AK Threads: Young Fashion Enterprise Modernising Marginalised Indian Communities in Rajasthan

With the subtle symbiosis of functionality and playfulness in mind, the young fashion enterprise, in essence, communicates consciousness and the intention behind it. 

By Hanna-Amanda Pant

Read More

Savant's Weekend Yoga Crush: CorkYogis

As Lara Sengupta was searching for a better way to be connected to the ancient Indian knowledge, she came up with CorkYogis. To add depth to her own passion for yoga, the company that specialises in sustainable cork yoga mats and bags hand-made out of recycled sarees, also helps human trafficking survivors rebuild their lives. 

Read More

Woolenstocks: Traditional Felt Slippers Supporting Women’s Empowerment in the Himalayas

Woolenstocks is a London-based company with a mission to empower women of Kyrgyzstan, offering them a way to support their families by hand-making traditional felt slippers. A craftsmanship that stems from ancient Nomadic times of the Kyrgyz makes for unique creations that warm your feet and your heart.

Read More

SixChel: Eco-Conscious Capsule Collection Made in USA

SixChel, a slow-fashion brand incorporating sustainable materials cut and sewn in the USA, announces the launch of its debut capsule collection with four pieces designed with modern feminine style and comfort in mind. The collection launch is being endorsed via Kickstarter campaign.

Read More

SkinYoga: 100% Natural Empowering Beauty from India

Drawing from ancient knowledge of purifying the body, mind, and soul, there’s a new 100% natural way of adapting to ancient rituals. Luxury skincare made user-friendly - and all you need to do is just add water! Indian award-winning skincare brand SkinYoga focuses on empowering women by educating them about the worth of natural beauty and traditions. Founded by a sister-trio, this beauty brand stems from a unifying love of nature and heritage. Radhika Choudhary, one of the co-founders of SkinYoga, spoke to us about their skincare range and its sustainable future. 

Words: Johanna Raudsepp

SkinYoga Post-Workout Neem Purifier.

SkinYoga Post-Workout Neem Purifier.

What inspired you to create SkinYoga?

We grew up in a farm in India, where we used to grow our own vegetables, nurtured cows for dairy, and lived a very organic lifestyle. Then we moved to different parts of the world to study. We always got complimented for our skin and hair and at that made us realize it was the very simple and pure regime we had been following since our childhood. After seeing misleading claims from beauty brands that you only need 3% natural ingredients to call yourself a natural skincare brand, we were determined to develop and formulate a 100% natural and clean luxury skincare line that showed results in just one use. The idea was to create a product for the modern working women, so they could enjoy the best of ancient science and modern technology, yet without having to spend hours on different steps. 

How does SkinYoga follow principles of sustainable beauty?

We are 100% natural skincare brand and all our ingredients are plant-derived, pure, and unprocessed. Few brands in the world can say they are 100% natural.

There are many dimensions to being sustainable. We have kept all our products in a powdered state to keep them highly active and potent. When you’re ready to use it, you only need to add water to activate it. The stabilizing method helps us keep the ingredients highly active without any preservatives. We focus on the smallest details, from packaging to internal operations, making sure they follow an eco-friendly process. Our team is very actively involved in the community and participates in socially responsible programs. We frequently conduct educational seminars and exhibitions highlighting the importance of sustainable beauty.

"We have concluded that a beauty regime doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated and involve 20 different beauty steps."

SkinYoga Corporate Gift Set.

SkinYoga Corporate Gift Set.

Who is your beauty inspiration?

Hundreds and thousands of strong independent working women across the globe, who have and are living balanced and healthy life with lots of style, not because they have to, but because they choose to do so. They are incredibly inspiring, and thanks to our profession, we are blessed to be working with many of such women today, our mother being one of them. We would also like to add that 100% of our workforce are women today.

What is your go-to beauty routine like?

It’s quite simple: cleansing, moisturizing and good sun block in addition to at least 6 hours sleep and loads and loads of water. We at SkinYoga are always looking to further simplify beauty routines. We have concluded that a beauty regime doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated and involve 20 different beauty steps.

