Artist, Creative Director /Owner/Designer at Jebsispar, Jebin Johny on his art inspired fashion and sustainability.
What sparked your interest in fashion?
I always wanted to do something in art. Like, I was this little guy who was passionate about painting, dancing, film making, acting etcetera. I remember I was always the best dressed lad at school and I always knew that there is so much power in dressing. You get the attention and you are respected if you are well dressed. Your clothes tell a lot about your personality, so I always wanted to make clothes. I knew that I would end up being an artist one day. I had tons of stories to tell, very personal ones. But I didn't know how I would share my stories to the people. I did my Bteh in fashion technology and moved to the UK for my masters. My education there changed my perspectives and I found a passionate artist in me. I would like to call myself an artist rather than a designer. I express my emotions and tell stories via my paintings, and my paintings are our Jebsispar prints.
What motivated your brand towards sustainable fashion?
Initially my brand wasn’t sustainable. My products were made unethically in India. I was aware, but I didn't realise. One day I visited the industry where my garments were made. Children were involved in printing, toxic chemicals were used and people who worked for me were underpaid. That moment literally changed my perspective. When I made money selling clothes, the people who worked for me didn’t. They became poorer every single day. I decided to stop working with them and that's how I began researching sustainability. The place that I come from, Kerala (Southern state in India) is known for its handwoven cotton fabrics. I work with the weavers of Kuthampully and make the finest handwoven cotton garments. We do both digital printing using azo free ink, and hand block printing using natural and eco friendly dyes. All processes are eco friendly and sustainable.
How do you communicate sustainability to consumers?
We are known for our handwoven fabrics and bold eco-friendly prints, as we don't use any other fabric. All our processes are posted on Instagram, such as the hand weaving to the people who made our clothes. Our Instagram followers are aware of our process. And the most influential way of communication is done by our celebrity clients. Our Bollywood actresses have a huge influence on people. When global fashion icon Sonam Kapoor wore one of our handmade saree, Vogue and all magazines covered it and tagged it as a sustainable saree. Sustainability is voiced through the celebrities who wore our clothes. When they wear and talk about the brand, then the reach is unprecedented.
Where do you find inspiration for new collections?
My inspiration comes from my own life. I would say that Jebsispar is all about emotions. It starts from research and painting, it’s a very personal process. A design comes out of anger, happiness, sadness... depending on my emotional state. My prints speak a lot. Jebsispar is an amalgamation of my familial connections, Jeb - Jebin Sis - Sisters, Par - Parents. Hence Jeb-sis-par. It's all about the family bonding, the little joy that connects all of us.
Describe the Jebsispar client?
Our clients are those women who are ready to spend on garments that are unique, that are long lasting (probably could be used as an heirloom), comfortable, and are handmade. At the same time they are emotionally connected to the stories every garment speaks. Every painting has its stories/emotions. Our clients are those women from all over the world who are independent and who are not bothered about society. We have clientele from Asia, Europe, Oceania, America and South Africa.
How do influences from outside of India find their way into your work?
I have traveled the world and right from my childhood I was influenced by the Byzantine and Renaissance art. What interests me is the people, art, museums, church, architecture and cinema. My debut collection ‘KathaKabuki’ was a fusion design idea of dance drama Kathakali of Kerala, India and Kabuki of Japan. The dance dramas are so beautiful and have in-depth meaning and emotions about human life which is fascinating!
There is a real femininity to your work, where does that come from?
I love women and I grew up with three women in my family; my mother and two sisters. I see them when I design, especially my two sisters. Three of them dress well and have amazing style. Feminine women always get my attention, there is something so powerful.
What are the main problems you see in the fashion sector today?
The word fashion is complicated. Our industry is the most polluted, and most people are not aware of the issues. And even if we try to make them understand the issues, it doesn’t matter, because it's just clothes and no many people care how much the people who made their clothes make for a living, or bothered about their working conditions or the modern slavery behind their clothes. Everyone wants good looking fashionable clothes. Now whether the garment is cheap or expensive doesn’t matter. Because we even have luxury brands that pay poor wages to the people who work for them and use toxic chemicals for dyeing and printing especially those national and international brands who make their clothes in India and Bangladesh. Small businesses like ours can make a difference and we are doing it and I am so proud about it. When I grow, the people who work for me also benefit and grow along. How amazing is that? It's not about money all the time, humanity matters. That's what a sustainable business is. Fair-trade, Minimal waste., these two things should be taken seriously. It will take a long time though, but things are happening.
As an artist, how would you define your role in society?
When people buy our products, they are buying our culture and emotions or a part of me. They get aware of the importance of a family, the importance of love and emotions, fair wages, nature, conscious life, sustainability. We all have a role in society and if one person makes a change, the rest will follow, no matter where you are from, what color you are, what religion you practise. That's what the world has shown us and I believe in this. I am an optimistic person.
*Connect with Jebsispar https://www.instagram.com/jebsispar/