
First of all, the change should not be projected only onto the customer. This is clearly an interaction between politics, industry and consumers.
Starting with a clear definition, for example at EU level: What must an item of clothing fulfill to be truly sustainable?
Because this important step is skipped in the discussion. This leads to complete confusion about what sustainability actually means and fashion companies call themselves green, even if they have only made minor improvements. At the moment we have a jumble of seals and every second fashion company writes sustainable on their advertising campaign. Not to improve anything, but to increase sales.
It takes an awareness of our materials and production methods. Our skin is our largest organ and absorbs the fabrics we wear. The awareness already exists for organic food and cosmetics. Only when it comes to clothing does it seem that we don’t care if what we wear is good for our body. Just the fact that many workers get cancer every year due to the regular cotton cultivation and many toxins that are processed as a matter of course (even in expensive clothes) lead to hormonal changes such as infertility should make us think. When we talk about health, we should not ignore clothing.
A great introduction to the topic is the documentation “True cost”.
As soon as there is a clear definition on a political level, as well as an awareness among customers about sustainable clothing, the fashion industry will have the need to drive innovation.
Furthermore, the eco-cliché has to be broken – many good sustainable fashion companies do not give enough space to beauty and design. But fashion is not just a reduced practical good. You don’t dress just because you are cold. Fashion is identity, desire and also an art form.
You have dealt with the topic in detail. What needs to change in our consumer behavior in general?
Every piece of clothing – even the T-shirt for 5 Euro – is handmade and consists of many elaborate components. But we have lost a lot of feeling for the value of clothing. Fashion has become a quickly consumable commodity. Exchangeable and even if we are basically longing for individuality, we often behave contrary in fashion: Dressing according to constantly changing trends de-individualizes and offers no identity.
I would wish for a higher standard of fashion: That not only the beautiful look is decisive, but also the materials. A more critical approach to the fiber composition would be a first step. The silky feeling summer dress is often made of acrylic or other plastic materials.
If we increase the value and put more emphasis on quality, we automatically consume less and more selected.