"Our philosophy is “If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your body”." 

SkinYoga Oats and Roses Face Wash.

SkinYoga Oats and Roses Face Wash.

What inspires you when creating new SkinYoga products?

One miracle bottle. That’s our brief behind every product. If you look at our current range we have an ideal capsule skincare range, adaptable to every age and all climate conditions. Coming back to the idea that you don’t need 10 products to take care of your skin.

Quality has become a signature to our brand. Our team works extremely hard to create products,which are clean and effective. Our philosophy is “If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your body”. 60% of what you put on your body is directly absorbed into your blood stream. Hence, it’s important to stay away from chemicals. 

How do you see the future of natural, sustainable beauty? Where is it directed? 

The future of the beauty industry is heading towards natural and sustainable brands. With the growing consumers’ awareness and demand, the natural skincare category is one of the fastest growing in skincare globally. But there is a huge gap in the market still and more brands are coming to that realization. 

Global demand for natural skincare products is expected to reach $13.2 billion by 2018. Thus, we will see more mainstream brands come up with natural skincare ranges in the future.

SkinYoga Green Tea Face Mask.

SkinYoga Green Tea Face Mask.

What are your hopes and dreams for 2017?

Our dream and mission is to get every vanity bag chemical free. We love to empower women. We want every woman to feel confident and strong in their own skin without having to apply any makeup.

2017 is an important year for SkinYoga - we are coming out with 3 new products, including our first hair care product.

Want to shop or find out more? http://www.skinyoga.in/
UK readers can buy the products here: https://www.skinyoga.co.uk/

Skinyoga Sandalwood Saffron Face Mask.

Skinyoga Sandalwood Saffron Face Mask.

 

Textile Designer Nelly Rose: Honouring Global Artisanship with a Voice

For the London-based textile designer Nelly Rose, on top of placing elements of traditional craftsmanship and up-cycling in the centre of her eccentric textile artwork, the power of collaboration is key. The main themes running through her expressive textile lines are female empowerment and creating a ‘voice’ through her conscious craftsmanship. Nelly Rose is extremely concerned about the de-valuing and vanishing of traditional techniques that should be cherished and preserved instead. Through her vibrant, empowering prints — forever, if we may.

Photo by  Marilu Venditti.  

Photo by Marilu Venditti.  

What led you to sustainable approach in textile design? How unique is your approach in London vs on a wider, global scale? 

I have studied Print, Knitwear and Embellishment, and all of these have led me to make more conscious decisions about the materials I was using and where the techniques derived from. In London, my approach is very much inspired by the concept of 'upcycling' and DIY-culture. On a global scale, my work is lead by my curiosity and passion for handcrafts and discovering their origin; nothing excites me more than being able to include them in my collections. I am currently exploring Japan, absorbing the culture and discovering all kinds of beautiful craftsmanship [from the region].

What are the values your brand encompasses? What are the main themes you are keen to explore? 

My values as a brand lie in working on projects which focus around female empowerment and creating a voice through a creative medium. I have worked in various projects from ‘shop window stitch-ins’, raising awareness about the Rana Plaza factory collapse, to the first modest wear runway collection in the UK made entirely in artisan houses in Indonesia.  

I tend to use a lot of typography in my work, which I guess contributes to the idea of raising a ‘voice’. Overall, the main themes I explore in my work are: Handcraft, Messages and Storylines, Protest and Equality, Printed Textiles, Creative Campaigns.  

"The brand I strive to create is my expressive vision of what I consider to be ethical in my own way, whilst still being loud, bold and a little eccentric." 

Photo by  Marilu Venditti.  

Photo by Marilu Venditti.  

How does Nelly Rose as a person and as a brand differ, if at all?  

Interesting question! I would say my personality as Nelly Rose mainly focuses on networking and bringing people together, who have similar mindsets about changing the world in creative ways. I guess Nelly Rose is my rainbow vision, my compassion and my voice.  The brand I strive to create is my expressive vision of what I consider to be ethical in my own way, whilst still being loud, bold and a little eccentric.  

