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Dear Fashion Diary: an interview with Emmi Ojala

Emmi Ojala is an illustrator with an interest in fashion and sustainability. She has created two amazing projects that encompass her interests, Dear Fashion Journal and Dear Fashion Diary, and here she tells us more about their development and inspiration.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Dear Fashion Diary

How did you first come across the idea of the Free Fashion Challenge, and why did you decide to take part? 

The Free Fashion Challenge was an initiative of Laura de Jong, who studied in the same fashion school (Amsterdam Fashion Institute) with me. She started the project to challenge fashionistas to rethink fashion and personal style outside the cycle of consumption. A teacher of mine introduced me to the project, asking if I would be interested in participating in the challenge. First it felt like a big commitment to sign up for not shopping for a year, but it was such an intriguing challenge that I ended up saying yes. I was curious to see how well I would cope, and so many people around me were shocked by the mere idea that it made me want to prove that spending 365 days without shopping would be doable.

Dear Fashion Journal

What was the biggest challenge when you stopped shopping for a whole year?
The biggest challenge was trying not to get bored with my clothes and find ways to cope when my clothes started to wear out. By the end of the year, I didn’t have one single pair of stockings without holes, so I always wore two on top of each other to cover the rips. I also started spending more time restyling my old clothes in attempts of staying excited about my outfits. It gave me the same happy feeling you get when you wear something new for the first time.

Dear Fashion Journal

And what was the most surprising thing that you learnt after a year without spending on clothes?
Most surprising thing I learned was that not shopping wasn’t actually that difficult. The only thing that I really missed was treasure hunting in second hand shops, but other than that I hardly had any temptations to spend on clothes.

Dear Fashion Journal

How did you learn to make your clothes fit seasonal trends, without buying new stuff?

My closet stayed pretty up-to-date thanks to swapping with friends and visiting my mom’s closet in search for old items. I was so happy that she had kept some of her golden oldies, because trends go around, come around, and suddenly old items begin to look contemporary again. Also DIY helps a lot if one wants to be trendy without spending; you can dye your clothes, cut them up and sew them back together into something fresh. The cyberspace is full of great DIY tutorials, so you can always find ways to customize your clothes even if you weren’t an expert on sewing.

Dear Fashion Journal

What was the process behind the creation of Dear Fashion Journal? What were you trying to achieve?

During the Free Fashion Challenge, all us participants wrote about our experiences on a blog. There were quite some thought evoking aha-moments documented there, so after the challenge was over, I wanted to dig a bit deeper and collect stories inspired by those experiences into a printed publication. My goal was to arouse thoughts on our attitudes towards fashion and ever-changing trends, and do so without nagging about green this and eco that. I wanted to tell personal stories that would inspire people to be creative with fashion and think about their clothes as something valuable rather than throwaway pieces. 

Dear Fashion Diary

How did you set about collecting all your data, and finding illustrators to work with you on the journal? 

The entire magazine is based on the experiences of 30 people, who took part in the year of not shopping. I interviewed many of them to find out what they had learned, what had been their most striking experiences and if their thoughts on fashion and style had changed. All the articles in the magazine are inspired by those discussions and by the blog that we wrote during the challenge.

I have always loved richly illustrated books and magazines, so I knew from the beginning that Dear Fashion Journal would have to be like that, too. I had a wish-list of illustrators I wanted to work with, and was over the moon to get to feature illustrations from Daria Hlazatova and Krister Selin, both of whom I knew from Amelia’s Magazine. I also found some great artists via friends, blogs and portfolio sites like Behance. Next to that, me and my best friend Sarah Meers also spent a few long weekends illustrating some of the articles for the journal ourselves.

Dear Fashion Diary

You have since created a book called Dear Fashion Diary, which is a place where people can record their relationship with clothes – how did this come about?
Before I decided to self-publish Dear Fashion Journal, I got in touch with BIS Publishers and introduced the concept to them. The journal gave them an idea about a kind of a fashion diary, and they asked if I would be interested in working on something like that. Coincidentally, me and Laura de Jong (the founder of Free Fashion Challenge) had already earlier been brainstorming about making a notebook full of fashion assignments, so we took on the project together and so Dear Fashion Diary was born.

Where can people in the UK find a copy of Dear Fashion Diary?

You can find the Diary at Tate Modern, Podshop, Blackwells, Rizzoli Bookshop, Waterstones as well as order it through Amazon.

The journal can be ordered online here.

What next? Any other projects in the pipeline?

For now, I’m happily busy illustrating a children’s book and freelancing for a few other clients, whilst waiting for my brain to blurt out the next great idea for a project of my own!

Emmi Ojala is featured in Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration. You can follow her travels in illustration, fashion and sustainability on twitter here.


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