My Uniform: Sisters Joanna & Arianne of The New Denim Project

My Uniform: Sisters Joanna & Arianne of The New Denim Project

So the story starts like this: Our director of design and sustainability met one of The New Denim Project’s founders, Arianne, while on a trip a few years back. They were clearly like-minded and stayed in touch, even though Arianne lived and worked in Guatemala running a sustainable textile laboratory with her sister Joanna for their family’s 3-generation-old textile company, Iris Textiles. The New Denim Project is a perfectly closed-loop production facility that upcycles discarded textiles and turns them into beautiful, luxe fabrics. We recently used their ridiculously soft upcycled denim to create three perfect fall wardrobe staples (you can see them over here). How they made such beautiful fabric? Collecting off-cuts from a local denim manufacturer and making them into 100% upcycled fabrics. The process is zero waste - all excess from their production process is used for another purpose, either collected by a local coffee farm and used as compost, upcycled into hand woven rugs with master artisans, or downcycled as wipes for cleaning purposes. This process is unlike anything in the world! We asked the sisters to send us snaps from quarantine (which they’re finding pleasure in, despite the difficulty) and to take us for a trip down style memory lane…

Arianne and their father Jaime in their studio in Guatemala City.
Joanna from her home in Mexico City.

ON PERSONAL STYLE

Joanna: I was born and raised in the suburbs of Guatemala City – the land of the eternal spring. A small, cozy, and humble place full of bliss, with the happiest people on earth. My grandparents used to call it paradise – I agree. After graduating high school, I lived in Israel for 5 years until age 22, then moved back to Guatemala for a couple of years and later moved to Mexico City where I have been living ever since. Deep inside, I’m a frustrated Michael Hutchence [in terms of style]. In real life, I would say basic and monochromatic. All my closet looks the same. Anything that constrains, pinches or pressurizes is not an option. Good for the people and good for the planet. Soil, not oil. But yes, it’s evolved. As a child it was a tie-dye oversized t-shirt, a fanny pack, and a scrunchie, by 16 it was low-rise jeans, halter top, choker necklace, frosted lip-gloss, Von-Dutch hat. And at 20 a mini skirt, a t-shirt, my mom’s belts from the 80s, bleached blonde hair, Havaianas, Carrera sunglasses, and a pack of CDs. The Michael Hutchence piece has been a constant though. 

Arianne: I also was born and raised in Guatemala City. Once I finished school, I moved to Boulder, Colorado. After two years, I transferred to university in Israel and lived in both Herzliya and Tel Aviv for about seven years. In 2014, I moved back to Guatemala, and began this journey of textile artistry / upcycling and have been completely immersed in this space since. I’m all about easy, earthy, monochromatic, quotidian workwear. All natural, zero synthetic fibers. In my teens and early 20s things got a bit out of control, Y2K style. I had an all black era, which was pretty great. Now I mostly cherish undyed, clean aesthetics - timelessness above all. Life always seems to balance out like that. 

 

ON FIRST STYLE INVESTMENTS

Joanna: At age 11, I bought my “Mrs. Timberlake” pink bag with all my savings. [Ed Note: Best answer yet.]

Arianne: I think it might have been an Issey Miyake evening dress that I never used. Pretty sure my sister has it now in her closet. I would say these days most of my closet pieces I see as investments - with high utility and longest life cycle in mind, always. 

 

ON CORONAVIRUS AND BUSINESS

Joanna: This is a time like no other in our lives. This pandemic continues to cause uncertainty in all of us. Despite the challenges we are all facing every day, this is a time that has brought out the best in many of us. It has challenged humanity and forced us to act collectively.

We are a third-generation family company, that has overcome the ups and downs, and everything in-between. The commitment, strength and sacrifice that surround us, and the level to which global communities are coming together through this pandemic has been an inspiration. We will keep fighting for a circular economy. One that is collective and collaborative.

We are beyond thankful to all who have brought business to us in these moments which we know are challenging for all. We are constantly moving forward, adjusting to operating in this changing world.

 

Arianne: I have to say when Covid-19 began we were completely terrified. I started noticing changes in the way we interact with each other. Personally, professionally, at the community level, nationally, internationally. I could see the effects of isolation so clearly - why are people so scared of solitude, quarantine? We are social animals, we need other people. 

This same fear applies in today’s fashion world. As manufacturers, there is no point if we operate in isolation. There is no use for us to innovate in our practices, if farmers, brands, clients, and the entire system do not unite and work towards sustainable development as well. 

These pandemic times have been extremely challenging, and this is an understatement. However, we chose from the beginning to remain positive, open to new possibilities. After 64 years since the founding of our family mill, Iris Textiles, we have learned to work with variability over standardization. Life is spontaneous, impulsive, instinctive. We have to strive to exist in this same rhythm.  

These times have shown us that we can think of an alternative society. We can create a work ethic that understands that we depend on each other. We can discard the idea that eternal economic growth is logical on a finite planet. We can create industries that detach from the age-old illusion of competition - and instead embrace trust, dialogue, and a shared ecosystem. 

It is a privilege to call these current times a masterclass in life. We keep regenerating, every day, like our very own cells in our body. We are seeing the death of one system and the rebirth of another. Absolutely surreal times, we are living through the type of radical periods that intensify our existence, and strip us naked to show who we really are. Who are we when the economy is asleep? It should be a time that finally wakes us up. 

 

ON THE NEW DENIM PROJECT FOR ALEX MILL

Joanna: It has been an inspiration and honor to work with these creative minds. The collection is timeless and flawless. It makes me beyond happy to see the results. Much love and respect for all, I’m your fan. 

 

Arianne: Another thing that this pandemic has taught us is that we should be SO PROUD and grateful for our partners in this journey. Alex Mill has shown us so much love, echo, creativity and an unconditional partnership. We have been working on this synergy since I met Brittany in Singapore about two years ago by pure magic of life! Now my Aquarian sister, whom I admire so much, a true teacher and impact-design master. Alex Mill seemed like the perfect platform to explore an interaction for sustainable design and great clothing - and the beginning of something extraordinary. The collection is unreal, the dreamiest garments to add to my collection. Humble masterpieces! 

 

THREE THINGS WITH JOANNA 

Three easy ways we can live more sustainably at home.

  1. DIY herb garden and green roof
  2. Skip disposables, go reusable
  3. Water is life, use it wisely

 

Three things making quarantine a bit more joyful for you.

  1. Nature
  2. Cold beer
  3. Great company

 

Your uniform, in three pieces.

  1. T-shirt
  2. White sneakers
  3. Bangs

 

THREE THINGS WITH ARIANNE

Three easy ways we can live more sustainably at home.

  1. Eat vegan. 
  2. Buy local, organic, natural food/materials. 
  3. Adopt a dog - will bring you more joy than anything you will ever buy! 

 

Three things making quarantine a bit more joyful for you.

  1. Gaga movement language dancing + yoga + barre + contemporary art workshops online
  2. My husband’s cooking ♡
  3. Wine

 

Your uniform, in three pieces.

  1. Organic cotton undyed tee
  2. Upcycled cotton workwear pants
  3. Upcycled cotton/silk scrunchie (naturally dyed by Jess, our business development wizard) 

 

Thank you Joanna & Arianne!

 

Joanna and Arianne photographed themselves at home in Mexico City and Guatemala City, respectively.

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