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A Human-Centered Business Model Protects Craftspeople

By Joshua Williams


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Zazi Vintage is an Amsterdam-based company founded by Jeanne de Kroon. “The company is known for their use of heritage textiles and artisan-based textiles that have been produced along the traditional Silk Route, including Uzbekistan ikat, Kashmiri embroidery and Suzani embroideries,” says Sass.

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Zazi Vintage produces a small ready-to-wear line of contemporary fashion pieces--separates, but predominantly dresses. This collection is sold primarily online, employing a direct-to-consumer model. Additionally, the brand offers custom options for a more discerning customer. Sass shares, “They have a line of Suzani coats, which are those fabulous fur-trimmed, Afghan coats. They are reminiscent of the Beatles and the iconic Sergeant Peppers embroidered fur trimmed coat. Those vintage Suzani embroideries are made to order. You're able to customize them a little bit, in terms of choice of fur, color, type of embroidery, et cetera.”

When asked how more mainstream brands can learn from Zazi Vintage, Sass confides. “I think there's an awful lot to do with intention and motivation. Jeanne, the founder of the brand, is honestly one of the most committed people I've ever met in terms of ethics and how she works. And it's all to do with her passion for textiles and for storytelling.” She emphasizes, “Jeanne tells people’s stories through the weaving, through the threads of embroidery. And so, I think her values and motivation are incredible.”

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Europe, Sass shares that Jeanne reached out to her artisans and asked them directly what they needed to survive the lockdown and how to cover costs due to cancelled orders from other brands. But she didn’t stop there. As Sass describes it, “she went back to the other brands that were working with her artisans, and said, look, this is what they need to survive, to keep a roof over their head, to keep food on the table. How do we collectively work out a plan to ensure that they can survive through this?”

Sass describes Jeanne’s approach at Zazi Vintage as human-centric, layered with an understanding of the complex fashion supply chain and how it unduly affects suppliers who are at the mercy of brands.

Each month Sass Brown, an expert in ethical fashion, sustainability and craftsmanship, shares a fashion brand that approaches business differently and innovatively or operates outside of the main fashion systems and capitals. Sass is the former Dean of Art and Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the founding Dean at Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation.