#ConsciousLiving: Interview with Jennie Barck, Editor-in-Chief of The Maker Journal

Celebrating the contemporary makers of today, The Maker Journal supports slower fashion production and craftsmanship, and focuses on the skilled designers and creatives who dedicate their lives to making this change.

I had a friendly chat about conscious living and the importance of artisanal crafts with Jennie Barck, Founder of The Maker Journal, confirming that slow fashion is the new fashion model to be appreciated for years to come. This may make you rethink, too. 

Jennie Barck

Who are the most important makers in the UK now?

The UK has a variety of local, emerging makers at the moment, producing their collections at their studios with a small team, or at local factories, producing textiles with fabric mills. I have been the most impressed by young, emerging designers, such as Amy Revier and Skelton John, who tell a story through their poetic and well thought out designs that are radically sustainable: naturally dyed, handmade in small batches, using local raw materials, or handwoven. It is always lovely to see designers succeeding in their niche markets this way. On the other hand, it is also inspiring to see larger, globally successful brands, such as Phoebe English, still making everything locally in England, with a focus on hand-making and resurrecting traditional craft.

The Maker Issue I

What does 'Made in England's heritage actually mean in 2017? Are we slowly starting to forget about its importance and value?

It means different things to different people, but most designers I have spoken to are very passionate about the topic. 'Made in England's heritage means using the resources we have available here, while we still have them, it means adding a layer of value to the garments, being able to control the entire manufacturing process and therefore being able to guarantee quality to a larger extent. It also means exploring traditional crafts that could lend way to new approaches to the garments we are currently wearing. All of these things tend to slip off our minds if we are not reminded about it in our daily lives, like most people working in the fashion industry are. Consumers don’t think these factors are as important when buying items that are cheap; it has become more important to keep up with the latest trends and have them easily accessible, so ‘Made in England’ has become a thing that very few care about today.

Why should artisanal approach still be appreciated in today's era of mass production and mass consumption?

I think an artisanal approach is important from the perspective of the story of the brand; it is important there are still people out there who appreciate these crafts, knowing where their products are made - from yarn to an actual garment. When a brand becomes more transparent about their entire product chain and makes it a pillar of their ethos, it adds value to the garment. People are willing to pay for it, as long as they know their garments are made with respect to local communities and workers. If there is no one employing people at mills in England, for example, their craft is going to be forgotten and there won't be anyone to resurrect it after that. It is too precious of a thing to lose, as it is such an integral part of culture in many parts of the world.

What is The Maker Journal's manifesto? What makes it stand out from other publications also appreciating unique, hand-made fashions and a slower approach to life?

The Maker Journal stands for celebrating the people who are passionate about creating our clothes. It is, first and foremost, about bringing them to the spotlight instead of the people who wear the clothes; it focuses on their processes, thoughts and lives. What makes it stand out from other publications - The Maker has an unfailing ethos that all designers we support must match our criteria of conscious fashion, as well as having a focus on smaller scale, emerging and young designers instead of big brands. The Maker hopes to bring to attention to designers who are not in the public eye as much as they deserve to be, and have more intimate conversations with them that you don’t see in most mass media.

"When you are doing something you believe in, in due course people will flock to you, if you are putting your heart and soul into it."

  The Maker Journal. 

The Maker Journal. 

What have been the most difficult moments in making The Maker Journal happen? Share a few tips on how to make dreams happen.

There are always bumps along the way when you are trying to reach a dream, and when it is something you are utterly passionate about, it can be even more devastating. Along the road, when I was doing research and saw people doing similar things, I sometimes felt like there is so much I still have to do to achieve that level of success. You will get the feeling that people are not going to find you or you have less followers than the next person. These are all things that will fall into place. The most important thing that I learned throughout the process and from my conversations with other creatives is that, when you are doing something you believe in, in due course people will flock to you, if you are putting your heart and soul into it.

How do you personally approach slow living? Are there any practices you follow on a daily basis?

Slow living has become a very important aspect of my life through working on The Maker, but it has always played a crucial part. To me the main pillars of it are only buying things that I have considered and truly need, purchasing magazines and enjoying timeless features and think-pieces, taking time off social media and reducing its usage, appreciating crafts and the process of making, doing yoga and eating well from local farmer’s markets. These are all things I will do on a daily basis, when the pace of life gets a little overwhelming, and I feel that I just need to get back in touch with myself and reconnect. Life can sweep you up and push information at you constantly, but there is a decision to be made about not letting it get to you.

"When things take longer, you automatically go into a mindset, where you appreciate a certain process; you think about the tools being used, the hours that go into it, the different skill sets, the people working on it."

  The Maker Journal. 

The Maker Journal. 

What are the key elements defining your daily routine? 3 habits you cannot live without.

I have always and will probably eat a lot of fruits; it is the cornerstone of my eating habits and a day without fruits just wouldn’t feel the same. I will have kiwis, clementines, nectarines, plums, oranges, bananas, apples, grapes. It makes me feel rejuvenated and fresh. I will try to go to the gym most days and if I do manage, after a good session of sweating, I love to take a cold shower and go into the sauna and just disconnect for 15 minutes. Another obsessive habit I (along with millions of others) have is listening to music on public transport. I like to use city bikes whenever possible, but when I’m on a bus or tube, I absolutely have to listen to my favourite tunes.

"It has become more important to keep up with the latest trends and have them easily accessible, so ‘Made in England’ has become a thing that very few care about today."

In your opinion, what are the key fields that should be slowed down concerning the making or production process?

Out of all fields, what strikes me the most on a daily basis are food and fashion, but I have recently started thinking about interior design, too. It is so frustrating to see how fast fashion has to be pumped up, and how much of it is wasted as a consequence of that. To see people participating in this cycle makes me think of how much needs to be done to make any kind of minor change. These are critical fields that are not working sustainably at the moment, but there are things being changed, for example, in France, they banned throwing away leftover food, which I think is a wonderful solution. The best solution, however, would be to change the minds of the consumers, and make them realise the detrimental outcomes of this kind of consumption, that would bring us closer to a change. 

What's the worst effect of today's consumer society you have personally witnessed?

What I witness on a daily basis is our need to get things now, without appreciating all the hard work that goes into making things happen. We all want the easy, quick fix that doesn’t satisfy us for long, but gets rid of that desire in a split second. When everything is given to us as ‘same day delivery’, we fail to stop and appreciate the people who have made that happen. When things take longer, you automatically go into a mindset, where you appreciate a certain process; you think about the tools being used, the hours that go into it, the different skill sets, the people working on it. This appreciation is a key part of the success of the slow fashion movement, and it is an antidote to mass production and throwaway culture, which has affected today’s consumer society in major ways.

One must-have summer product du jour we should all desire now... Something trendy, yet ethically-made?

I’ve been looking for the perfect summer sandals and the LRNCE bobo sandals come very close to that. Handmade to order in Morocco, with influences from handcraft traditions, each pair is as unique as its maker and they are completely contemporary, too. They have a leather strip with cotton raffia ruffles, and come in different colour combinations. The brand takes influences from local tribes and the colours of Marrakech, giving them a unique twist.