Sustainable Fashion and Mr. Yuval

I set out this morning at 10:30am to interview Mr. Yuval Dvir, our CAS coordinator, resident joker and past hippie, according to my findings. Whether or not Mr. Yuval is okay with organizing a club-crawling trip as a CAS activity or not (read further on) is a matter to be discussed, among many others such as ideals, mass society fashion, quantity versus quality etc. It’s the second day of the workshop and I found him sitting in his office, quietly waiting for my shower of questions.

First off, we have had some incredibly interesting projects for sustainability weekend. I am aware that you were responsible for discovering them; my question is how?

I came in contact with the Goethe Institute in Israel, a cultural institute with branches all over the world. I helped the school compete for a grant half a year ago, and after we received it we were put in contact with a German organization called FuturZwei. FuturZwei is an umbrella organization for smaller initiatives working in sustainability. They gave us a shortlist of seven or eight such smaller companies and we prioritized the two companies holding the workshops for the past two days. We wanted to approach people who were involved in making or creating things that aren’t very popular in Israel or other countries.

Very interesting. The next question has to do with the workshop I participated in. It was a fascinating event, speaking about a German initiative called “BisEs Mir VomLeibeFällt” (English translation : ‘Till it’s in tatters.”) The company encourages people to re-consume and refurbish their clothes instead of throwing them away, in an attempt to avoid falling prey to the consumerist tendency of today’s society. What do you personally think about this, our inability to deal with the bulk of clothes that is left as collateral damage?

I think it’s awful, and I strongly believe we are losing a sense of quality and personal identity in favor of quantity; having as much as we can. This I can verify very simply when I travel to Europe and I see people dressed in very similar clothes across countries, ultimately because it’s the same factories producing the clothes. Here we have this amazing lady, Lisa, who has an idea to preserve not only the materials, but also the emotions tangled within the fabrics. People don’t understand that often it is more costly to repair something than to buy it anew, thus they do not realize the increase in value of their pre-existing garments.

I wanted to touch on that actually, and talk a little bit more about the metaphysical, emotional aspect of this organization. They urge you to pick clothes that have stories or personal importance for you, and if you go through their website, they have some unbelievable stories. What do you think of the concept of revival in this context?

Listen, the worst thing about society nowadays is that we consume an abundance of things, but we don’t put any value in anything anymore, thus creating a very utilitarian way of living. We buy clothes and we throw them away over and over again. This is cheap, and you don’t need to spend much money on it, so you never grow attached to it, really. I personally have a lot of things that I have preserved from my early years, when I was your age. And I can’t get rid of them because there are memories there, and yet I can’t use them, cause you know… fatter… and everything… (laughter)

I understand perfectly, I have so many clothes that used to belong to my mother, she always urges me and my sister to save our clothes and not throw them out, just because we outgrow them or because they’re out of fashion. “One day, “she says, “they’ll be back. And you won’t have to waste your money on something you see everyone wearing on the street.” This [I point to the light blue woolen jacket I am wearing] was made for my sister, (born 1994) and my mother’s aunt made it, and here I am, 2015, still wearing it.Blue1Figure 1. The earlier mentioned blue jacket.

Anyway, if you could have taken part in the workshop, and you were asked to bring something valuable for you to renew, what would you bring, and how would you fix it?

Well, I had a pair of very torn jeans…Blue2Figure 2. The journalist imagination’s take on said pants. Couldn’t reproduce the cuts. Journalist is technologically challenged.

Ah, someone was a rebel during his time!

I had the name of the band The Doors written all over one of the pant legs; the other was covered in colors and rips. At your age, I had hair up to my waist, and I was vegetarian as well. So I’d bring them here and maybe incorporate parts of them into a shirt of mine, or something, to preserve the memories.

Let’s talk about how this initiative empowers the individual. From personal experience, when something becomes popular, it turns the masses into herds of sheep, kind of identical to each other in appearance, just because everybody rushes to buy the same thing. How do you think Lisa’s idea helps keep this at bay?

Well, it really is pushing it away because you have to be creative, and the company producing it is not a production line. There’s no duplication involved. You create pieces which may be similar, but that are ultimately very unique. They become such because everybody’s form of self-expression is different and the more you emphasize that, the more different from one another you become.

That’s what I enjoyed as well. I would like to ask you what you think of fashion as a profession and as an industry. It’s quite a controversial topic..

Many people that I know treat fashion as a form of religion; they have certain rules they feel they really need to obey. I have, however, always felt envy towards people who knew how to dress. I have always felt that I didn’t know how to dress properly. People that do, I feel as though they have an aesthetic element to their minds that I do not possess; they pay attention to details and are willing to make a lot of effort to produce something holistic which ultimately looks good. I think it’s a very smart way of expressing yourself, updating yourself.

What about the fashion industry; the way clothes for the masses are produced, the way they sometimes dictate a lot of concepts and ideas onto mass society?

