Founder of Zazi Vinatge, nomadic Jeanne De Kroon captivated us with her colourful realm of travel and ethnic design.
In her whirlwind world, Jeanne has known no boundaries and built a meeting place for the connection of nations and communities in women’s empowerment, sustainable development and ethical fashion.
We recently got the chance to talk to Jeanne and photographer her on her recent travels in Ibiza.
Describe yourself in 3 words. Chaotic, idealistic, colourful
Where are you from? And where are you now? Originally I grew up on the Dutch beach around the Hague in a bit of a conservative bubble with two intense artist parents in the Netherlands. Right now, I am in my office in Berlin planning the new campaign in the Himalayas with the same model I started my company with three years ago. I am currently surrounded by my less exciting German taxes but a dreamy mood board of the hippie trail in the 70s with caravans in Kabul and pictures of Kashmiri embroidery from the high peaks of the hills.
Was there a certain moment that lead you to ethical fashion? I think there were so many aspects in my life that contributed to long for a more meaningful way to live my life and dress every day. I grew up with a mother that used to be a fashion journalist and turned into an art historian. She told me about these incredible and dreamy stories from the 70s and 80s. She told me about Richard Avalon and Diana Vreeland and how she met Westwood in her early days that spiked a generation to change through cloth. Combined with my travels during my philosophy studies where I met so many women that communicated their stories through cloth, I slowly realised how far removed we are from the meaning behind what we wear and the people responsible for them. I had my ‘aha’ moment a few years ago when I had my one and only model job during Uni. I must have been the least successful model in the world but this company I worked for at the time gave me a t-shirt when I left the job. It was nothing special but a t-shirt from a big fast fashion retailer. A few months later I met one of the women by coincidence in the slums of India that worked in one of the factories where the company I modelled for produced their items.
She had to wear diapers and got locked up 16 hours per day, couldn't use the bathroom, lived next to the polluted river where the company died their textiles with chemicals. I guess being face to face with the other side, all the walls break down and there is no other option but to change.
I quit modelling, changed my complete perspective on the clothing I wore and took day to day steps to spread this awareness.
Jeanne wears the Inika Off-The-Shoulder Top.
What are your favourite pieces in your wardrobe and their stories? Right now every piece of my wardrobe comes with such a story as I have been collecting stories and fabrics for 8 years now around the world. A few days ago I tried on this incredible Afghan dancing dress. Four years ago I received this 90 year old dress as a gift in a small sweaty room in India where I was having saffron tea with the Afghan family I work with. We ate dried mulberries while one of the women in the family grabbed my hand and started explaining me what Afghanistan was like before 1979 when the Russians arrived. She explained in the most melodic sounding Farsi how the women danced from Mazar al Sharif to Kabul wore the most heavy embroidered dresses for special occasions. The family I work with have collected many of the vintage pieces and most likely made the coat Jimi wore. This dress (that comes with matching trousers) is one of them. They gave it to me as a gift while we were redesigning the Jimi Hendrix Afghan coat I loved and told me I should continue the dance in it. When I wear this dress, I feel the heaviness of the rustic coins on it, the fully embroidered sleeves with a handwoven silk lining and the sun bleached fabric and get transported back to another time while being reminded of this woman that gave it to me.
Who are the strongest female influences in your life? This is my Indian mama called Madhu Ji without a doubt. A few years ago I had the fortune of crossing paths with the most inspiring woman of India. It is a woman called Madhu Vaishnav and I have never met anybody that has such love, passion and drive behind her believes and transforms that into action. She gives everything she has for the greater missions of life, all her time, all her space, all her love with sparkly eyes.
She started out her NGO with 100 Dollars in this tiny blue house in a small village in rural India that belonged to her mother in law. She started with the big mission to break through the caste system and uplift the women community in this rural part of India. She learned English within a year, got accepted to UC Berkley and with the help of American universities was able to set up the foundation of her NGO that now sends over 150 girls to school and has uplifted an entire village in 2 years. When I met her, the NGO was doing some incredible work when it comes to girls education and female health but was missing the economic pillar. We worked on the first steps of the social enterprise of this NGO to make sure that the women that were involved in the project could earn their livelihood through making clothing.
Madhu is the most beautiful combination in between softness, hard work, breaking through limiting believes and uplifting everybody around her by following her authentic path. Amazing right?
Is there a village or a tribe that you feel most at home with? It is definitely in Bhikamkor in rural India. I never thought I would have my second home on the other side of the world with women I can barely communicate with, but there is no place in the world I feel more happy than there. I know all the children of the ladies, the names of their goats and cows and their smiles and superpowers are the thing that keeps me motivated in the cold Berlin days in the office.
What self-care do you practise to keep you balanced while you travel? Oh this is so important! I haven't really been in one place longer than two weeks in the past two years and If I am a 100% honest, my mental health has suffered from this. I had a lot of problems with insomnia as all the time differences and the work hours were pretty intense at some point. I am incredibly chaotic and can get really carried away by things that spark me. Since a few months I have been even more strict on my routines and this can really be anything that reminds me the connection to the divine and myself. I ground in every place I arrive by walking barefoot for a while, I have my meditation practice and whenever things get too much, I turn to circular breath work (rebirthing). Breath work has truly changed the game for me. It is so powerful!
A place you’d love to visit and what’s calling you there. Ecuador! I have recently been in contact with an amazing climate activist and ingenious rights couple from the Sapara tribe. It is one of the smallest tribes in the Ecuadorian part of the amazon and they are spreading the awareness about what is happening through their TED talks, awareness tours and campaigns and teach people how to get in touch with their dreams again. I guess this is what we need right. Storytellers, dreamers, activists that can envision the next steps for us. I can’t wait to connect to them and learn more in the forest this year.
Photographed by Gigi Hollanders.
Follow Jeanne's journey here.