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CFDA "How Jussara Lee Protects The Earth" - Victoria Urso


In the past 15 years, Jussara Lee successfully blended sustainability and luxury fashion into her clothing brand. Her Sustainable Luxury Business Model challenges the perception of luxury because it puts sustainability above all else—making it her ultimate luxury. While the business model is working for the designer, she still had to overcome many challenges along the way in order to protect the earth.

Lee always aimed to build a business outside the rules of capitalism and its economy of scale. To that end, her company avoids polluting practices and waste at all costs. The plethora often associated with luxury gives way to creative use of scraps that were destined to the trash bin. Part of her brand’s modus operandi are biodegradable fabrics, natural dyes, local manufacturing, alteration and maintenance service, small production batches and implementation of systems that engage the community.

As such, she challenges the current perception of luxury. Lee says that consumers should resort first to “mending clothes, followed by buying second hand, and then having clothes made when they really need something.  It is a better investment of time and resources, unless it is underwear. You don’t want to become that crazy kind of person.” Her model draws a connection between a product, its source, its makers and the environment. Lee explained that by keeping her company small, she can concentrate her resources and illustrate her point of view in the best possible way.

Her message is simple: less is better, quality is essential, and true beauty is in how things are made.

Lee believes that “[Earth Day] is a very special day and needs to be celebrated full heartedly with a party.” This Earth Day, Lee is opening a pop-up thrift shop in her store on Bedford Street in New York. The Hand Me Up thrift shop concept is a creative proposition to tackle pollution, while giving hand stitches to everything.

As for Lee’s hopes for the future, she is confident that the sustainable business model will eventually change people’s taste and preferences. And once it catches on and consumers ask for such product, other companies will join the effort. As she put it, “It makes total sense to raise our benchmark a notch and challenge ourselves to be better”.