Lilian von Trapp Designer, Lilian von Trapp

Are our smartphones shortening our attention spans? Do dating apps teach us to turn potential partners into swipe-able objects? Does social media perpetuate an unobtainable beauty ideal? Science says yes. So do we. And so does Lilian von Trapp.

When we spoke to the Berlin-based jewelry designer, we could have spent hours more unpacking the rise of cosmetic procedures among teens, the refusal of women to age naturally, the culture of comparison and perfection on social media. A lot of it came back to this: there’s so much distracting us at every turn (and swipe) that it’s often easy to gloss over the issues affecting women today.

Once Lilian invited us into her palatial home, scattered with her striking designs, it was hard not to get sidetracked by the ordered grandeur of it all.

But look beyond the surface of her home, her undeniable beauty, the jewelry we’ve been eyeing off for months, and you’ll find a fearless woman willing to run headlong into issues that make most squirm. Since launching her namesake ethical label little over a year ago, fashion has held her up as a trailblazer and a revolutionary, working in a corner of the industry that has long been criticised for the exploitation of those in the developing world.

Where did her passionate nature and social conscience come from, we ask. The women in Lilian’s life, especially her late mother, played a vital role in shaping not only her ambition but her unwavering desire to live and design with purpose. From inheriting precious heirlooms from her family’s matriarchs, “it seemed so logical to recycle the jewelry instead of locking it away in a safe. I then began designing and upcycling myself; drawing the first sketches and finding a goldsmith to recreate them from the pieces I wanted to create anew.”

From there, she found herself going deeper into the inner-workings of the gold industry which, she tells us, is just as bad as that of the diamond trade. She knew she had to do something differently. Designing her collections quite literally became a matter of life or death. And because Lilian never does things by halves, she jumped on a plane, rolled up her sleeves, and launched a Ugandan permaculture project in partnership with Earthbeat Foundation.

From death to business, ethically-made jewelry to permaculture…we’ve already unpacked a helluva lot, right? Wait until you read the intimate, moving, and at times existential insights, from a woman you can’t help but admire.

Words, Rose Howard. Images, Miriam Waldner.

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