Your work was recently showcased at the Green Fashion Week in Milan. What does the experience mean to you? 

Green Fashion Week was a brilliant experience as it fused together my interest in global climate change, as well as having fashion at the forefront.  The new collection I showed was of hand painted up-cycled garments, ranging from denim to leather, which I salvaged from a textile waste plant.  My highlight of the experience was the photo shoot I directed at the Bosco Verticale alongside designer Silvia Giovanardi. It fused the relationship between sustainable fashion and architecture, and it was very inspiring to witness my work being a part of that. 

Although I love the ‘calendar’ fashion weeks, I also have to express my love and connection to other global fashion events such as AFWL (Africa Fashion Week London) and the recently participated in GFW. I find that there is an open dialogue and a more personal level of fashion presented.  

"I tend to use a lot of typography in my work, which I guess contributes to the idea of raising a ‘voice’."

Photo by   Marilu Venditti.  

Photo by Marilu Venditti.  

What are the most meaningful collaborations you have done so far? What do you consider perhaps your biggest accomplishment? 

I consider my biggest accomplishment to date the Co-Identity collection which has been showed at the Jakarta Fashion Week and then London Fashion week via Fashion Scout. The collection was a collaboration with Dian Pelangi and Odette Steele in which involved fully immersing myself in Indonesia as an inhabitant and creating the textiles for the full 24 Looks of Modest Womenswear. These consisted of fully hand rendered techniques ranging from hand painted gowns, Batik and Songket weaving.  

Making of: Nelly Rose Artisanal Textiles. 

Making of: Nelly Rose Artisanal Textiles. 

What irritates you about the fast fashion industry? Why do we need a slower approach? 

The fast fashion industry irritates me mainly because of mass consumption and the de-valuing and plagiarising of traditional techniques.  I believe in a slower approach to prevent the de-humanisation of garment workers in the supply chain, thus preventing the capitalisation of poverty.  We take such an avid interest in the ingredients that go into our body or our pharmaceuticals, so I don’t understand why we don’t have the same mindset about what we wear on our skin.  The industry deliberately makes it hard to question, and easy to ignore, so it is imperative we constantly ask #whomademyclothes.  

Do you personally feel it is more difficult to deliver work using ethical and artisanal approach? 

I believe that in order to deliver a luxury product, there should be a transparent process. In my personal work, the initial process is more difficult, as it can be more costly as a young emerging designer; however I am constantly trying to inform myself in ways I can maximise the artisanal approach. I have a vision of working with artisan communities across the world to collaborate on beautiful creative outcomes, and I will carry on finding the most efficient ways to deliver these collaborations.  

"The fast fashion industry irritates me mainly because of mass consumption and the de-valuing and plagiarising of traditional techniques." 

 Nelly Rose, credits: Laila Cohen / Imprint Magazine. 

 Nelly Rose, credits: Laila Cohen / Imprint Magazine. 

How would you categorise yourself in the fashion world? What's the most important message you aim to deliver as an artist? 

I predominantly refer to myself as a designer because I like to create wearable pieces which tell a story. However, as designer refers to the process prior to a piece being created, I also refer to myself as a creative director because I love to work with a concept in various forms, such as film and installation. Ultimately, I aim to deliver an outcome through the power of collaboration, which reflects the journey and honours the craft. 

http://www.nelly-rose.com

Duvet Days: Fighting Violence Against Women Through Empowering Visual Stories

Duvet Days is an engaging storytelling platform and community enveloping captivating visual language to bring together victims of violence and guide their path towards the healing process. Savant had a chat with Jenna Wiebe, graphic designer and author of Duvet Days, on what it means to communicate emotional real-life stories through beautiful, curated visual imagery.  In this zeitgeist of women's empowerment, by encouraging everyone's individual journey to self-acceptance and self-love, Duvet Days aims to break apart from all things taboo.

Duvet Days, 2016. 

Duvet Days, 2016. 

