Interview with MARIE NASEMANN, #fairknallt

“Honesty & compromise – that’s fair and the path to being green.”

Marie Nasemann is an actor, model and fair fashion pioneer. She has 155,000 followers on her personal Instagram account – where she invites her community to share in her private life, including the new addition to her family – and 42,000 fans on her @Fairknallt page. She uses her influence as a Young Icons Award winner to go to bat for issues that matter to women, such as fashion and equality.

Interview: Uta Gruenberger

What triggered your shift from the glamour of Germany’s Next Top Model to the world of fair fashion?

My absolute lightning bolt moment was back in 2013. I was watching a chat show where they showed horrific footage of the collapsed Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh. Those grim images shook me to the core and were a real wake-up call. Without that experience, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
It prompted me to start doing extensive research on which companies are truly committed to fair fashion, and this research is still my main focus. I enlisted the help of Norian Schneider, a young sustainability research scientist from Lüneburg, who provides me with professional support for these very in-depth analyses. He knows how to interpret and evaluate the extremely complex relationships between materials, working conditions and supply chains.

Is it even possible to communicate the complexity of the clothing industry’s production chains on social media?

That’s precisely one of the main problems. Generally speaking, the community is quite open and interested and also willing to learn when it comes to sustainable products and fair fashion. Still, it’s easy to get frustrated if you can’t find what you’re looking for or if it’s too expensive.
But I think it’s important for the media and for films, photos and podcasts to give people a better understanding of the distressing side of the fashion industry – not only the connection between the climate crisis and the ever faster growing fashion industry, but also the deplorable working conditions under which clothing is produced.
On the flip side, nothing is more of a turn-off than an information overload or, even worse, a moralising undertone. The shift should be enjoyable as well.

So you believe the general behavioural shift will happen when people are touched emotionally and act voluntarily?

Exactly. When they act from their own sense of unease and/or as a result of inspiring role models. And then there’s another important point. Take, for example, zero waste. There are thousands of zero waste initiatives on social media. But I recently took a closer look at the actual impact of this zero waste target on our overall carbon footprint in percent, and packaging waste accounts for just a tiny percentage of our greenhouse gas emissions. It would be better to have more “zero fly” initiatives on Instagram. Of course, giving up air travel is much more difficult, but it would be vital to address the topic.

Are we talking about the balancing act of honesty?

So far I’ve been lucky and haven’t experienced any real backlash. That’s probably because I try to be as honest as possible on @Fairknallt as well as on my personal page. I don’t only post about my successes with regard to sustainability, but also about my failures and the many compromises I make. I show what is acceptable to me and what isn’t. That motivates a lot of people. And in return, I get a lot of tips from my followers. Incidentally, in my first book, Fairknallt – Mein grüner Kompromiss [Fairknallt – My Green Compromise], I talk about navigating these issues in my everyday life. My publisher, Ullstein Verlag, will present it this coming May.

Having met you, I assume you approach the topic with down-to-earth humour?

I think that’s the best way – when my readers and followers feel inspired to do their bit; when they get pleasure from being actively engaged. To this end, I try to show the many small steps and adjustments people can make in a very practical way. Ultimately, it’s all about gaining a new awareness of the details in our everyday lives that we can change if we really want to.

Fashion is definitely the area where it’s easiest to learn to live without certain things and consequently contribute towards a greener future. During the lockdowns, I think a lot of people used the time to sort through their wardrobes and realised they can live well with less.

What is the ideal wardrobe 4.0?

I recommend a capsule wardrobe: two to four handfuls of fair and sustainable basics that you wear over and over, that are high quality and last forever. And on top of that, a few special pieces that add an element of individuality to your wardrobe. Vintage stores are a good place to find those.

Are you able to make a living from fair fashion partners alone?

I need to balance the pros and cons and make compromises here as well. On the one hand, I partner up with recognised sustainable companies like Armedangels; on the other hand, I also work with big players such as C&A and Filippa K., who are not yet 100% fair but well on their way to getting there in the long run and who don’t just put out individual collections to greenwash their image. I take a very close look at a brand’s long-term goal and whether it has reached its self-imposed targets in the past. But I wouldn’t be able to make a living from fair fashion brands alone. Still, sustainability plays a large role in many product worlds now – for instance, in cosmetics, mobility and food. Let’s just say: there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

And what made you move from Bavaria to Berlin?

I love the free-spirited atmosphere in this city. Berlin is liberal, broad-minded and political. And it knows how to party. I’ve always been fascinated by that. Everyone can live however they want here. There are no prescribed ways of living. And when it comes to my line of work, Berlin is just the best place to be. This is where castings take place, production companies are based and the most important film and fashion events are held.

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