Xenia - Better relationships, less consumption

Xenia makes it possible for more of us to consume consciously by teaching people to make something new and useful from old denim. She helps us understand our relationship with the things we own through hands on workshops by UseDem.

Where are you from?   

Russia, St Petersburg. My soul likes to travel, but my heart belongs in St Petersburg. 

What brought you to Shanghai?

Fake fashion brought me to Shanghai. I quit my job as a denim designer and then got a job offer to be a designer for a fake Victoria Secret show. I said yes, why not. Twenty days later I was in Shanghai designing 35 costumes with wings, lasers and electronics. I travelled with the show to so many cities until I couldn't anymore. It was very tiring, but an incredible opportunity to learn how to live and work in China.

What does sustainability mean to you?

Sustainability to me is questioning why we can't keep using things forever. Why do we spend less on production just to make more in profit? Consumers have to look for new things to buy all the time and feel sad when the things they love don't work anymore. That's what makes me sad about fashion, things you're supposed to love forever become unfashionable at some point. To me, everything is very easy, I just want to keep the things I love.

What are you passionate about?

About absolutely everything in life, I really like to smile. I believe your passion should be in the small things. There's no point living in the past or the future, here and now is what matters. Otherwise, you will never understand the reason we're here. Passion can also be a very dangerous thing. You have to sometimes move your focus from your passion, otherwise, you won't get inspiration from other parts of your life. Passion can be a box that keeps you from going out, relaxing and moving on, so it's better to go out sometimes. 

How do you do to consume consciously?

I don't count how long my showers are, I don't count how many bags I throw away, I eat meat and fish. We're all consumers, but I just don't get crazy about consuming. I focus on simple things to make life more beautiful, things that don't complicate my life.

When people start doing something they sometimes start to push other people to do the same. I don't do it that way, I just show people how to turn something old into something new and useful. My mother taught me not to tell people what to do, but to show them.

What else could you do to consume more consciously?

I'm doing technical design for a company here in Shanghai. I'm still involved in the fashion production industry, but my dream is to focus all my time on UseDem. I just decided that if I can't change that I'm working for this company, then I'm going to help this company. Right now I'm doing a project to help the company become more sustainable, it has a lot of potential. I want to work within the company from the inside and have an impact. 

When did you become more aware of sustainability?

It started when I was a manager for a Russian company and a vendor came to deliver a button for confirmation. It came in a box that had the button packaged in three layers of paper. I asked the vendor why they had to attach this button to three big pieces of paper. He said it wasn't a problem, he just wanted me to sign and said it didn't matter. He didn't understand what he was doing, he was absolutely unconscious. He said, 'don't worry about it, just throw it away, you're in China.' That was the turning point. Can you imagine how many samples I see every day, how many boxes? Destiny put me in a situation where I could clearly see what's going on in this world. I started to question everything I was using that was unnecessary. I become more aware of it every day, I learn a lot. Your world as you know it can be destroyed with new information every day.  

When you think about becoming conscious it's actually about relationships, even with your clothes. Our generation doesn't care about the things we already have, we don't care about the relationships we already have. The first time you see or use something you think, I love this, I'm going to love this forever, but we don't. Keep your word. When you buy things, buy things knowing that you'll love it forever, that you'll appreciate it.  

How would more people becoming conscious of their consumption change the world?

I just cut jeans and make bags, this is what I do. It's how I help to change the world. We'll never do these things on a massive scale. The world is full of small stories of people who are doing good things to change the world. We don't try to teach people how to make bags, we try to teach them about relationships, their relationships with things and people. It's a big deal. I started with myself, but there's a long way to go, it's a process. 

What’s the easiest part of consuming consciously?

Hug each other, it makes people happy. Then you won't feel the need to eat extra food or buy more clothes, your body will be full of love. If you are happy and feel enough love in your life you won't feel the need to go shopping to fill the hole that's in your heart because you're already full. You won't be angry or try to have more than other people. It's the easy stuff you can do to decrease your consumption. Better relationships, less consumption. 

What's your top practical change that anyone can make to consume more consciously?

  • You should hug people at least eight times a day, bring some love into your life.

What are the biggest challenges we face today in the fashion industry? 

You can't stop doing fashion. You can encourage people to be more conscious in fashion, but it's difficult because these companies need money. The challenge is to move to education in the apparel industry. Companies don't show off the changes they make because they'd have to explain why they're using the kind of fabrics they're using or why they're making changes. Consumers will start to ask questions. The biggest challenge is changing the way people do business, to stop convincing people that something ridiculous is trendy, to stop pretending. People just unconsciously follow the 'rules' of fashion. 

If the whole world was listening, what would you say?

I wouldn't say anything, I don't think things come to people through words. I'd just smile.

What do you do?

I'm working for a major fashion company and I'm the co-founder of UseDem.