SAVANT MAGAZINE: What is Duvet Days in a nutshell? What's your mission and what inspired you to create Duvet Days, platform for fighting abuse and encouraging self-love?

DUVET DAYS: Duvet Days is for all the brave women out there who have been affected by rape, sexual assault and domestic abuse, who are on their journey to self-acceptance and self-love using my own experiences with these things as a tool to speak about these issues. I am a Graphic Designer, so I was inspired to use design — graphic design and photography — as an aid to communicate about abuse and promote self-love. I want women to know that these experiences do not define them, but instead are a part of their story and who they choose to become. [I created the platform] to let their experiences empower them and others, not define them.

Duvet Days, 2016. 

Duvet Days, 2016. 

Is there a personal story that links with starting the platform?

Yes, I am a survivor of rape, sexual assault, and domestic abuse — all by different men that were in my life throughout all of my 20s.

Considering the cultural climate we live in, do you feel speaking of violence against women is still a taboo in our society? How does your project encourage women to speak out?

I think culturally, from a North American standpoint, we have come a long way with speaking openly about violence against women, but we still have a long way to go, especially in other parts of the world. I am fortunate to live in North America, where we have the freedom to speak. I do think that it is still taboo to talk about violence against women to some degree, as it isn’t an easy topic for many to hear or see, and there is a lot of judgment and shaming that goes along with it. I believe my project helps others not feel afraid to speak out and that they are not alone. I try my best to not filter my own personal experiences in my posts, so that others have the courage to not be afraid to share their own stories, opinions and experiences. Creating a space for people to feel heard, understood, supported, loved, and inspired is so important for the survivor community. The more people speak out, the less it will be taboo. 

"I want women to know that these experiences do not define them, but instead are a part of their story and who they choose to become."

Duvet Days, 2016. 

Duvet Days, 2016. 

Duvet Days, 2016. 

Duvet Days, 2016. 

How is the visual language you use helping to convey the message?

Before I started Duvet Days, I had done a lot of research trying to find something that was for survivors that were in the healing process, and found it difficult to find anything that was done in a visually pleasing way. Everything I came across was very clinical, or more on the extreme activist side. I think both of these approaches have a place and are needed, but I personally felt there was a missing piece. I think there is a time and place for explicit and in-your-face imagery to convey these messages, but I also think that using visual language, like I do with Duvet Days, connects people in a different way to these topics and gets in front of a different audience. It helps people visualise or feel what others possibly feel from abuse. Words are powerful, but photography also plays a big role in evoking emotions which help people connect on another level.

Who are the ones that benefit the most from your community? How have the audiences reacted so far?

Survivors of either sexual or domestic abuse. I think the most prominent feedback I get on a regular basis is that survivors are happy to know they aren’t alone in feeling the everlasting effects of rape, sexual assault and/or domestic abuse, and that they are not wrong for feeling these things. I also have had great feedback from men, who have thanked me for helping bring awareness to these topics though my own experiences, as many men have lost their mothers, sisters, and daughters to the hands of an abuser. I think if people can see how these events cause everlasting effects in a more relatable way, it helps others become more mindful and hopefully become an advocate for others and these issues.

"Words are powerful, but photography also plays a big role in evoking emotions which help people connect on another level."

Duvet Days, 2016. 

Duvet Days, 2016. 

Duvet Days, 2016. 

Duvet Days, 2016. 

What are the most touching stories you have heard in the months involved in the project?

I communicate regularly with so many amazing survivors with equally incredible stories, but out of the privacy of these individuals I cannot share these stories due to the sensitive nature and their consent.

"Creating a space for people to feel heard, understood, supported, loved, and inspired is so important for the survivor community. The more people speak out, the less it will be taboo." 

Duvet Days, 2016. 

Duvet Days, 2016. 

Duvet Days, 2016. 

Duvet Days, 2016. 

"I think there is a lack of dialogue that is happening with the everlasting effects of sexual and domestic abuse for survivors. People are expected to just somehow go back to the way they were before all these violent acts, but in reality, it isn’t that simple."

