NO/AN: Humane Artisanal Approach Towards Handbag Luxury

Finnish NO/AN by Anna Lehmusniemi is an artisanal handbag brand boasting a purposeful, well-executed approach, whereas each bag is crafted by one single artisan throughout the process. Created as a reaction to the reckless speed of fashion industry, Nordic NO/AN believes in honest, detailed design approach and thorough, transparent craftsmanship of patiently dreamed up bags from start to the finish. The collection’s trademark matte, muted colour palette, as well as sharp graphic and geometrical lines, recalling Nordic landscape and architecture, allured us immediately. One true meticulous, quality fashion staple worth having this soon approaching spring season, that's a NO/AN bag. 

NO/AN SS17. 

NO/AN SS17. 

What were the key concerns regarding the fast fashion industry that turned into values you embrace with NO/AN?

The key concern is the overconsumption of things that do not last and are not needed. If a T-shirt costs £4,99 and a pair of jeans £12,99, there is clearly something wrong. It indicates the quality is not good and the artisans haven't been decently paid for their work. Fashion productions are also often far bigger than the demand, and so much goes to waste, or is finally sold at a very low price. As a designer, I also feel that it is important to give the design process the time it needs to create a product that is resilient. When it comes to fast fashion, this route is not the objective.

NO/AN’s values are built on honesty and sustainability. I want to create bags that can last for a long time, both quality and design wise. For me it is also very important to work with ateliers and suppliers that care about their employees, who are paid fairly. 

What's the most unique thing about NO/AN we need to know now?

The most unique thing is that every bag is made by one artisan from the beginning to the end. The bags are also signed by the artisans who made them. For me this is luxury.

"As a designer, I also feel that it is important to give the design process the time it needs to create a product that is resilient. When it comes to fast fashion, this route is not the objective."

NO/AN SS17. 

NO/AN SS17. 

Is the leather and other materials you use ethically sourced? Where do they come from?

I use natural grain leather and nickel-free metal zippers in my bags. The leather is a bi-product of the meat industry, and it comes from a Portuguese tannery that prioritises environmental preservation. The zippers are made by the Swiss brand RIRI, which are partly made in Switzerland and partly in Italy. I know both suppliers well.

What's your opinion about the fashion industry turning a degree closer to transparency and honesty? What could still be done differently?

It is clearly a growing trend and I think it is great. If the brands have nothing to hide, it should not be an issue to be open about where they produce and source the materials.

Sustainability and transparency can easily sound like something boring. I think some transparent brands could focus more on the image and to create an interesting, story-telling world around their products. For example, Everlane has executed it very well.

How do your Finnish roots pair with the aesthetics of the brand? Do you feel geography has influenced your art direction in any meaningful way?

Even though I have been living abroad several years, my design style and personal taste is still very much inspired by my Finnish roots. Actually, I think that the more I stay away from Finland, the more I take inspiration from Finland and appreciate Finnish design. Finnish design is often very minimal, but still not entirely boring. These are the same characteristics I want to communicate with my bags and NO/AN's art direction.

"Sustainability and transparency can easily sound like something boring. I think some transparent brands could focus more on the image and to create an interesting, story-telling world around their products."

NO/AN SS17. 

NO/AN SS17. 

The branding of fashion will possibly always be more fast paced — we need new images for products every season, if not more frequently. It's all production, all waste. How could this advertising process be perhaps slowed down — I would bring forward more seasonless campaign images, etc? What's your take on that?

Since I do not work with fashion seasons, I also aim to have seasonless campaigns. From NO/AN’s first shooting you cannot say directly, if it is a summer or a winter collection, because it works for both. For me brands coming up with campaigns frequently is a positive thing. It creates work for photographers, stylists, make-up artist and models. If you create digital marketing content, you do not waste materials. But if you print, it is important not to print more than needed.

I think it is important to refresh the image of a brand and collection every once in a while, even though it is a slow fashion brand. A sustainable brand does not have to be boring.

Shop here:

https://noanstudio.com

Alternatives To Leather: Live Beautifully with Matt & Nat

Standing for MAT(T)ERIAL and NATURE and the synergy between the two, Matt & Nat from Montreal offers vegan alternatives to everyday leather essentials, assembled in the form of chic everyday handbags and true city dweller shoes. With their motto being 'live beautifully', Matt & Nat encourages to appreciate integrity, authenticity and inclusiveness among other core values coining the brand's DNA. Matt & Nat advocates the use of alternatives to animal-based materials, such as PVC, and have incorporated using recycled plastic bottles from 2007. Geared forward by ideologies of innovation and renewal, Matt & Nat proves you can even be socially responsible whilst wearing your favourite leather finery...

Manny Kohli, CEO of Matt & Nat, answers all our curious questions. 

MATT & NAT SS17.

MATT & NAT SS17.

What alternatives to leather does your brand offer? How long is their lifespan?

All of our vegan leather bags are made out of PVC and PU. We’re constantly trying to source the best materials on the market to ensure a long lifespan. As with any other products, the lifespan of our bags depends on the consumer’s habits. It’s quite hard to put an exact number of this. It will vary greatly between a person who throws their bag on the floor versus another who keeps it in perfect condition. We also offer handbags in canvas material and cork material.

What are the latest advances you have incorporated into production of Matt and Nat vegan leather accessories?

We’re constantly exploring ways to be more sustainable and eco-friendly. We try to incorporate environmentally responsible materials whenever we get the chance. We have committed to using linings solely composed of recycled water bottles since 2007 and we’ve recycled over three billion water bottles producing our bags.