Well, the fashion industry is one of the most dynamic industries in the world in the sense that they always look for cheaper places where they can produce. It moves faster than any other industry because it relies on cheap and fast production, hence not many skills are needed to accomplish that. But the problem is that in their path to profit, they make a lot of people poor and miserable. Major fashion companies and big labels, are so competitive and profit-driven that it just worsens the vicious circle. I know many people lost their jobs, here in Israel, when the fashion industry was here to produce clothes.

There was a fashion industry in Israel?

There is a huge one, in fact. And then it went into Jordan, and from there, the Far East. It left so many people as a trail of destruction from Israel, to Jordan to Egypt and so on.

I want to know a bit more about Israel as a consuming, capitalist society. EMIS students live here in the Kfar, but we don’t know much of the ordinary life of ‘real’ Israelis. Do you have any interesting stories to tell?

Not really! (laughs). Well, it’s quite an ordinary place, a well-established Western country. If you take Tel Aviv for example you will find many brands that you may find in many other places. It’s horrible because I feel Israelis are losing their sense of self-expression through clothing, through aesthetics. When I see the Palestinian girls with the head scarf, it’s amazing, because it is not merely a religious symbol, a lot of times it’s a fashion statement as well.

An interesting fashion culture that is emerging in Israel for the past 20 years is the expanding gay community here in Israel. I am saying this, without meaning to generalize the community, but they are amazing in the sense that they are on the cutting edge of fashion and they bring influences from outside of Tel Aviv.

It’s a bit of a stereotype, would you not agree?

It’s a stereotype but it has solid foundations. If we were to go for a visit to some clubs you would see it yourself. It’s a part of their culture, they really influence many other people; so many non-gay adults have started to dress much better (laughs). You have a reference point; you can look at them and then start. This is very interesting, there is some research about it, and you have to see it to understand it.

You mentioned that, uh, you would take us out to clubs… just kidding (laughter)

A gay bar-crawling trip should be a CAS activity- yeah we should do that.

Going back to Lisa’s beautiful presentation. I confess, I remember thinking it was so damn poetic. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but still so symbolic; we were talking about fixing broken things, plush toys, grandfather pants…

Well, I think I understand what you mean; when you have plumbing problems you turn to a plumber, when you have car problems you go to the garage, what can you do when you have problems with your toys and your clothes? You need somebody who is not only professional but also someone who can understand you. Not only give you the right parts to replace the broken ones but an in depth understanding and an in depth attention to your desires that you sometimes don’t even know how to articulate. This is what she [Lisa] wants to do.

It’s very admirable. Not a lot of people have the courage to do exactly what they want to do in their lives and I revere her for that. My other question is about this collection produced by her company called Kissed to Life (Wachküsst) which I found extremely interesting because it was talking about reviving vintage outfits from different time periods. Such an interesting perspective, to treat fashion as not only the work of an artist but also as the work of a paleontologist.

She is quite a researcher, and she has these technical skills and this emotional understanding, so there are many aspects to what she does. When she produces the final result it needs to be something that you can connect to. Another thing I admire about her is her courage to do something as financially risky as that.

I was thinking about that yesterday. Wow, this lady must not be afraid of sleeping under bridges!

You know, when I first read about this workshop, I didn’t have all the perspective you have now and now that I see it, I think it’s an amazing idea.

Lisa also mentioned she owns two companies, one of her personal fashion label, a production line, and the other BisEsVomLeibeFällt. It must be hard to live with such an inner conflict, especially for a person who sounds quite idealistic. What would you do in a similar situation?

I always go for my ideals; to this day I have always followed my principles.

And you found that it works? Because often I have found that if you go for your ideals, sometimes they’re not the most practical/pragmatic thing to do.

As a person, I can’t imagine myself doing something that I don’t find interesting enough or that I can’t contribute to, or something that is not encouraging me to create something beneficial to others; if I can’t identify with ideals I’m not there.

OK, last question: how do you think the students are taking the workshops, are you pleased with the effect?

I have received a lot of feedback from students, and they were mixed I will not lie, but I believe that aside from the occasional critic the workshops have created a very interesting vibe, bringing something new from the outside. I believe that they have brought some very interesting potential change, especially about the school club, which now may be renovated since it has a budget.

You know what, I’m going to say something corny-

Don’t worry I love them all 🙂 

I look at Od (referring to Oded Rose, EMIS CEO), he had this dream (referring to the school) 30 years ago, and it took time to get to here, and I believe it takes time for major changes to surfaces.

This guy was once asked whether or not the French Revolution was successful and he very aptly said, “It’s too early to tell.”

Last, last question. What is your advice to students today? (No pressure.)

I understand that you all often find yourselves under major pressure and demands, and I will tell you, I have not forgotten what that is like. I am currently doing two Master Degrees; I know what pressure is like. My advice is if you don’t enjoy it, you’re going to lose the experience. Enjoy it and take your opportunities.

Thank you very, very much Mr. Yuval. This was a great interview.

Interview conducted by: Martina Hysi

Edited by: Maayan Agmon

Copy edited by: Emily Perotti


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