Eme Eidson, for fair fashion: “Fast fashion has created addicts to have more and more…”

Melissa Eidson – stage name Eme Eidson – is a documentary director and producer by passion and a university professor by profession.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
01 April 2024 Monday 10:31
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Eme Eidson, for fair fashion: “Fast fashion has created addicts to have more and more…”

Melissa Eidson – stage name Eme Eidson – is a documentary director and producer by passion and a university professor by profession. She was born in Dallas, Texas, but she grew up traveling around the world – Taiwan, Greece, Egypt… – for her father's job, who then pushed her to study business so that she could follow in her footsteps as an entrepreneur.

It was at the age of 12, while living in Cairo, that she saw extreme poverty firsthand and began to feel the need to change the world that would lead her to be a filmmaker twenty years later. Her film career began with El barrio (2007) and No son invisibles: Maya women and microfinance (2008), both filmed in Mexico, where she lived for two decades and her daughter was born.

Slow fashion (2023) is his third documentary and the first to be screened at the recently held Mortiz Feed Dog Festival in Barcelona. The film covers three countries with the same problem, the cultural appropriation of traditional costumes and designs.

It begins in Chiapas, Mexico, with the weavers from whom a well-known French brand copied the embroidery on their blouses; then she visits the Houey Hong cooperative, in Laos, together with the activist Nancy Takayama, and finally the group of Bagru Bahbis artisans from Jaipur, India, led by Mireia López and Petra Valentova; to show us that it is possible to design and create garments with the ancestral methods of these communities without appropriating their culture.

How would you define cultural appropriation?

Cultural appropriation is taking something that is not your culture and keeping it for your own benefit. This mentality is the main focus of many companies. We must change this, leave it behind, and, in some way, retrain ourselves, re-educate ourselves and grow the awareness of understanding the reciprocity that indigenous communities have. They understand it because they live it, it is their philosophy. It's all about give and take, balance, trust in each other, respect and honor. Designers have to understand that there is a delicate balance in culture and breaking it is very damaging and destructive.

How can a designer be inspired by the aesthetics of an indigenous community without harming it?

Going with open eyes and arms. Many of these communities would be delighted to work with designers from the West, to have the possibility of earning more money with their work and connecting with the world. It's not that they don't want to, it's the way it's done, that their culture is respected and it's not stolen from them. To be inspired by them and not recognize it is to take away their most valuable identity, which they have always had, and not give them anything in return.

But Mireia López also sells what she designs with the women of Bagru Bahbis.

Yes, but Mireia makes the designs from scratch, she does not use traditional patterns. Yes, they use ancient block printing techniques, but the designs are totally new.

They are not historically significant designs for them.

Exact. The idea of ​​creating new designs was Petra's. She drew them in a notebook and then built the new blocks to print them. Petra is a teacher and artist, she is combining her knowledge with that of the women of the community to help them create something new. Because otherwise, those women would probably have stayed doing what they have always done, without innovating.

Is it because no one encourages them to do it?

I think that without an incentive to do things differently, they will do what they have always done, which is for the money. They have been treated like worker bees and they only know how to do that. They treat them like machines. And with Petra and Mireia they have a project, they are creative and they are excited to do it. The two of them, as experienced designers, allow them to grow and, in return, they contribute to Mireia and Petra's creative needs.

The balance of give and take I was talking about.

I think it works very well when everyone who gets involved does so with good intentions. When you leave aside this idea of ​​taking what you need to take it to a factory in China where they can get it for you at the lowest possible cost, as some big brands are doing. And although there are no benefits in a project like Mireia's, the final result is worth much more than the money. It enriches you as a person, it makes you better. It sounds silly but I think it's like that, because I've seen it with Mireia and Petra. They love what they do and continue to do it.

But companies are driven by money, they need it to continue functioning.

There are brands that do what they want and see creative people, especially from indigenous communities, as inferior. And I don't like that world or that type of people, I don't like being in that environment. In cultures like those of Oaxaca, you don't need to make paper contracts: you shake hands and know that they trust you and you trust them.

Is it injustice that moves you to make documentaries?

I suppose. I'm smart enough to do it, I have the necessary equipment, I can do something. I feel like I have a purpose, even if I don't make any money from them. It's the only thing that moves me beyond teaching. I love being a teacher and my students, but I also like to have a voice and that what I do has an effect. Cinema is like a big megaphone, it is powerful even if you do it on a small scale.

Tell me about your new project, what is it about?

It's about the environment, so fashion will also be included. It's called Metamorphosis because it's what we need, a change. Fashion, agriculture, society, energy... Maybe also architecture, I don't know yet. The objective is to unite people and publicize sustainable projects, in whatever sector, and that, after the initial interview, they themselves upload the process in short videos that can be unified in a single site that is interactive with the public. .

It will not be a conventional documentary.

Unless we put the videos together at the end, no. We could do it... But for now what we need is something that promotes the change towards a more sustainable world. I want it to be a website that grows with people and their interactions. We don't have five years to make a documentary, the planet needs change now.

One could argue that sustainable brands are much more expensive than fast fashion.

Yes, it is, but cheaper does not mean better. In the end, cheap is expensive, because you are buying clothes that after a year you have to throw away because they are of poor quality. You probably spend more on renewing cheap clothes than if you bought something sustainable and durable. I think fast fashion has created a type of person who is addicted to having more and more and more... it's horrible.

Have you ever lost hope that you can make any meaningful change?

It happens to all of us, we focus on our personal lives and forget about the rest. I guess that's why I feel like if I'm actively creating documentaries, I'm helping. I feel better about it, I'm doing something that, even if it's not a huge success, is at least an attempt. I think we should all make that effort, otherwise we will stay with our lives always doing the same thing, and nothing will change. I don't think losing hope is an option, we can't afford it.