You introduced the first Dear Freedom collection four years ago. Yet lately, you feel that your brand is changing, and sustainable fashion ideas that have been crucial in the past are becoming a cornerstone of your brand’s philosophy. What led to these changes?
Kristina: The core values of the brand, which have been important to us since the beginning of our business, have not changed drastically. The use of natural materials has always been our priority, but in recent years we have just matured, realizing that we need to be as responsible as possible for both consumers and ourselves. We experimented, made mistakes, thought about larger collections or a foreign market at different stages of our activity and certainly not everything went the way we wanted. I think the most important thing is that we have learned from our mistakes, and the introduction of the principles of sustainability into our activities has taken place and continues to take place consistently and organically.
The global situation and the pandemic have finally put all the points together. For some time now, we have felt that we are participating in competitions, where a pre-determined number of collections need to be delivered per year, the range needs to be expanded, and quantities need to be secured for intermediaries. We are now guided not by market expectations but by our own values. We have clearly defined what is important to us and decided to communicate it in a targeted and understandable way. These changes also led to a sense of inner peace.
In the context of the fashion industry, the word 'sustainability' has become one of the most frequently inflected and used one in the last few years, but there is no global agreement on a common definition of the term. How do you define sustainability?
Rasa: Yes, the word 'sustainability' itself is very widely used. We do not currently state that we are a fully sustainable brand, but we are consistently taking all the steps that are important to our perception. For us, sustainability is a responsibility to ourselves, others and the environment around us. Responsibility starts with choosing fabrics that have a lower negative impact on the environment, so we work only with organic cotton, recycled, organic fabrics or material residues, and we produce our products in Lithuania. Together, we care about the quality and the creation of durable clothing. We also gave up plastic and completely switched to paper and recycled packaging.
Kristina: We extend the principles of sustainability beyond the production and creation of products. We communicate closely with customers, encouraging them to bring us torn or otherwise damaged Dear Freedom clothing, which we repair and return for further use free of charge. We want every garment to last as long as possible - this is how we encourage customers to look at consumption more responsibly. In our strategy, we have also included a clothing rental service that we are developing, which also reflects another direction of fashion sustainability.
Rasa: The sale of secondary, already worn Dear Freedom clothing is another idea we hope to implement in the near future. We create clothes that are not a reflection of short-term trends. We strive to ensure that they do not lose their relevance, are characterized by functionality, so even the clothes of older collections are perfectly adapted today. In the future, we will strive to include as many aspects of the zero waste philosophy as possible.
An interesting idea can be found on your brand’s website to encourage the transition from the ego system to an eco one. Could you comment on this idea?
Race: In the ego system, the individual first takes care of himself, his needs and future, so the interests of the community are left out, there is a lack of transparency. In an eco system, everyone is within a community and focuses on how their actions will respond to the overall well-being of the community. We want to encourage our customers to look not only at their own needs, but also at the needs of the environment and to take an interest in their clothes, to try to understand how they appear. We invite people to "wear" their values and show that everyone can contribute to the development of the eco system. Of course, this is happening slowly, but even if we have the opportunity to take one step towards a more responsible fashion, we want to do it.
A capsule collection by Dear Freedom was recently released. You have used material residues and certified organic cotton in its production. What challenges do you face in creating an environmentally friendly collection?
Kristina: One of them is the supply of sustainable fabrics. Certainly not every supplier has organic certified fabrics such as cotton, tencel, bamboo or other natural fabrics. Going to major textile exhibitions, it is already possible to see the increasing trends in the supply of sustainable fabrics, but so far this supply is a small part of the total range offered by suppliers. Of course, it can be assumed that suppliers will increasingly adapt to market needs and the supply of organic or recycled fabrics will increase every year in response to the growing demand.
Another challenge is a price. Sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, have to go through completely different cultivation and processing processes, and suppliers have to obtain special certificates for their products. All these additional steps also lead to a higher cost of the fabric itself, so the customer's willingness to pay more for a sustainable product should also be discussed here.
Rasa: I think over time, manufacturers will naturally shift to the use of organic, certified fabrics, and sustainability will become the norm in fashion. It is gratifying that the growing Generation Z already has a completely different approach to consumption and the values of the clothes we wear, which also symbolize our sense of responsibility.
How do customers react to this capsule collection? Do you feel a growing customer interest in sustainable fashion and responsible consumption ideas?
