I discovered ZAZI Vintage on Instagram about two weeks ago. It was one of those accounts that instantly inspired and mesmerized me and after spending like an hour on ZAZI Vintage website I was even more in love!
ZAZI is an ethical Vintage online platform seeking to connect and empower girls and women worldwide and redefine the global fashion industry by creating proximity, opportunity and awareness for a responsible and sustainable way of consuming.
By supplying micro credits to local women from all around the world, ZAZI gathers and sells authentic traditional Vintage pieces from different areas. These collectors as well as local projects and organizations advocating for female rights participate in the profit of ZAZI.
There is absolutely no production included – it is solely about bringing to life again the beauty, that is already there. As a network ZAZI builds a bridge between local fashion collectors, consumers and local supporting organizations and creates an opportunity of mutual exchange, support and empowerment. By giving all three aspects of the industry a voice and a face, ZAZI hopes to break the circle of ever new production and to inspire women worldwide to connect and share.
ZAZI works in Chapters. Whenever a new collector joins the network, a new chapter opens. ZAZI collaborates with a photographer in Europe or elsewhere that translates the Vintage pieces in to ‘fashion’.
But let ZAZI creator and founder Jeanne “Zizi” Margot de Kroon herself tell you more about ZAZI, her travels and her thought about female empowerment and cultural appropriation.
How did you come up with the idea for Zazi Vintage?
The idea of Zazi Vintage came to me as I started connecting the dots in my life. Fashion has always played a centre role in my life, ever since my mother was a Fashion and art journalist that travelled all over the world and meeting inspiring women. At an early age, I realised that fashion, like art, can be used as a platform to translate a message or an idea, especially for women. For me the message of fashion lies beneath the clothes; it is about self expression. Three years ago, I travelled to Nepal and got pulled into a little cafe by a local woman in Kathmandu, she took me to her home and dressed me in an amazing ‘70s Bollywood blouse from India. She said it would give me superpowers and I feel like it did. After my time in Nepal, I travelled from the Himalayas to India and I noticed that by wearing this top, I felt as though I was sending out a signal that the local women i met along the way understood. My signal said, “I want to know you, connect with you. Learn about you and your culture. Hear your stories.” Seeing the power of a simple piece of fabric and the way it can translate and communicate without words, made me continue to travel across the world. From wearing a ‘Netela’ (handmade Shawl/cloth) to communicate to the Ethiopian women that were in the project that I worked for, to wearing a top from the matriarchal societies of the desert in Gujarat, India, dressing a certain way has always broken the barrier between myself and the women in these areas. During my last travels in India, I came across these dresses from the Kuchi tribe and fell completely in love with them. When I got back to Germany, I entered another intense university semester, full of courses about human rights and business ethics. This inspired me to conceptualise an ethical vintage brand in which all parties of the fashion chain, as well as the environment, would profit. The first contacts I made around the world were all women, but unfortunately, in a patriarchal society it can be hard to actually start up a business and become financially independent as a woman. That is why I connected the idea with having local women worldwide opening their own business by buying vintage pieces from their region and connecting each area with a local NGO that supports women’s rights.
Where do you find the collectors and projects for Zazi vintage?
Most of the collectors are found through my own network. I have been fortunate enough to study in Germany where I had the freedom to do projects worldwide in my semester holidays, so i gathered the first collector through that. The next chapters that are opening are also linked through my network of women working at NGOs and travellers that I met over the years. I would love to, however, create a bigger network of women/girls that want to either find a collector or apply as one.
How did you calculate the percentages that go to the collectors and projects?
We want to give the women that join the network a high income in compare to the usual pay received working in the fashion industry in their country. If you look at the data of Human rights watch, the average income of a woman working 16 hours in a factory right now is about 25 cents an hour in the main clothing factories in Bangladore, India.
A collector from the same area, gathering vintage clothing, earns 5.5 EU for every hour that she works on the project and will receive 10 % of the EU selling price. Which could result in to having a monthly income of over 1000 eu or more if she finds incredible pieces. The only thing she needs to do is go around villages, connect with the women there and find authentic vintage pieces.
In a world of overproduction and mass consumption, I find it incredibly important to rediscover the beauty that is already there. Since I have been involved in many projects worldwide, I learned that the best way to put my dreams of changing the world to use is to provide stabil funding to the charities and projects I believe in. That is why I chose to also include projects from the areas where the vintage pieces are found.
How often do you travel?
The last three years I created my base in Berlin after living in New York and Paris. Now I travel at least 6 months a year, spread out over my breaks from university.
