Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
As an 'Identity Developer 'Janne is renowned for introducing a more human approach towards branding, design & technology and her inclusive 'language' solving attitude to contribute to the human condition. She stands for new ways of thinking and her human innovation perspective for solving marketing, business & social [design] issues. She now has created MINDFASHION.today: a growing multi-disciplinary Plug-In [Re] Framework for Fashion, connecting minds in - among others - Design, Psychology, Cultural Economics, Technology and Branding, challenging conventions about the way we think, behave and communicate as well as today's definition of progress.
With more than 12 years of experience Janne has made a name for herself in the field of cultural marketing, branding and innovative concept developments around startups, fashion, design and culture. She supports and challenges emerging talents and brands to find their cultural identity and voice within today's world. Janne has led and collaborated on many multidisciplinary brand strategies, projects, products and events. From co-creating unconventional city branding campaigns, establishing new lifestyle concepts, labels and events to challenging and educating future minds and (re)developing the foundation of a national fashion incubator, self-supporting fashion ecosystem and international fashion showcase. She is renowned for providing creativity in developing an influential voice that enables everyone involved to make an impact, drive growth and increase engagement. With an aptitude for social innovation and research, passion for building empowering collaborations and business concepts, she has drawn many energising lines to connect and turned exciting ideas into a socially valuable reality and sustainable identity.
What is the idea behind Mind Fashion and how did you come up with it?
As we all know (and feel) these are exciting times. Scepticism and optimism intermingle in our communication, interactions and social interactions with each other and the surrounding world. Boundaries between technology and human experience are blurring and there is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach to categorise, understand or predict why and how people act, learn, believe, feel or buy the way they do.
Within this complex and transforming world I want to present a different voice & growing multi-disciplinary Plug-In (and out) [Re]Framework for Fashion, by connecting various minds in - among others - Design, Psychology, Cultural Economics, Technology and Branding, and by focussing on human innovation, behaviour, experience and communication.
I believe that fashion, when seen and valued as a powerful language and empowered by a network of disciplines, can stimulate collaboration and communication on today's issues including sustainability, 'fear of' change and technology, well-being, mental health, body-image and diversity. How? By (re)establishing the connection between the clothes, the creator and the wearer, and questioning what we (need to) value, what we wear as well as how we dispose of it. Focussing not only on clothing but also on the complexity of human behaviour, innovation, experience and communication across all aspects of fashion, to generate deep understanding of the current and future [creative] economy.
My ambition is, together with others, to stimulate human innovation in projects, ideas and designs by using an engaging, multi-sensory language of disciplines for fashion. How? Through (development of) Consultancy, Projects, Courses, Workshops, Events, Conferences and Editorial work. Our aim is to trigger and educate businesses, brands, designers, students, consumers, policy makers and (knowledge) institutes to understand the role of humans in fashion consumption, design, production and disposal. And with this, transforming today’s fashion industry attitudes and issues such as consumer behaviour, body image, environment, health, self-esteem, diversity and creativity, into ones that are environmentally conscious and mindful of sustainability issues.
When did it all start and do you have other members in your team? How long did it take you to be where you are now?
Well, although this might sound quite vague: I think I have been working on this for quite a while, but haven't been really aware of it (and still a long way to go). Definitely when looking back at my education (Math, Physics, Antwerp Fashion Department, Economics, Marketing..) as well as my work that has always been intertwined with the energy of social innovation and the passion for collaboration. It is in line with my overall vision and combines all my (freelance) projects for my company Jump the Gap. But if I need to somehow pin it down: the first MIND FASHION spark was about 2,5 years ago, when again working with various disciplines on a project, combining psychology, fashion design and communication, linked to entrepreneurship. Especially the psychology part has always intrigued me as well as the fact that I still just saw just a few collaborations between disciplines [while everyone was always talking about it]. In 2017 I managed to create a bit more time for these thoughts to become more structured and strengthened by other projects and research. This ended up with a scary (and silent) launch of the first draft of MIND FASHION online at the end of October 2017 and it has been developing every since.
Although I am the engine behind MIND FASHION or as Adam Peacock and Jo Cope have described it 'the curator who holds it together', the whole idea/concept behind MIND FASHION is about making new connections and challenging current connections within the field of fashion to contribute to solutions and to address its issues. Connecting people, ideas, creativity, disciplines, projects, energy, and questioning today's definitions, systems, structures. So I am not doing this [nor do I want to do this on my own] and throughout the process I have already met and connected inspiring people: www.mindfashion.today/network
What was the biggest obstacle?
The start as in - presenting it to others, while still not knowing exactly how it will develop. I am used to knowing where I am going but know I need to keep it as fluid and adaptable as possible to today's developments within the industry and society. I am also a perfectionist. Failing doesn't feel like an option to me and like most of us I am really not fond of failing in public.