Rasa: Most customers accept sustainability ideas positively. Yet the very word "sustainability" for many is certainly not yet clear. We try to share interesting and useful information on social networks, and present it in a simple and understandable way. After all, we have spent a lot of time ourselves to really understand the properties of certified organic cotton. It is perfectly normal that information about sustainable fashion raises many questions. We want to respond to our customers’ questions, talk about their needs, talk about the importance of sustainability, and in doing so, this collection will evolve very naturally.
Kristina: The interest is really growing and I believe we will gradually get closer to the values of responsible consumption. Of course, all the beautiful words and the support we feel really grow wings for us, and our activities take on even more meaning.
How would you describe this collection stylistically? What shapes and silhouettes predominate in it?
Kristina: I would describe this collection as functional and minimalist, where you can discover the stylistic details of Dear Freedom that are already well-known to customers. It is the unique details that are part of the DNA of our brand. In the context of responsible creation, it is very important for us not to lose the line of Dear Freedom.
Rasa: working with universal, strict silhouette basic type clothes, we have integrated into them recognizable details and fragments of educational material for regular customers.
At the Dear Freedom team, you are not limited to just creating clothes, but you also pay a lot of attention to meaningful initiatives. Could you tell us more about them?
Kristina: We want to spread a positive message and educate customers. We are excited about our social media project #samebutdifferent. During it, stylists and women who do not work in the fashion industry and inspire us with values share their unique aesthetics, attitudes and personal stories about responsible consumption and sustainability. This is how we want to show the way the Dear Freedom clothes come to life unexpectedly by combining them with the style accents we already have.
Rasa: We try to inspire experiments and the search for the individual style that emerges through them. After all, the same one thing in a different context may look completely different. We also greatly appreciate the experiences, stories and lessons learned from all the women involved in the initiative. Reading the insights of amazing women, it can be seen that often the relationship with clothes reflects our emotional state and personal relationship with ourselves. Individual experiences reveal very nicely how everyone’s journey towards sustainable fashion consumption is different, and in other people’s stories, everyone can try to discover themselves as well. I think it is very important to see people who are just learning and taking small steps towards responsible fashion consumption.
Kristina: we came up with another initiative with the students of Vilnius College of Design - we give them the remnants of our unused materials. They use it for experiments and design works, the results of which we look forward to! At the same time, it shows that even the simplest aspect of sustainability - the so called upcycling - can become the starting point for a new collection.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
Kristina: I feel calm about myself as a fashion consumer. I think it’s closely related to the psychological aspect. I know what clothes I feel comfortable with and how much I need them in general, so every purchase is heavily thought out and weighed, and my closet is dominated by Dear Freedom clothes. As for other areas of consumption - food, sorting, car use - I am at the beginning of the journey towards responsible consumption. The Zero waste philosophy seems to me to make sense, but at the same time I fully understand that I can only approach it in a few small steps. I am far from representing a responsible lifestyle, but I try to emphasize to myself that even if a new habit is less comfortable, it can bring about positive change.
Rasa: Like Kristina, I can’t name myself as a 100% sustainable person. With each purchase, I try to change my habits and move towards more responsible consumption. I sort waste, drive an electric car, carefully choose what to wear, and always give my or my children’s clothes that are no longer portable to those who could prolong their life, or sell them, and carry them completely worn in textile containers. At home, I also try to use organic products that have less harmful effects on the environment. I follow the innovations introduced in the market of sustainable products and try to apply them in everyday life. I try to shape my habits little by little, which leads to less negative impact on the environment.
How would you describe your style? Do you have established style uniforms?
Kristina: My style is comfortable and sporty, so I never think too much about getting dressed when I go to work. After all, I spend most of my time in sewing shops, in the car, or in other places where I have to feel comfortable. As I mentioned, I mostly wear Dear Freedom pieces, but there really aren’t many of them in my closet and I’m very proud of that. At one time, I completely distanced myself from the colors or patterns and went through a black phase. With colors as a creator, I constantly live emotionally, so black has in part become a kind of counterweight to my thoughts. However, now, during my pregnancy, I started to like the pastel colors of the earth, because fashion and style, being an expression of emotion, are constantly changing.
Rasa: For me, style is a reflection of mood. One day I feel the need for classic style elements, and the next I replace high heels with comfortable sneakers. I’m not a representative of minimalism, so you’d see a lot of colors and patterns in my closet. At the beginning of each season, I put together a few uniform-type combinations that serve days when I get up I don’t have the time or inspiration to experiment with different elements of style.
Photo by Dear Freedom