JACKIE MAY

JACKIE MAY

Storytelling is a powerful tool to touch hearts and inspire transformation. However, in the mainstream media, we don’t always hear about the unsung heroes, designers and creators who are providing ethical and sustainable solutions to the fashion and design industries. This is the gap that Jackie May sets out to solve when she founded the non-profit media organization, Twyg. Along with being a media site, Twyg also hosts workshops, masterclasses and events that revolve around the main protagonist: eco-consciousness. Through Twyg, Jackie is narrating a new story which promotes inclusivity and takes responsibility for the environment. 

 

In this interview, Louw shares with us how he landed his dream job as a presenter of the iconic South African wildlife show 50/50. Furthermore, we discuss his sustainable home and carbon-free lifestyle which is inspired by a compilation of travels all over the world. This authentic way of living is a breath of fresh air and demonstrates that man and earth can truly live in harmony. 

Jackie, what made you take the leap to start Twyg? Was it a calling, a whisper, a yearning to create this earth-friendly platform?

At the time there was very little happening in the media space that I believed could positively shift our behaviour from high carbon consumption and production to slower, ethical and sustainable choices and decisions. Nothing was appealing, nothing that I felt compelled to read. So I jumped in hoping to fill that gap. Two and half years later our media landscape looks quite different in many ways (good and bad) but thankfully there is much more attention given to ethical and sustainable consumption.

Would you say that South Africa is up to speed with the international movement towards sustainable design? If not, what are our strengths and weaknesses on the ‘sustainability scale’?

Definitely. Our designers work with limited budgets and huge talent to create small runs or produce on pre-order to avoid waste. We have designers who are being recognised globally for the work that they do, for the stories they tell and for the remarkable South African fashion identity that they are responsible for creating. 

They are doing this under difficult circumstances, but they are ingenious in coming up with innovative ways to create and make sustainable fashion. I know that many have challenges accessing affordable preferred fibres. But we are seeing refashioned garments and garments made from paper, recycled plastic, vintage deadstock found in downtown warehouses… 

The art of handmade and craft is being celebrated. There are new business models – I have already mentioned the pre-order model, but we’re also seeing rental solutions offered by designers. There are challenges of course. And our biggest challenge is the overproduction of clothing by retailers without viable solutions for the recycling of textiles.

The word sustainability has become a familiar buzz word and popular hashtag in social media, but what does it mean to be a sustainable design brand?

It means using common sense to avoid destroying our planet. 

Don’t overproduce. 

Focus on creating clothes that last. 

Limit your waste. 

Avoid toxins. 

Shorten your supply chain so you can ensure transparency. 

Think long-term!

The Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards excite me because it’s so important to recognize and uplift brands that are taking the earth-friendly route. Well done for creating this space of acknowledgement! What and/or who has been your highlight of the awards?

Thank you for your kind words. I have so many highlights! I love that so many of our finalists take their places on those lists for such very different reasons and aspects of design – choice of fabric, natural dyeing, trans-seasonality, upcycling. 

I love the stories of the designers themselves and how their upbringing determines their work. And, finally I love that we can offer a platform to some of the lesser-known South African designers and showcase their brilliant work.

To live ‘tomorrow, today’ is at the core of Twyg’s mission statement. What 3 lifestyle tips would you suggest the ordinary person can do today to live a forward-thinking lifestyle?

  1. We need to have empathy for Earth and each other. Having empathy immediately changes the way you treat people – you’re kinder, more tolerant and have more respect for them. And by having empathy for Earth, we stop wasting the resources she offers us and on which we depend, and we want to help restore her.
  2. Engage with your neighbourhood and support local businesses, food growers and services. Build a network of relationships that you’ll need in times of climate-change trouble.
  3. Think before you buy anything, and when you do buy, be intentional – local, plastic-free if possible, re-usable, non-toxic.

As a storyteller, what suggestions do you have for a sustainable and ethical brand to effectively communicate their vision and inspire action?

Be honest and transparent about your sustainability journey. Tell your consumer where you are struggling and tell them when you succeed. But be authentic about it. Be sure to be factually correct in your messaging, do your research.

Quick questions

  • Favourite podcast? 

Earth Cast. 

  • Currently reading? 

Paul Collier’s The Future of Capitalism.

  • Favourite place in the world?

Hmmm. I can’t choose between the mountains (most of the Langeberg) and the sea (Camps Bay in the early morning).

  • The first thing you do in the morning is…?

Swim.

  • Who inspires you? 

Traci Kwaai. 

At Sapmok we are constantly striving to be better and do better for the environment, but there’s always room for improvement. What do you suggest can we do to grow as a forward-thinking brand?

I love a good vellie – long-lasting (excellent sustainability credential!) and comfortable. Before I spend money, though, I would need to know that you are using responsibly-sourced and vegetable-tanned leather. Are you using upcycled materials for the bags?

Finally, beware of vegan leathers…

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Written and interviewed by Ursula Botha