Do you try to travel green?
I think travelling green has been a big theme in almost all of my travels and projects. Every place I visited so far, i have always searched for local food places, buying vintage from local small shops and spending time with local families.
What was the most magical moment during your travels?
I guess magical moments always happen when you discover a new dimension of reality or a new perspective on life. Moments that are a little more then what you thought was possible. I grew up in a little bubble in Holland so the combination of travelling alone and experiencing the beliefs and traditions of other cultures, their reality and their ideas, has brought me many magical moments.
Some memorable magical moments were, believing that I was cursed by an Agori Baba after a conversation we had at the burning body ghats in Varanasi, seeing a man get cured from Dengue fever in the Guatemalan jungle with the help of Kambo (Frog poison), and teaching a yoga class in the Ethiopian mountains to a group of women that were all married to the same man.
Where do you like to travel the most?
Where are you planning to go next?
My next travel will be to India in September and Morocco in October to find new collectors for the network and talk to local NGOs that I want to support.
What’s the most important advice that you would like every women or girl in the world to hear?
Love your insecurities and learn from them.
Ive always been intrigued by my insecurities and how women worldwide have inspired me to overcome them. They have led me to the greatest adventures, the darkest lows but in the end were little seeds to new ideas and most of all inspired me to move forward.The lessons I’ve learned from all of those insecurities have been linked to roles that I have (un) consciously played throughout the years. Growing up in modern day society I saw my insecurities as little mirrors reflecting the illusionary demands placed on me as a woman. In the end, the things that we are insecure about in life are mostly the things that make us unique and not fit in to a concept and that is great!
Can fashion or the way you dress support female empowerment?
Fashion can inspire female empowerment in more ways then we are conscious of. The freedom of expression of what you put over your skin has such a powerful message, if that message is an honest and conscious one, fashion can inspire without words.
What is your attitude towards cultural appropriation?
There is no denying that cultural appropriation is an issue in our society. I feel that the issue lies in the clumsy, possibly unintentional disrespect that borrowing or stealing from another culture can often have. I believe that with true respect and knowledge about a culture, you can practise appreciation instead of appropriation. I have a deep love for the places I have visited and I make sure to know my own privilege, and find ways to truly and humbly connect and get to know the people, their culture and traditions.
I read that a some of the Kuchi people belong to the Taliban. Is that something that you take into consideration?
It is something I am aware of, but I feel like it would be counterproductive to throw the Taliban label over a whole people as vibrant as the Kuchi. I’m sure most are aware of the fact that extremist groups like these are adamant in prohibiting girls from being educated, having equal rights etc, these being some of Zazi’s main charitable causes. The Kuchi dresses are not only from over 40 years ago, they are celebratory gowns, for women to laugh and dance in. These are universal things and the less we think about the things that divide us, the better.
What keeps your fires burning?
Being grateful. That little feeling inside, you get when you get a special conformation of your existence, a beautiful encounter with a stranger, a personal goal achieved, a moment that goes beyond the ordinary. All of the experiences that I made so far in my life, the good and the bad, have led me to creating the things now.
What does “being free” mean to you?
Being free is always a concept of perspective. In every moment, everywhere, you are free. For me, being free is nothing more then having the power over your mind. Humans are born free, but conditioned to think that they are not. If you think of all of your worries, fears and restrictions, they are all created after you experienced life in a certain way.
Five years ago, I applied for law school in Holland. I didn’t apply because it was in my wildest dreams to study law in a little village in Holland, but because I had the idea that doing this was the ‘best’ option. When I arrived there I saw my life flash by, I felt almost suffocated by the idea of spending the rest of my life in Holland, working at some big firm and dealing with paperwork daily.
I decided to run away and become a street musician in Paris. Although it was a confusing time with little money and a lot of craziness, this throwing myself in to the insecure, became a little obsession.
It has led me to travel, work, study, cry and love in 30 different countries over the past 5 years.
From modelling in New York, studying indigenous shamanism in the jungle of Guatemala, wandering of in the Himalayas, teaching yoga classes in the mountains of Ethiopia to studying Philosophy in Germany.
The thing that I learned is that you are always free and life rewards you for diving in to the insecure. From Stoic philosophers to existentialistic french philosophy, they all say the same thing.
You have one time in this human body, use it.
Love wildly, live your dreams, create YOUR reality.
The mantras you live by…
Love your insecurities, eat organic, buy local, do yoga, give as much as you can.
Everyone should at least once in their life…
Eat Medjool dates with Almondbutter