“You cannot respect something without loving it, and you cannot love something you do not know”
Jon Kareaga is a young environmental activist and co-founder of the sustainable fashion label BASK. From the Basque country in Spain, he has travelled extensively, documenting his journeys and lessons to inspire others. With a big following on Instagram, his images and words have helped others to be more aware of the impact of what they wear. Through his images and videos he wants to raise awareness about the destructive system in which we live and begin to make changes in everyday habits in order to respect everything that surrounds us: people, animals and the planet.
Meet the FutureFixer: Jon talks to us about his journey, the importance of re-thinking the fashion industry and how activism is his therapy.
Throughout my life, I have always been connected to nature, surrounded by the rocks, waves and forests, by the green and blue tones in the area where I live on the Basque coast. That connection has made me realise how important nature is to me, and I saw how we were destroying it.
In 2019 I had the opportunity to travel to the most remote places in Asia to record a documentary that uncovers the reality behind what we wear, delving into the dark side of some of the places most affected by the fashion industry, such as Bangladesh. What I saw on this trip cannot be explained in words. I cried with the sadness, anger and impotence of seeing a reality and not being able to do anything to change it. But I also cried with emotion, seeing that among all this darkness there are movements and initiatives that fight against this paradigm.
I saw the passion and the desire to change this industry, I met people who will transform what we know today as the fashion industry. That is what, together with Maddi and Mikel, made me take the step to create a sustainable fashion brand that respects people and the planet and that would transform the fashion industry. After that turning point, not only did I create BASK but I also joined activist movements like Fridays For Future and Extinction Rebellionand took the final step towards veganism.
From this connection to the things that surrounded me, which I experienced since I was small, arose the desire to change things. I felt the need to do something for that force that is nature, that has given me so much but has received so little in return. Now I see clearly that you cannot respect something without loving it, and you cannot love something you do not know.
Sustainable fashion understands fashion as a space for creativity, expression and respect. At BASK we believe that it is important to understand where we are and look at the context, since what surrounds us also places limits on what we want to be. Therefore, we understand that in a world where economic profitability prevails over any other variable, we cannot create absolute solutions. We understand our activity as a safe space within this precarious system, where life and people are at the centre of every decision.
BASK was created as a brand that believes in fashion as a tool for social transformation. We go far beyond simple garments. Our clothes and the people who make them are treated with respect and, in turn, respect the environment that surrounds them. We are committed to using practices that regenerate everything that has been destroyed in the fashion industry. With radical transparency and traceability and an inclusive and responsible way of communicating, we minimise our impact on the environment while respecting and contributing a positive impact on communities where we work.
Often, we fall into the contradiction of continuing to produce products and making fashion in a system where we don’t need more clothes. Therefore, BASK was born with the aim of transforming the fashion industry, inspiring other brands (even sustainable ones) in the way we believe we have to do things—not only by doing activism, but also by leading by example. We need to continue to change the fashion industry from within.
Our individual experiences and our reflections have an incredible capacity to connect with people. Storytelling is one of the effective ways to communicate complex and multidimensional terms and problems.
Stories can provoke thought and reflection and can be effective in influencing people. Human behaviour is complex and that makes it difficult to have an impact. My activism aims to be a tool to tell effective stories that show the entire complex panorama of the term climate justice, with the aim of popularising the term and encouraging action among citizens.
The challenges posed by the climate crisis show a clear inequality, which is why the term climate justice is important, as it defines this fight as a social and intersectional fight. Oppression falls more on those who belong to certain groups and on animals who are currently seen only as production machines, entertainment and resources. For me, when I go out on the street, when I communicate, when I make any decision for the good of the planet, when I do activism in general, I do it not only for the planet but also because of the oppression that exist between people, since the consequences of the climate crisis will aggravate their situation.
On a personal level, I have felt many moments of happiness and pride in my work; but when it’s the most moving is when you’re at a rally screaming for climate justice, you stop for a moment and you see all these people like you dedicating their time and energy (the most precious thing we have) to fight for the rights of the planet, people and animals.
I always say that activism is therapy, a way to calm your anger and your impotence, a way to express your feelings and feel free, because the safest spaces I have found throughout my life have been surrounded by activists.
At the same time, activism requires a lot of time and energy, energy and time that we need to solve our day-to-day problems. Often, while being involved fixing the world we forget about ourselves; we forget to take care of ourselves, to dedicate time to disconnect, to go to the psychologist, to go out with friends, to be with family, or to go on a holiday.
One day, while talking about mental health on social media and publicly acknowledging that I was having a bad time due to suffering from eco-anxiety and feeling bad about myself, a follower wrote to me: “you can never serve people from an empty cup.” Since then, I try to make sure my cup is full before serving everybody else.
The only way to change things is to exert pressure and take to the streets. We need to mobilise 3.5% of the population to change things and get more than 50% of the population to support us passively, only then will we achieve real change. We need to raise awareness and portray activism as something sexy and cool, without taking away its importance and without ceasing to be intersectional. We need to make it clear that activism is not only a way to ensure our future, but also a space where we feel understood and where we can calm our anxiety born from rage and impotence. We need to show that it is the best tool to change things.
My future power would be…Travel to the future to bring it to the present. Perhaps bringing images of the future would make some work easier for us activists, since it seems that scientific studies are not making a difference. On a more fundamental level, I would love to breathe underwater and discover everything that the surface hides; I feel a great admiration for the sea.