From High-End Fashion To Hemp: Yasmin Bawa Explains Why Material Matters

The studio of the American accented artist (who considers Berlin home, and Edinburgh her hometown) is situated opposite the bustling Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg. Here, overlooking an internal courtyard thick with the remnants of autumn, she makes her work. It’s a quiet, bright studio that she shares with another artist. They only recently moved in, she explains, gesturing to the minimally decorated space. As she hands us matching cups of tea, we begin a meandering conversation that is guided by Yasmin’s story: From her career in high-end fashion design in Stockholm to a business going bust in Berlin, and finally, to hemp.

Yasmin’s career in fashion began at Acne Studios; a company whose explorative design she says had formative influence on her creative practice. Despite this fact, she is quick to mention that even during her time there she knew she wanted out of the industry. “I was already tired of the cycle”, Yasmin explains. “Before you’ve even finished designing one thing, you’re having meetings for the next show. It was nuts—I was always so happy with our concepts, we just never had the time to develop them.” The pace of the fashion industry is well known, as is the pressure for studios to match the production habits of fast-fashion labels like Zara, H&M, TopShop and Forever 21. Over the past 15 years, garment production has doubled, with between 80 to 100 billion pieces of clothing manufactured annually. The fashion industry now accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and is second only to oil as the world’s largest industrial polluter. In no uncertain terms, the “fashion revolution” has had a devastating effect on the earth.

It is interesting to imagine the softly spoken, environmentally conscious Yasmin as a part of this world. “When I was in fashion I was really struggling with the numbers”, she admits. “Like, when we’re talking about 25,000 pairs of shoes; and you have someone telling you that it’s not enough… I can’t even visualize what 25,000 pairs of shoes look like. Can you imagine the damage of an order like that? I really struggled with it.” Sadly, even labels committed to sustainable and environmental processes are part of an industry where such standards are the norm. “When you’re working in it, it feels like there’s nothing you can do”, Yasmin tells us, “so I left.”

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