20 Minutes with Lisa Jaspers

The Combination of Fairness and Good Taste

Since Greta Thunberg encouraged us to, we are constantly trying to make a change in our daily lives to save the world. As we all know (or should know) one major factor of climate change is the fashion industry. It is responsible for about ten per cent of annual global emissions. We want a change, but where can we start?

Berlin-based entrepreneur Lisa Jaspers knows how to make an impact. She created a brand for eco-friendly fashion: FOLKDAYS. The online shop and boutique in Kreuzberg sell handmade clothing, accessories, and interior-items, fairly produced by small businesses in countries, all over the world, including Peru, India, and Kenia. Besides safe working conditions and the support of traditional handcrafts, FOLKDAYS is concerned with the timelessness and quality of its products, so they can live a longlasting life.
We talked with founder Lisa Jaspers about fair fashion, Berlin's creative vibes, and her current book about female leadership.

Helena Elverfeldt: What do you think of the creative industry in Berlin –how does FOLKDAYS fit in?
Lisa Jaspers: Berlin is a very vibrant city. It is known to be very open in various aspects. I guess that makes people very open to new ideas and change in general, and the upcoming fair- trade scene is part of it. FOLKDAYS is the answer to people who are looking for special items with a special story behind it. We try to find not only a new way of consuming but a new way of living and interacting. On top of that, Berlin is still a lot more affordable than other big cities – the perfect place for starting a sustainable business.

Lisa Jaspers infront of the FOLKDAYS Shop in Berlin Kreuzberg ©Joanna Catherine Schröder for FOLKDAYS

HE: With Corona, you are not able to travel to your business partners in other countries at the moment. How is FOLKDAYS coping with the current situation?
Lisa Jaspers: We normally don’t travel to see our artisans regularly. What we experience right now is that it is very hard to see how the artisans are going through a challenging time because they all live in countries where the systems are not helping the people who are struggling the most. We hope that with FOLKDAYS we can maintain a partnership and make sure that they can generate an income.

"Knowing what I don't want,
gave me the vision of creating
a space in which I can be myself,
work on my own terms,and allow
other people to experience
the same."

HE: Before you founded FOLKDAYS you worked in consulting. How did this job help you in your current work?
Lisa Jaspers: My job as a consultant helped me to understand how I don’t want to work. I don’t think everything was bad but I just noticed that I didn’t fit in the "normal" working environment that was built a lot on late night hours and external pressure. Knowing what I don't want, gave me the vision of creating a space in which I can be myself, work in my own terms, and allow other people to experience the same. I love to work and I don’t mind spending time at work. The best thing is that if you like your job and you can find your structure, you spend less time being annoyed because the weekend is over or that you feel strange about situations at work.

HE: Is it difficult to combine aesthetics and sustainability?
Lisa Jaspers: Sustainability includes aspects such as fair production, careful handling of the earth, its resources, and the people who live on it. How a product looks like still depends on the person who designs it – which can be cool, old-fashioned, or many other things anyway. The idea that aesthetics and sustainability are difficult to combine has been existing for a long time. I think we can finally let go of this stereotype and instead create a new vision – the idea that sustainable brands have an enormous opportunity to create products that are sustainable and aesthetically pleasing in at least two ways: they can be beautiful on the outside and the inside. Fortunately, there are countless young and cool brands around the world demonstrating this. And I hope that with FOLKDAYS we can also contribute to changing the image of conscious fashion for the better.

HE: Alongside Naomi Ryland, you have written a book about female entrepreneurship. How did you come up with the idea?
Lisa Jaspers: When I founded FOLKDAYS I was so sure that I wanted to do everything different than I had experienced in my former jobs. I wanted a different working environment for myself but also for the people that I work with. After the first years, I had to admit, that I was struggling with becoming the boss that I intended to be. I fell into the typical traps that come into your way if you try to be a boss with the attitudes that you think you should have as a leader. After some really hard challenges that I had to face because I was trying to be someone who I’m not, I wanted to inspire people to question their behavior so that they could be more honest and open with themselves and others.

HE: Where is the difference between male and female leading?
Lisa Jaspers: I think there is a typical alpha way of leading, men and women do it both. I think it comes from a very male-dominated work culture, but I have also met alpha women in my life. They usually lead through hierarchy and by creating an environment of external pressure. The way we want to lead is by helping people to find their purpose in life, help them grow. I am sure many men would prefer this kind of leadership style.

"Question everything
that people sell to you as
THE ONLY WAY to do business."

HE: How would you define fair fashion?
Lisa Jaspers: It’s about all the people who are connected to the process of creating and selling a product and that they are sharing the same vision of a fair and honest connection and the goal to make fair working conditions something normal and nothing that has to be discussed.

HE: Which tips do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Lisa Jaspers: Question everything that people sell to you as THE ONLY WAY to do business. And buy our book ;)

HE: Do you believe the fashion industry will develop more awareness through Corona?
Lisa Jaspers: Some days, I feel very optimistic, because it feels like during this crisis many people support "love brands" such as FOLKDAYS. On the other hand, fast fashion is something people seem so used to by now, that I wonder if a couple of months are enough to change their minds.

HE: Could you recommend any literature, documentaries, podcasts, etc. about fair fashion?
Lisa Jaspers: I like the Wardrobe Crisis Podcast. And a must is, of course, the documentary on fast fashion called The True Cost.

HE: Personal leeway (=Freiraum) – what does it mean for you and where can you find it?
Lisa Jaspers: For me chaos and an ever-changing environment mean leeway. I am very intuitive, flexible, and creative. I have two small kids and during Corona, it is almost impossible to run a business, so I have to find creative solutions every single day.

Read more interviews here!