Why do communities, such as Duvet Days, need to gain more visibility?

We need more visibility to help reach other survivors and for survivors to not be afraid or ashamed of their experiences. I think there is a lack of dialogue that is happening with the everlasting effects of sexual and domestic abuse for survivors. People are expected to just somehow go back to the way they were before all these violent acts, but in reality, it isn’t that simple. Survivors need to be a part of the change and to let their experience empower them and not define them. The more survivors speak out, the less abusers can hide and be protected and enabled by others. Yes, there will be judgements and shaming from some, but overall there is an overwhelming amount of support, love, and kindness that stretches all around the world. This project has given me a new hope in humanity. The love that I have received has outweighed by far any hate that has been directed at Duvet Days or me personally.

Thank you to DUVET DAYS for sharing their experience!

You can follow and engage here: https://www.instagram.com/duvet_days/ 

fb.me/duvetdaysorg

Gudrun & Gudrun — Funky Knitwear Extravaganza from the Faraway Faroe Islands

Gudrun & Gudrun, bringing sustainability to life using Faroese wool and traditional knitting techniques, is a fashion-forward knitwear brand gaining momentum with its bold heritage. Emerging from the faraway Faroe Islands, the remoteness of the geographical location inspired Gudrun & Gudrun to use the island’s scarce wool resources wisely, not to let them fade away. Adding a touch of women’s empowerment led thinking and mind-blowing creativity to Gudrun’s journey is what makes the brand as powerful as it stands today. We also never knew knits assembled of natural wool could look so good.

Gudrun & Gudrun AW16/17 Campaign. 

Gudrun & Gudrun AW16/17 Campaign. 

What brought together Gudrun & Gudrun and sustainability?

We didn’t start as some brands might start today, saying ‘we are going to make a sustainable brand’. We just discovered that all the resources on the Faroe Islands [located halfway between Norway and Iceland] were very limited and used poorly. We discovered that we must take very good care of the scarce resources, like in the old days. It’s to do with the heritage of the place, nothing can grow and it is very remote, so we just had to use what the nature has to offer — we have wool, we have sheep and we have fish, that’s all we have here on the Faroe Islands. Sadly, in the rapidly growing economy of the 1990s people didn’t care too much about the natural resources and the local produce, but thought that everything imported from abroad was much more valuable. We came to a situation where most of the wool was burnt and lambskins were destroyed completely, because nobody wanted to use them. Whereas we felt really upset about it, because these were not the values we were brought up with, what we had learnt to do. Then we thought we should put an end to it somehow, sooner rather than later, that’s where it all started… 

Faroe Islands.

Faroe Islands.

So you would say that the isolation of your geographical position, Faroe Islands, closely connects with the story of the brand?

It has a lot to do with being from the Faroe Islands and seeing the natural resources go to waste, seeing that they’re not being used properly. 

 I see more and more brands turning to sustainability. What’s the importance of it, why do we need to move away from the fast-everything culture and mass production?

I think the answer lies in people being more conscious and aware after the financial crisis that really had an effect on their consumption habits. Getting through that crisis, we have learned not to blame the ‘others, or the big ones or the global superpowers’, which were the attitudes flourishing for long, but we have understood that we ourselves are to blame, and we have to take collective responsibility for changing the detrimental patterns. We are all a part of the world, so we all have to play our part in being responsible and making a change. 

Gudrun & Gudrun AW16/17 Campaign.

Gudrun & Gudrun AW16/17 Campaign.

Also, you have a special kidswear range, which many brands have not thought of, or find too difficult to run. How did you come to this idea? It looks so playful… full of colour. 

We started with womenswear only, but often the customers would be like, ‘Awww, I want this type of quality for my child as well’, because we are only using natural materials, and organic yarns, and on top of that, we have the contemporary design and modern thinking. So we have combined everything that has to do with sustainability with the modern, creative side, which is really cherished with kidswear. When it comes to sustainable clothing, I think parents are thinking, first of all, about their babies, who would need the comfort — clothes that don’t do any harm to them. The combination of having the sustainability element and also the design, the aesthetics, is what makes our knits so unique and popular. Kidswear is not found everywhere, but people often look for the quality, the natural materials and longevity, but with that often comes a high price tag, and people refuse to pay for it. Often it is the same price producing a kid's sweater and sweaters for grown-ups, but people are still looking to pay half the price for it. So we have reversed it. 

