This is Part 2 of the Women Persist! Interview with Sarah Eichhorn, an ethical fiber and textiles artist. Sarah had so much good to say that I’ve split the post in two.
If you are wondering where the beginning is, find it here. But maybe you’re one of those people who like to read endings first.
As a refresher: Sarah Eichhorn is Assistant Professor and Co-chair of the Fashion Department at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Additionally, she teaches a few classes on dying and different kinds of weaving in the Madison and Milwaukee area that you can find listed on her website.
How did the role of sustainability develop in your life?
I’ve always had this internal struggle within the fashion industry where I come from a very progressive family where we always recycled. I don’t know what life is like not recycling because we’ve always done it in my household. And just being super environmentally aware of things that were going on and being involved in community things. I think for me that’s all kind of been in the back of my mind and then being introduced into the world of fashion I just knew i didn’t want to work in a corporate environment. It wouldn’t align with my principles. My dad is a union carpenter so I always had that made-in-the-usa mindset as well. He’s a total hippie. He’s the hippie side, my mom’s the opposite. He’s always bought his Red Wing work boots. If he had to buy a pair of dress shoes they’d be Rockford, Made-in-the-usa. And just minimally bought clothes, so it’s always been this fine balance of figuring out how to be in my industry and be fashionable and participate but then how can I feel good about it. We’ve finally got to this point in society, and I think with the help of social media and the internet, where we can increase awareness in these kinds of things and make them options to participate and be incorporated in our everyday lives.
Online Shopping Recommendations By Sarah:
“I think pretty much all of their yarns are sourced here in the United States. Their aesthetic is very contemporary and clean. It’s very interesting how they’ve marketed themselves too and who they’re trying to drawn in. On the inside of the yarn labels they give the whole story behind where the yarn came from and how it’s processed.”
Lauren Winter Company – Portland, Oregon
“I’m visioning my Spring wardrobe and what I want it to look like. A capsule wardrobe is the idea that you have like ten things and how do they mix and match together so that you can maximize the use. It’s the idea that you can invest in one thing but it’s going to last you the whole season, maybe even the whole year.”
Hackwith Design House– St. Paul, Minnesota
“She’ll tag her garments like ‘this is number 2/8’, so she’s only made 8 pieces of that garment. It’s also like that mentality that you’re getting an exclusive, very curated thing which I think psychologically makes you invest in that, take care of it a little more and when you put it on you feel special.”
Do you make and sell any of your own things?
I’ve done some handwoven things in the past. I’ve kind of made a shift in trying to do more art-related things because there’s so much labor that goes into the process I like to use and the yarns I like to use the cost is so high that I’d rather it be more treated like an artistic piece than something else.
Do you do a lot hand dying of your own fabric?
I have my MFA in costume design, and in graduate school I was the dyer/painter for all the shows and we would just use synthetic dyes for that so I’m very well versed in all different kinds of dyes and color. It’s fun because you can treat them almost like water colors but on fabric.
Natural dyes are something I’ve been regularly practicing more in my pieces because they’re very low impact on the environment. I like the idea of kind of finding that balance of– I’m a big gardener too– how you can grow these plants but not overharvest them because there are other ecosystems involved, and the bees could also love goldenrod, and we get honey from that and the whole bee population is in distress right now. Again, it’s kind of being more invested in where the color is coming from. It’s been nice to really kind of embrace that and it aligns with my mission and personal values of sustainability and thinking of everything in a bigger picture, and how all parties are impacted by this one thing.
How has your personal wardrobe since you were younger?
The society wants you to look a certain way for certain jobs. I think the hardest part has been having a job ad what is required in having that job and how you present yourself. First impressions are always going to exist. I still struggle with this– how can I maintain my core values and reflect that and still give a strong first impression when meeting someone for my job. If I meet the CEO of Kohls or Bon-Ton, how can I still feel okay and comfortable too, because everyone knows if you put on something and you’re not comfortable in it you’re just going to be grumpy all day. It will be projected one way or another. That’s been a big struggle with me and I’ve finally just got to the point, and maybe it comes with age, like okay this is who I am and people know who I am now. I’m grateful for being in an art department that kind supports more creative self expression even with their wardrobe. I’ve gone through these kind of ebb and flows. We all have retail therapy moments too where you’re just like I want to go shopping. You end up buying things that might seem cool, but then how often do you wear them because they’re not comfortable or they’re just so unique that you just never have the right time or place to wear them to. I have plenty of those still in my closet that I haven’t been able to part with yet.
Great! Now you’ve got lots to think about, like do you have too many retail therapy moments? and are you invested in your wardrobe in the ways you’d like to be? Today’s big questions brought to you by Sarah Eichhorn.