19. Juli 2019

Wardrobe Detox with Janine Dudenhöffer

Janine is the mother of two boys, author of „Mama Styleguide“ and – after 18 years as a fashion and lifestyle journalist – now a “wardrobe detoxer.”

Together with her colleague Maren Assmus as your-personal-stylist.com, she professionally structures wardrobes, helping to let go of the excess that one possesses. But not only that, she also points out where to give the farewell pieces in good conscience. It helps, so to speak, to deal more consciously with the existing. Her clients never fail to be amazed at the unexpected combinations Janine can create from their wardrobes.

For our “White Cube Art Project,“ Janine styled her favorite piece from the Laurèl collection with pieces from her own closet. Her strategic choice was a check blazer that will long be a useful companion, offering countless mix and match options with her own outfits. We were thrilled, and we’re excited to find out more about the Berlin resident in our interview.

How did you become what you are today?

Life is the great shaper. Every encounter can make something out of us – if only we let it. To do so, we need to be open to change, and have the courage to make the leap and leave the rat race behind. Change, and especially reduction, are not comfortable, but they can bring such happiness.

Some time ago you decided to go freelance. How was your jump into the deep end? Where did you get the courage to take that step?

I went freelance as a writer and stylist in 2011 after spending three years building up a network of contacts in Berlin, and periods in Munich, Offenburg and Vienna before that. So I didn’t jump without making sure a safety net was in place. To be honest, my new freelance status came along from my desire for change and the bad – or good? – luck that the permanent job I’d taken wasn’t the right one for me. So I spent my time as a freelancer promoting consumption of fashion and lifestyle products, and was incredibly unfocused.

Sustainability is a topic of enormous importance to you, especially in your work. How did that come about?

Being able to treat objects with mindfulness didn’t develop overnight. It’s an ongoing process, which is certainly partly based on my friendship with Maren. She’s a wonderfully reflective person who has found a way of rooting her love of fashion and people in a contemporary context by making changes in her life and unceasingly working on herself. So naturally I didn’t just wake up one morning and start acting more mindfully. It took months and it took a good shaking-up from lots of people – like my partner, and the Moms of mummy-mag.de, a lifestyle magazine for modern families, which I have built after the birth of my boys for 5 years. Now, backed by the knowledge I gained in this time, I use Instagram to shake up others because I’ve experienced myself how people can change themselves and their lifestyles.

You generally spend a lot of time thinking about the environment and the world we live in. What is your main preoccupation at the moment, and why?

I spend a lot of time talking to a father from our childcare center, who used to work for the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Berlin. It was thanks to him and his expertise that we were able to publish our first environmental article in MummyMag in early 2018:

„Was für eine Welt wollen wir unseren Kindern hinterlassen?“  or “What kind of a world do we want to leave to our children?”

Since then, I’ve become more and more preoccupied with the subject. The deeper I delve into climate issues, the more absorbing they become.

My main concern is that the textile industry is one of the biggest environmental offenders. Clothing production takes up a disproportionate amount of resources; according to Unesco’s Institute for Hydrological Education, the manufacture of a single T-shirt requires an average of 2,700 liters of water. With that amount of drinking water, a human being can live for about three years. The production process of a normal pair of jeans needs an average 8,000 liters of water. Water consumption in the fashion industry is nearly 79 billion cubic meters per year. The energy for the production as well as the raw materials for the packaging come on top of that. Then most of the clothing that’s produced has to travel from the countries where it is made, like Bangladesh and China, and this pollutes the atmosphere far more than driving a car or flying. Yet it would be far easier for us to stop buying clothes than to stop flying. I haven’t bought any new clothes since December 2018, with the exception of one Ethical Swimwear bikini.

We could exert enormous leverage by reducing our consumption and being more aware about what we do consume. A lot of people haven’t realized it yet. I want to change that by talking about it, by setting an example and by showing that we can still be well-dressed without needing mass consumption. It’s better to invest in one favorite piece, for example by Laurèl, than buy ten fast fashion items from H&M.

You’re a social networker, so our topic of female empowerment is a great fit for you. What’s your personal take on the topic?

True, I love sharing ideas and opinions with others, in analog or digital settings. And I try to convince others to be more aware in the way they treat nature and each other. For me as a mother, I think it’s particularly important to appreciate our bodies and be thankful for everything we’ve achieved and created––we’ve brought new life into the world! At “Your Personal Stylist” we guide women and help them be kinder to themselves instead of criticizing their tummy, boobs or butt. Being in balance with our own bodies achieves one hugely important thing: it gives us the strength to stand up for our own personal preferences.

You were diagnosed with Crohn’s disease some years ago. How did you cope with that? Did it change you, could you take anything positive away from it?

It was 2008 and I was 27. I’ll never forget the phone call: “Ms Dudenhöffer, we have your results. Please come to the hospital IMMEDIATELY.” Three days later, part of my intestine was surgically removed and the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease was confirmed. At the time I didn’t address the fact of having chronic inflammatory bowel disease at all; I was in denial about it. Ultimately it helped a lot that the internal specialist told me not to google the diagnosis; I waited until much later, and by that time the situation was no longer acute. During my treatment I was talking to a woman in the waiting-room who only had a few centimeters of her intestine remaining and needed a colostomy bag. I changed all my unhealthy lifestyle habits and found a brilliant phytotherapist in Berlin; she drew up tailored diet plans that made my life much better. 

