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Each month, The New Fashion Initiative invites a leading voice in the sustainable fashion revolution to answer 17 questions about themselves, both personal and professional. It’s our green and socially conscious spin on Vanity Fair‘s beloved Proust Questionnaire. This month, our interviewee is researcher, writer, educator and activist Sass Brown. She’s the Founding Dean of the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation, the former Interim Dean for the Fashion Institute of Technology’s School of Art and Design and is currently completing her PhD on global artisanship and models of sustainable development.

1. What is your favorite article of clothing?

Right now it’s a vintage Kuchi Afghanistan traditional folk dress covered in mirrors, coins, embroidery and braids.

2. What is the most wonderful thing about the fashion industry right now?

The renewed focus on traditional craftsmanship and artisanship from the developing world.

3. What do you think is the most shocking thing about fashion today?

The fact that so many people still have no idea of the impact of their own consumption on people and planet. It’s shocking to me after all these years of activism, engagement, books, talks, etc., that there is a huge swathe of the population who still think it’s cool to consume vast quantities of disposable clothing.

There is still a huge swathe of the population who still think it’s cool to consume vast quantities of disposable clothing.

Sass Brown

4. What’s your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?

That’s a really hard question to answer because I have traveled a lot, and I love a lot of different places for very different reasons: Morocco for the chaos, color and smells of the souk; the desert, any desert, for the tranquility and the quality of light; Amsterdam because of the canals and the vintage shopping; Brooklyn, because it’s my second home and is a creative, eclectic part of New York; Florence because I lived there for four years of my life and there is nothing to beat a sunset walk over the Ponte Vecchio and through the Piazza della Signoria; Venice in October when the tourists have gone and the mist rises off the canal, it’s hauntingly romantic; Cairo, because how can you not be floored by casually driving by the pyramids on the way to a meeting?! Ultimately, though, it has to be London because it will always be my home, despite not having lived there for over 30 years and because it is simply the single most multicultural and diverse city in the world, so by default it is home to many worlds.

5. What is your favorite indulgence?

A really good deep-tissue massage. I think a massage in different countries around the world tells you a lot about local culture, how they view the body, touch, gender, sexuality, etc. And I’ve always got a stiff neck and simply don’t have enough touch in my life!

6. What makes you happiest?

Snuggling up with someone I love with a glass of Prosecco in my hand, great conversation and really good friends.

7. What environmental or social problem are we overlooking?

With so much focus on climate change, I think we have overlooked the loss of biodiversity. A recent UN report estimates that one million species are at risk of extinction, which in turn could set off the collapse of our entire ecosystem (so nothing minor).

With so much focus on climate change, I think we have overlooked the loss of biodiversity.

sass brown

8. Are you more introverted or extroverted?

Definitely more introverted. My work often demands a lot of interaction with people when naturally I am actually quite awkward, which I overcome a lot of the time by being engaged with meaningful work.

9. What do you do first in the morning?

I write my three pages of long-hand stream of consciousness written meditation—the artist’s pages [From her favorite book The Artist’s Way]. Or, if I have lapsed, I walk to the gym and run for around 40 minutes.

10. What was the happiest moment of this past year?

Time spent with good friends and colleagues over food and Prosecco.

11. Best professional moment of your life thus far?

I think publishing my first book, Eco Fashion. I published another one (ReFashioned) three years after, but the accomplishment of publishing my first at a time when there was little else on ethical fashion and launching it at the FIT Museum with a book signing felt monumental at the time.

12. What was the last outfit you wore that made you feel amazing?

A vintage Bottega Veneta dress I bought online and had altered to fit me; it’s a piece I have loved since long before I owned it.

13. Favorite movie?

Casablanca. What’s not to love Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and vintage romance?

14. How do you recharge?

This is super nerdy, but I love beautiful art jigsaw puzzles. I get so engrossed in them that I loose all sense of time and focus completely on the task of finding the next piece.

15. What three words describe you best?

Sensual, loyal, empathic.

16. What’s one thing that surprises people about you?

That I am a complete and total introvert and socially awkward.

17. Favorite book?

The Artists Way; it is my how-to guide on how to get out of my own way.

Previous TNFI Questionnaires: Sustainable designer and Women’s March organizer Tabitha St. Bernard. Sustainable couture designer Ronald van der Kemp.
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