How does the sustainability aspect come across in the production phase and use of materials?

We always use only natural materials. For example, Faroese wool — the sheep are in the mountains all-year round, they are never kept inside, so they are living on natural, unfertilised grass. The wool is not eco-certified, but just made using common sense and highest quality technology. For it to be the best possible [quality] is more important for us than just having a certificate to say that it is sustainable and organic. In addition to Faroese wool, we also use yarn from a lot of other places — we produce in Peru, using Alpaca wool from Peru, because that also makes sense for us to use the material from the place we produce and we learn a lot of techniques from the Peruvians… then we use organic Merino wool, for example. In addition, we use yarn from a lot of different places, from Italy, Norway, Iceland and Japan. But we always use natural materials, that’s one of our principles. 

"We could not change the fact that the women have a specific role in the family and home, but we could help to empower them by giving them the opportunity to earn their own money."

That must be complex to produce. How big is the workforce?

All in all, we have about 100 knitters, and they are divided more or less equally between Faroe Islands, Jordan and Peru.

Gudrun & Gudrun AW16/17 Campaign. 

Gudrun & Gudrun AW16/17 Campaign. 

There’s also a link between women’s empowerment and your brand… what countries is it related to?

We have a group of women knitting for us in Jordan and Peru. The project in Jordan was started, because before Gudrun & Gudrun I had a completely different career. I was working as a consultant stationed in Jordan, namely as a UE expert, and I always met a lot of ambitious people, and we were talking about the possibility of giving those women a way to earn their own money, because when we are talking about women’s empowerment, we believe that earning your own money is the base of this, the first step. 

"There are a lot of other brands that are so much better at making cheap T-shirts, but it’s not our field of expertise, so it is better that you concentrate on what you are good at, what you truly believe in."

In Jordan, for example, which is a restricted, patriarchal society, for a lot of women, it is difficult to get acknowledged outside the boundaries of their own home, so they are deeply ingrained in the role that they have to take care of the home and their children, there’s no option of having a career. We found that it would be a very good way, if we could fulfil that gap that they too contribute to the society. We could not change the fact that the women have a specific role in the family and home, but we could help to empower them by giving them the opportunity to earn their own money. I have been working with projects a lot and simple projects are often good projects that help to benefit the women the most. Also, for the husbands, it is not a threatening project, because the dinner is still served at the same time and they are still home by the evening, so that structure works for everybody. If it’s a project that the men will oppose, then the women would participate for a few times, and then they would not be allowed anymore, because they cannot take this discussion of freedom at home with them. They meet us in a charity organisation and surprisingly, some women, who started already 8 years ago, are still working with us. 

"Getting through that crisis, we have learned not to blame the ‘others, or the big ones or the global superpowers’, which were the attitudes flourishing for long, but we have understood that we ourselves are to blame, and we have to take collective responsibility for changing the detrimental patterns."

Do you boast a global audience?

We have a very global audience, from Japan to Italy to U.S. We have our flagship store in Faroe Islands and pop-up shop in London at the time, and last year we had pop-ups in Oslo and Copenhagen as well, and then we sell wholesale to a lot of different stores. 

What’s your message, how to give quality production more visibility and reduce the mass-production mania? 

As a first thing, this is what we are good at — we are good at making hand-knit collections. We don’t know any other companies that make full collections in hand-knit, as it's not a machine, it is extremely difficult to execute and control. Quality production from natural materials is something that we have expertise in. There are a lot of other brands that are so much better at making cheap T-shirts, but it’s not our field of expertise, so it is better that you concentrate on what you are good at, what you truly believe in. 

Faroe Islands.

Faroe Islands.