Combine that with the fact that the mindset/set-up is quite different and not [yet] in line with today's trends, it takes time, energy, passion and a focussed mind to explain it to others. But I think my biggest obstacle was/is convincing others the value of it, as in its collective value for human innovation, not the [yet] well-know and easy to define financial value/personal profit.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
That I haven been able to contribute (small or big) to the growth of many great (social design) projects and creative minds and see them flourish! Together with the City of Maastricht and various partners, I have worked on the strategy and branding concept to rediscover and reveal its distinctive fashion identity. One of my main goals was to show the world the talent Maastricht has to offer. To make Creative Maastricht and its upcoming as well as established designers finally visible for its citizens, visitors, fashion lovers, the industry and the media. And to create opportunities for them to develop their skills, creativity, knowledge, network and business.
And since the beginning and with great love I have always supported and worked with one of the most inspiring fashion statements and establishments I know: FASHIONCLASH. I also loved challenging and working with future minds and emerging designers/artists. Two of my favourites: collaborating with MSc Applied Psychology of Fashion and MA Fashion Journalism students of the University of the Arts London (UAL), London College of Fashion on the topic ‘Fashion makes Sense’ AND helping photographer Sem Shayne (graduate MAFAD) with his project CALAISFORNIA, the European Dream to connect with the city to present his work.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
I think staying true to who I am, what I believe in and what I am best in, which unfortunately isn't (yet) pinned down in the structures, norms, values and systems everyone is used to.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
I think we always need to support people/humans, and yes, therefore I think #WomenInTech is an important movement. As mentioned now often, we need to break systems, norms, in order to grow as a society. Women, like all other humans have the right to follow their passion and work in technology and they need to be giving this opportunity. And also to be rewarded (and not only financially) equally, like everyone else for their work and contribution. The only thing we might need to be aware of is that we shouldn't be excluding when promoting inclusivity/fighting for including our own voice or the voice of others. 'Disruptive' movements that want to break through current structures, norms and systems will only be sustainable if we keep unity (for as many as possible) in mind.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Follow your own path at your own pace. Don't let society, social media, trends, hypes, norms, labels, technology rush or limit you, your mind, your intuition and your goals. Especially within technology, innovation is - or at least that is how I feel it - linked to time. A kind of urge to be the first, to always stay ahead of others. I truly value the vision of what I always label as 'slowing up'. In a world where technology and media seem to be rushing everyone, slowing our steps, choices, mind, and creative ideas can be a way forward. Just think about it: the fastest decisions are not always the best decisions. Take the time to respond, rather than just react to new developments. Our productivity doesn’t just depend on rapidly following trends. It also depends on our intuition and creativity, and these things need time and space to flourish.
I have this sentence that I keep reminding myself of whenever I get stuck. I am, therefore, I do, learn, wear, create ..... [not the other way around] I think it is good to not only invest time and energy to create our business, but also take time to understand better who we are as a self. By doing so we might be able to make more sustainable decisions, both for our business as ourselves.
What will be the key trends in the fashion tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Human Innovation - looking at issues/solutions also from a psychological and communication (a more human) perspective, not only technology and design.
Multi-disciplinary collaborations - We are used to construct systems to make sense of the world, to be able to function. Stories, definitions, disciplines and narratives tell, create, and help us shape the world around us and vice versa. It is therefore still difficult to truly think (and act) outside the box. But I think the future will show/create a Fashion DNA that is made out of more than threads of fabrics to innovate in ways and levels we haven’t been able to do/think yet. I think (or at least hope) we will see more and more collaborations between like-minded scientists and fashion designers/artists that will show a new sort of creativity, innovation, power, beauty and possibilities of the human mind when connecting beyond today’s known 'boxes'.
But honestly, I am also fascinated by the term trend. Now, more than ever, preferences, needs, tastes, interests, lifestyles, and (sub)cultures are flexible instead of fixed. Additionally, there is an expanding critical view towards brands, media and the (political) establishment, the truth, authenticity, relationships and beauty, and a growing conscience to improve health, environment, well-being and the world. Combine that with the fact that boundaries between technology and human experience are fading, and fear of change just as quickly turns into excitement for the future and back again, I can't help but wonder: Will 'routine' and 'trends' exist in the future? And how will this affect how we see and define time, as in; the past, yesterday, now, today, tomorrow, seasons and the future? Do we still have the urge [or motivation] to predict...?
Who are your inspirational women in fashion tech?
Jenny Tillotson - who truly keeps her own pace and follows her own path to create amazing tools to contribute to the human condition through wearable technology and the power of scent.
Bushra Burge - her multi-disciplinary mind and skillset to create multi-sensory stories, as a luxury eco-fashion brand designer, as a as wearable and fashion tech expert, as I [you name it!] .. Her drive, knowledge and experience are an inspiration to me. And I just love her personal daily drawings. It motivated me to pick up my pencil again.
LinkedIn: Janne Baetsen
Meet Janne at our upcoming event - Next Wave Fashion Tech, London 25 April!
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.