TAKING THINGS SLOW: Jussara Lee hasn’t matched Lauren Singer’s zero-waste lifestyle in that two year’s worth of trash can be contained in a 16-ounce Mason jar, but the designer is doing her part to share the upsides of sustainability.
At this weekend’s Slow Food Nations event in Denver, Lee will be part of a roster of speakers that includes Alice Waters, Kimbal Musk and James Beard award-winning chef Alon Shaya. More than 10,000 people are expected at the Slow Food Nations, which Lee described as “a modicum number,” compared to its umbrella organization, Terra Madre in Turin, which attracts half a million people. “But this is a great start in the heart of the country that invented fast food. We hope to change that model for good,” she added.
After first encountering the Slow Food movement in Italy in the Nineties, she quickly took to its philosophy of growing vegetables in smaller scale without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and raising animals without antibiotics and hormones. In recent years, she aligned her ethos personally and professionally, drawing several parallels between her fashion career and the Slow Food movement. In relation to sound health and well-being, Lee became more conscious of pollution, overproduction, scale, safeguarding certain traditions, regeneration and fair workers’ treatment.
This weekend, Lee plans to discuss her recent experience volunteering at a small organic farm in Long Island. What was supposed to be a visit turned into a working one with the women who singlehandedly runs the farm. “We do everything by hand, the seeding, planting, weeding and harvesting. It is humbling to learn a completely different set of skills,” Lee said. “And as a fun fact, the land where the farm is located, is owned by Isabella Rossellini. Sure enough, she came to pick me up at the train station in Bellport and showed me around the area. She is very involved with the animals and started to go to this town about 30 years ago, as a model for Bruce Weber. Fashion follows me even when I’m on the field working the land.”
Lee, who believes that everything that is not biodegradable should not have a single-use purpose, is the kind of person who eschews plastic coverings for name tags. With that in mind, she decided on designing a bandanna with the Slow Food’s emblematic snail. She also suggested to SFN’s executive director Richard McCarthy that all the promotional materials be made with repurposed cloth. So Lee bought secondhand T-shirts and used couture techniques. Lee and her team individually cut and hand-embroidered 600 bandannas, crocheted about 50 award corsages, braided 800 wristbands and appliquéd and block-printed 800 lanyards. Those creations will be launched at Alice Waters’ kickoff party Saturday, when the renowned chef and activist will plug her 22-year-old campaign called The Edible Schoolyard Project.
When she returns to New York, she will host a screening of this year’s Sundance Audience Award winner documentary “Chasing Coral.” Lee will also host the second edition of the pop-up thrift shop in her West Village store this fall. The designer is also taking things a little slow as she recovers from an accident cycling — her preferred mode of transportation in New York City.