In the “WEffect” sustainability series, the BMW Group highlights the sustainable contribution made by a wide range of people in the company – and the motivation that inspires them. Today: Jessica Dettinger.
Sustainability has many facets at the BMW Group because we are using this term to harmonise business, the environment and society. If we are to successfully put these high standards into practice, we need our employees’ commitment. Everyone can play their part in making the BMW Group sustainable.
So, who are all these colleagues who make sustainability part of their everyday work? What drives them to roll up their sleeves throughout the company? In its “WEffect” sustainability series, the BMW Group introduces employees who play their daily part in the broad and responsible further development of our company.
In this edition of our series, Jessica Dettinger, Senior Designer at BMW Group Design, reveals why diversity is already having a lasting impact on our future – not only in fashion, but also at the BMW Group.
Jessica Dettinger, what does a PET bottle have to do with a car seat?
Jessica Dettinger: Potentially, quite a lot. Because if we want to become more sustainable, it’s also about using the materials we already have. The textile industry also works a lot with polyester yarns made from recycled PET bottles. But recyclates are not the only topic. It’s about a whole world of colour and material, of attitude and feeling that fits with the different cities and countries – and we are redesigning everything right now. I am responsible for the textiles in all this multitude of aspects.
Nowadays, you are very heavily involved with sustainable materials. Was this also a focus during your studies?
Dettinger: No. It’s almost unthinkable when we talk about it today, but when I was a student, sustainability was not yet such a burning issue. For me, it was more about diversity, gender and feminism. Androgynous fashion was rare. It may have existed among Japanese designers, but certainly not in Europe. Today, genderless fashion is en vogue – but it was already fascinating me back then. Because the stereotypes of female or male alone are not enough. That is far too simplistic.
What brought you to this way of thinking? And how does it work for you?
Dettinger: I’ve always been a bit punk, I’m obviously different and someone who is seen as ‘diverse’ myself. Because of this, I have also come up against boundaries time and time again. But more than this, I think it is relevant for society to refrain from classifying people into categories determined by external characteristics. We don’t need a label for people. Our actions, our social behaviour and, above all, our attitude are what make us! We see today that ‘higher, further, faster’ no longer works. That’s why it is now a matter of developing an attitude together. And for me, diversity is an essential element of sustainability. Because it’s about the question of how we want to live together.
You also deal with diversity in your “form of interest” fashion label.
Dettinger: Yes, I do design for a specific type of person – but regardless of how people identify. My clothes are androgynous and unisex. The baby boomer generation thought very much in categories, but the young no longer recognise these gender pigeon holes. They presuppose diversity in all its facets. If we address this, including with digitalisation, and see the mirror of all this in social media, we can learn what makes this young generation tick today. This is also how we will learn to understand the customers of the future. This is not only important in the fashion world, but for the BMW Group as well. We have to break down all prejudices and borders in our minds first though if we are to achieve that. Only then will we have the chance to anticipate what will be important in five to ten years’ time.
What is slowing you down?
Dettinger: It becomes difficult within the company when the stereotypes surface. Moreover, we must not forget that we are not a start-up. We are a huge company and there are people here who naturally find change scary or difficult. It’s totally human to hang on to the old ways, but this does tend to slow everything down.
And what successes do you see?
Dettinger: We are working hard to create more sustainable vehicles. That takes time though; we work seven years in advance in design. A lot is happening in terms of gender and diversity. I experience an increasing openness and it is more about content, less about aiming it to men or women.
Let’s say you had some time in the lift to talk to the Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Oliver Zipse, about a subject that animates you. What subject would that be?
Dettinger: I’m afraid a few floors in the lift wouldn’t be nearly enough. Because I would like to talk to Mr Zipse about how we are going to manage to take every individual in the company along on this sustainability journey. How do we create enthusiasm at all levels and in all generations so that we all move as one into the future? I am very animated by this question.
You have two jobs, both of which you invest great passion in. You are committed to gender justice and sustainability and want to take as many people as possible with you on this journey. What motivates you every day? What drives you to do this?
Dettinger: Change is important to me! I want things to change – on many fronts. I can only achieve that if I leave my comfort zone, if I give myself over to something uncomfortable. Besides, I am an absolutely enthusiastic person. That is my engine, because I have a really burning passion for what I do. With that comes an almost childlike urge to explore. I am curious, I want to try things out. That’s what drives me. Enthusiasm and curiosity help us all to overcome the obstacles in our own thinking and in society.
So, when is it good enough?
Dettinger: Whenever whatever I’m dealing with is rounded off and has meaning. Then it’s good enough and I can move on.
In the upcoming portraits from our “WEffect” sustainability series, committed colleagues will also describe their motivation and explain the contribution they are making to sustainability within the BMW Group.