How do you deal with cosmetic flaws of your own? What do you like about yourself, and what do you hate?

I love to spread the word about body positivity––a relaxed and forgiving attitude to our bodies––and it’s something I’ve had to learn myself in the past years. As you can probably imagine, it took a while for me to love the scar across my stomach, 8 centimeters long and 1 centimeter wide. But in the past two years I’ve started wearing a bikini to the swimming pool again, and I’ve realized that if we don’t show off what makes us unique we can’t expect any compliments for it.

Where do you see your personal “rough edges,” your quirks?

I’d describe myself as “rounded.” Respect and harmony in coexistence with other people are important to me. Today I try to solve unavoidable conflicts by using non-violent communication. That was something I had to learn first.

You have a very positive directness and always speak very plainly. Have you always been driven by your curiosity, or has it sometimes caused problems for you?

Thank you for the compliment. I love this question! In my experience, we make fewer enemies and can achieve more by thinking and acting positively than we do when we take a more destructive approach. My Crohn’s disease is ever-present in my head, but I can see the good sides too; the disease made me change my life, and I had the gift of two children. Of course there are days when I’m grumpy or glum, especially when my period is on the way. But even if climate predictions are anything but rosy, I try to strike a positive note––for example, on Instagram––and carry others along with me. Given the way things are developing, we won’t get anywhere by sticking our heads in the sand.

What’s your personal passion? What makes your heart beat faster? What makes you laugh?

My whole family, including my sisters and my parents. My boys make my heart beat fastest, my head spin, my body tense up––but they also give me the best and most intense moments of my life. Sometimes becoming a mother seems to be like buying a season ticket for a never-ending emotional rollercoaster ride.

How have your values changed since having children?

I can understand my own parents better now, and our relationship has grown closer. When I’ve had enough sleep to be at peace with myself, I question my own actions even more critically, because I know the children will watch me closely and imitate what I do. I’ve become more pragmatic and less of a perfectionist.

What can’t you live without?

Sleep? No, seriously. Sharing life and love with other people.

The White Cube strips back what is inside it to the bone, and creates an environment of space. How did you feel when you were in the White Cube? How did you feel when you were being photographed?

At first I felt very insecure; the light was so bright that I kept having to blink. But the first time I went out there I felt more grounded. My job involves a lot of work on both sides of the camera lens, so I don’t really have any fear of the camera. And clothes give us a feeling of strength––as long as they make us feel good, that is.

What do you believe in?

That people can change––and if they can, so can the system.

What fascinates you most about your children as they grow?

The way they can love unconditionally, their ability to absorb, the speed at which they learn and adjust to change. All characteristics that I hope I can retain, or at least regain, as an adult.

What’s the best way to persuade you to do something? How do your children manage it?

“Mommy, please.” “Why should I give it to you?” “Because it’s important to me.”

What’s your strongest childhood memory––scents, images, places? Sunshine on my skin, salt water in my hair and nature all around us. My sisters and I have traveled with my parents to the Costa Brava since we were born. Today that region north of Barcelona feels like a second home.

Do you still have an item of clothing you have kept with you since childhood?

Yes––a hat my grandmother made herself. She was a milliner. Saving clothing is always an emotional matter. If we connect a garment with happy memories like “first date” or “best vacation” it will stay in our closet, even if we never wear it again––but it takes up the space that should be occupied by clothing for today. Maren and I help people to organize their closets in a way that gives the clothes room to breathe. This makes them more visible and helps reduce bad buys, simply because we can see what’s already there.

What are you afraid of?

I’m afraid of the consequences of climate change. Not for me, but for our children.

What are your hopes for the future––in 10 years, in 20 years? Primatologist Jane Goodall gave an interview to Utopia which really impressed me. She named four fundamental problems facing humanity which I would like to share with you:

“The first is poverty. If you’re poor and desperate you will fell the last trees to plant crops for food, or buy the cheapest food because you can’t afford to ask about the production methods.

The second is our unsustainable lifestyle. Almost all of us have more than we need. And we’re taught it’s important because it strengthens the economy. But it makes no sense to believe that a planet with limited natural resources can support unlimited economic growth, and in some regions we are using these resources faster than they can replenish themselves. Because of this, we have to change our unsustainable lifestyle and the way we think about the economy.

Thirdly, we have to do something about corruption because it is seriously damaging in an enormous number of areas.

Fourthly, we need voluntary population optimization. Many wealthy people think it’s OK to have five or six children because their children are going to change the world. But one child in a prosperous family consumes more resources than ten children growing up in a village in Africa. So we have to change the lifestyle of the wealthy; they shouldn’t have more than two children. We need to make people understand this without needing to impose prohibitions. That would be fatal. People don’t want to talk about the subject now because we started by talking about “population control,” and that’s the wrong world. You can’t control people’s personal decisions.

I hope for the future that we can deepen our awareness of these issues and find solutions to them. And I hope all of us learn to treat everything that remains to us with respect and mindfulness.