Translated with the help of Lucie Battaglia. Thank you Lucie!
Today, we continue our series of interviews with Respecterre employees, who offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the eco-friendly, local and ethical fashion world. You’ll get to meet Lisette, a woman with great experience in the field of dressmaking. Above all, she is a cheerful woman, a go-getter who enjoys every moment in life.
– Lisette, what is your current role in Respecterre? What tasks do you perform on a daily basis?
I am a seamstress, which means that I operate sewing machines, mainly plain and overlock types. Now, this probably does not mean anything for most people! Basically, these are the two most common types of machines in the sewing industry.
– You are a newcomer to Respecterre, but you have extensive experience in sewing. Can you give us an outline of your career path?
I started out in the sewing industry in 1973; at the time, I had no experience at all. I really started from the ground up. During the first 11 years, the basics of my work were limited to operating a plain-type single machine. But that allowed me to make a name for myself. In 1984, me and my husband were given the opportunity to run a sewing factory in the country, near where we already lived. It was quite a challenge for us, both professionally and for our relationship! After thinking about it, we accepted to take on the challenge and establish some rules: my husband would take care of the beginning of the chain and sort out bundles (he’d distribute the different pieces of a garment to be sewn together), and I would be the forewoman, supervising the seamstresses as well as every manufacturing operation. Later on, he would conclude the production chain by inspecting and delivering clothes. That journey lasted 25 years! And we went through some difficulties—I had to learn to use all the machines used in a sewing workshop in order to teach the new employees. Also, my husband and I were always together, because we worked and lived together, and also took care of educating our three children. Yet today we are still together, and these challenges have made us stronger! In 2015, I joined the Respecterre team as a seamstress. I am happy to bring my experience without all the pressure and responsibilities of being forewoman.
– The conventional fashion environment is generally very competitive, very demanding for employees, and unsustainable. Since you have worked for several years in the industry, what differences did you notice between the conventional fashion business and your current workplace?
To be honest, apart from the ecological side, working in a conventional environment is quite similar to working for Respecterre. No matter where you are, the fashion world is very competitive and fast paced. In order to achieve a certain level of profitability, we have to produce clothing under tight deadlines. In this sense, dressmaking methods and delivery dates are the same at Respecterre as they were at my old work. However, what sets Respecterre apart from the conventional environment is the ecological aspect and distinct routine. Respecterre uses natural-fibre fabrics with much more natural dyes, thus protecting the health of both workers and customers. What’s more, as the company offers a fairly wide range of products, so we perform more diversified and less routine work. This small detail makes a big difference!
– What do you like most about your work?
Throughout my career, the pressure of schedules has prompted production-line work, which limited us to performing the same operation repeatedly. Today, at Respecterre, I’m able to sew different styles of garments from beginning to end. This is what I prefer when working with machines. I also have the chance to be in an open and innovative environment, and the human contact brings me a lot. I am fortunate not only to share my experience, but also to continuously learn from others—teamwork is our strength and brings us a good dose of motivation. The sewing profession requires patience and a desire to learn, and the atmosphere here is perfectly adapted to this!
– Which personal or professional quality are you most proud of having developed through your work in this sector?
A good number of people think we do a boring and repetitive job. What I tell them is that no matter what work you do, it’s your attitude that makes the difference. Personally, I do not think it’s routine: we change machines, fabrics, and styles. We have fun challenging ourselves every day: successfully making a new style, achieving a specific goal, and so on. This ability to maintain a good mood and a positive attitude is probably what I am most proud of having developed and applied throughout my career and life in general. Every day, we face difficulties and pitfalls… we must be able to overcome them!
– Respecterre is part of an ecovillage. What does this mean to you? What do you think of the link between the company, the ecovillage and the neighboring community?
The fact that Respecterre is part of an ecovillage is in line with the company’s awareness of waste and excess chemicals in clothes and products we use on a daily basis. The ecovillage is becoming more and more involved with the municipality of Ham-Nord, which allows the surrounding community to know more about it, to discover people of incredible kindness, and to break down several prejudices associated with ecovillage lifestyle (e.g. Yes, residents have the freedom to go out into the world!). Events open to visitors like open houses, guided tours, and internships are a good opportunity to become aware of what’s happening in this environment and in their various businesses. They give people a chance to come and discover the Respecterre artists, their workplace and their life!
– I guess that professional dreams evolve with years of experience and become more focused on specific desires. Are there any specific projects you hold close and would like to see develop in the coming years?
My wish for the years to come is not extravagant or exceptional. However, it is sincere: all I want is to be able to continue working for a long time at Respecterre, because I love the working atmosphere and the dynamism there!
– What is your favourite Respecterre garment or fiber? Why?
My favourite garment is the Rosanna tunic. My favorite fibers are bamboo and hemp: they are soft on the body and are easy to sew!
– Do you have a passion or special interest that motivates you in your personal life?
Apart from my work (which fascinates me and nourishes me), I like reading a lot. When it comes to relationships, my children and my grandchildren are what matter most to me.
– To conclude, which word or sentence represents you well?
I am a smiling person. I’m almost always in a cheerful mood!