INTERVIEW | Marieke Eyskoot Talking Dress


by Emma H.
Marieke's book (above) is out now in the Netherlands.
Passionate, genuine, and maybe a little bit mad; the three words I would have described Marieke Eyskoot with after our first meeting last year. Mad because she had come to the People Tree head office to convince us to attend her and co-founder Willa Stoutenbeek's new ethical fashion tradeshow MINT in Amsterdam. We were sceptical, the strictly ethical fashion tradeshows we had been to in the past had been near disasters, but there was something about MINT and, something about Marieke. They had managed to organise MINT as part of one of the biggest shows in the industry, Modefabriek, and if this warm, pretty lady from the Netherlands was rolling with the big guys then I knew it would be worth attending. It was one of the best tradeshows I have been to.

Recently lauded as #21 in Trouw newspaper's Top 100 Sustainable Leaders, Marieke is an ethical fashion pioneer and inspiration to those of us carving out a career path in ethical fashion and lifestyle. TCC interviewed her to find out more about her career to date and what's been happening in 2012. Here's what she had to say. 

TCC You seem to be at the fore of the ethical fashion movement in the Netherlands, give us a brief description of your career to date.
ME Everything I'm doing is with lots of other amazing people. I've been involved in the movement for a better fashion industry for about 10 years. I was European Coordinator of the Clean Clothes Campaign and campaign leader of the Schone Kleren Campagne.
In 2011 I started my own company, Talking Dress. I want to make it easier for people to find and wear sustainable fashion, which is why I co-founded ethical fashion tradeshow and event MINT. MINT is all about forward fashion, amazing style, made with respect for people and our environment. I've been fascinated by fashion from a young age, and live in Amsterdam with my bulging wardrobe, husband and cat.
[TCC: Marieke has also been nominated by national newspaper Het Parool as Amsterdam Citizen of the Year, named by Viva magazine as one of the 400 most talented females of The Netherlands, Selected for Marie Claire's Smart Women Top 100 and short-listed for Red magazine's 'Hot Women'-list. Go Marieke!!]

TCC Tell us about your company Talking Dress.
ME With Talking Dress I want to put ethical fashion on the map in The Netherlands, bring the world behind our wardrobe to life and change the way people think and feel about fashion. I am author of the first Dutch guide for everyone who is looking for a fair and fabulous wardrobe Talking Dress - Vertelt je alles over eerlijke kleding (en lifestyle). I give workshops and speak at events such as TEDxAmsterdamWomen and Amsterdam Fashion Week. I also organise events and, of course, the tradeshow MINT.

TCC What inspired you to engage with the world of ethical fashion?
ME Ethical fashion to me means clothes that are made under good working conditions and out of sustainable materials. I just can't understand why we find it normal that something that brings us so much joy, means so much hardship for the people producing it (let alone the earth supplying the resources). We can't live without clothes, we can't express ourselves, excel at job interviews, keep ourselves warm or even leave the house if it weren't for clothes. And yet we never really think about where the content of our wardrobe came from, who made all these dresses and knickers, under what circumstances and from which materials. There is a whole world behind our wardrobe (if only your T-shirts and trench coats could talk...)! I want to try and make this story behind our clothes end better, even if I can only contribute a little thing. Together we can change it from a tragedy into happily-ever-after, I know we can!

TCC What are you most proud of achieving in 2012?
ME Definitely my book! I can't believe I actually got the chance to write one, and that I actually did it! It was just released, and I really hope it helps people to engage with ethical fashion in the Netherlands more. I get asked the same questions a lot, and writing the book was my way of answering them.
And of course getting married was the most amazing thing that happened to me in 2012, but I am not sure you can call that an achievement. I am very proud of it though (and extremely happy)!

ME Would you buy ethical fashion if you only knew where? Do you wonder what you could do for a better world behind your wardrobe? Are you interested to learn what sustainable, eco or green fashion actually is? This book gives you the answers, and shows you the way to your own fair fashion lifestyle. Ranging from shopping tips to DIY-tricks, from washing instructions to swapping ideas, from clothes to accessories, beauty products, food and even marriage. Talking Dress makes it easy (and fun!) to do good and look great at the same time.
The book includes:
- a shopping guide and DIY-tips
- lots of interviews with leading figures from the fair fashion and lifestyle scene
- information about labelling and organisations
- many ideas for mending, upcycling, repairing (and patterns!)
- inspiration for food and cosmetics (with recipes!)
It was really a dream come true to write my own book, and I am really pleased you can now also find the shopping and inspiration guide on my website (where we can update and expand it) and that it has been turned into an app for Android and iPhones. The app will be freely available from mid-October. I am very sorry to say it is all in Dutch! I did aim it specifically on what can be found and done in The Netherlands and Belgium, to make it as useful as possible.

TCC Can you share your top tips for feeding your fashion hunger without compromising your beliefs?
  • Buy ethical fashion brands (but don't overwash, tumble, dry-clean or iron them - that way your impact on the environment is heavily reduced).
  • Enjoy quality over quantity.
  • Choose smart and avoid bad bargains - ask yourself questions like 'Can I see myself wearing this in 10 years', 'Does it work with other items in my wardrobe', 'Is there an ethical alternative' and 'Does it make me really, really happy when I envision myself in this outfit'?
  • Get DIY-ing: swap, mend, re-style, share, sew, knit - there's something for everyone and make the most out of it with nice little parties, tea and chocolate!
  • Be creative with what you have: wear your V-neck dresses back to front if you're bored with it, for a high-neck, low-back must-have.

TCC You recently married the love of your life, any tips for pulling together an earth friendly wedding?
  • Buy a secondhand wedding dress or one that you can still wear afterwards. 
  • Have rings made out of vintage jewellery (maybe from relatives?) or Fairtrade/Fairmined and green gold.
  • Look into electric, public or other low-impact transport (and keep your wedding local). 
  • Have local, fair trade and organic catering. 
  • Make your own bunting and decorations from recycled materials such as newspapers, magazines, wood, jars etc.

TCC Any exciting future projects up your sleeve (or dress!)?
ME When I can find the time, I am working on a plan to launch an ethical tights brand, called Talking Tights.

TCC Anything else you'd like to share?
ME Thanks so much for your interest in my work, and congratulations on the wonderful website! Keep up the amazing and hugely inspiring work, and I hope we cross paths frequently in the future.
TCC So do we! A big thank you to the wonderful Marieke! Her book Talking Dress - Vertelt je alles over eerlijke kleding (en lifestyle) is out in the Netherlands now!

If you have any further questions for Marieke please leave them in the comments box below and we will pass them on.

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