"We have committed to using linings solely composed of recycled water bottles since 2007 and we’ve recycled over three billion water bottles producing our bags."

MATT & NAT SS17.

MATT & NAT SS17.

MATT & NAT SS17.

MATT & NAT SS17.

What are the benefits of vegan leather products and why should they be considered to replace leather entirely?

We’re a vegan company and are very proud that no animals were hurt in the production of our bags. We chose to produce vegan bags with recycled materials to show the world that you don’t have to kill animals to produce beautiful accessories. I think consumers are becoming more socially responsible and aware of how harmful the production of leather is and we’re seeing a huge shift and demand in the vegan market.

https://mattandnat.com

miDeer Felt Accessories: Timeless x Nordic x Unisex

What do industrial felt and fashion have in common? A beautiful harmony of effortless and durable design, as honoured by miDeer. Estonian slow fashion brand miDeer creates Nordic-style bags and accessories for every occasion. Their sleek designs are loved by men and women alike, serving as a seasonless and functional must-have for any urban fashion-lover. What’s it like in the world of miDeer?, we asked.  

Words: Johanna Raudsepp

miDeer Felt Accessories, 2017. / Photo: Jake Farra.

miDeer Felt Accessories, 2017. / Photo: Jake Farra.

How did the journey of miDeer begin?

miDeer stems from our goal to pay homage to Scandinavian simplicity and elegance. We make modern Nordic accessories, interior design elements and have also introduced a line for children. What first started as a hobby of designing meaningful items for personal use, quickly grew into an independent brand — a brand living its own rhythm and life. The whole process has been thrilling for us — a real dream come true! We were thrilled by the idea of curating our own designer label and sparking conversation through what we do. Aesthetics-wise, we’ve always been enchanted by the power of simplicity. The pure lines, clear contours… that’s why minimalism and functionality go hand-in-hand throughout our miDeer line. 

Photo: Jake Farra.

Photo: Jake Farra.

The term ‘sustainable’ in design can be confusing. What’s your take on sustainable design?

For us at miDeer, practical, timeless, and slow fashion is super important. With this attitude and the aesthetics, we try to promote buying less, but good quality items that will last you ages. Our minimalist style enables our customer to mix and match with a variety of other styles as well. 

How have you incorporated environmentally conscious principles into your work?

All miDeer products are hand-made in Estonia. It isn’t and will never be a mass-produced brand. We value collaborating with local artisans in our design process and embrace the tiny quirks of each single item. Secondly, we always pay attention to where our materials come from. Right now, we use excess pieces from a felt factory. This way we can reduce the amount of industrial material that ends up in the environment — by giving new life to the discarded leftovers. What makes our production unique is that we do not mass produce, but make just enough, so that we get to further reuse the materials by creating fashionable accessories. If we think about the future, then the miDeer’s shopping bags, in particular, can effectively replace plastic equivalents in a stylish manner. 

How did you come up with such interesting name, miDeer? 

We wanted to create something Nordic and minimalist, inspired by the Northern cold climate and the power of nature. To be honest, the logo came before the name. The deer’s horns are majestic, yet strong and powerful — perfect depiction of a unisex Nordic brand. Our name quite directly comes from ‘deer’. It’s something precious and unobtainable in nature, but you can grasp an equivalent feel via our products. 

Unisex looks, felt and paper meet in your design. How did you decide to go down the route of such eclectic mix?

The main source of inspiration for the brand is felt, which already speaks to both men and women. A unisex-look wasn’t our goal on it’s own, it just accidentally turned out that way — our first [laptop] bag appealed to both [men and women alike], and then it clicked for us. Nowadays minimalism and unisex design are often seen side by side. The soft texture, yet stiff form of industrial felt make our products durable and help keep their shape. We felt that unisex was written in between the lines, as felt has both feminine and masculine qualities. We like to think that miDeer wearers are free-spirited, brave, fashion-forward people, regardless their age or gender.  

"We value collaborating with local artisans in our design process and embrace the tiny quirks of each single item." 

Photo: Jake Farra.

Photo: Jake Farra.

 What can we look forward to in 2017?

This year we will definitely focus more on fashion and accessories. miDeer will be creating new designs for people who lead an active lifestyle, yet value comfort. So there are great things coming up for the active urban dweller. 

Despite being a small company, we want to become a player on the international arena. Clients in Berlin, London and Vilnius have shown keen interest, and we cannot wait to make our products more accessible all over Europe. We have a few exciting surprises in store, so stay in tuned and keep an eye on our website!

Shop here:

http://mideer.eu

KHIS Design Baths: A More Natural, Luxury Bathing Experience

Sometimes a fleeting moment of relaxation is all we need. What better way to unwind than losing the sense of time whilst soaking in an indulging hot bath? Bathing is an ancient sensory ritual – a simple way to slow down and take a break from the daily hustle. In Estonia, KHIS Design bathtubs are here to transform your bathing experience in a natural way. Their custom-made wood baths are a unique staple - a subtle statement piece to complement your cosy indoors solutions. We sat down with Frants Seer, the founder of KHIS Design Baths, and touched upon slow living from a slightly different perspective.

Words: Johanna Raudsepp

Frants Seer, founder of KHIS, 2017. 

Frants Seer, founder of KHIS, 2017. 

How did the journey of KHIS begin? Did you background direct you in any way?

One’s scholarly background is often boring. I always like to say that I have learned mountain-skiing, which is a great passion of mine. KHIS actually stems from my personal interest in woodcraft. That’s how and why I learned. I honestly became a designer overnight. I began to build myself a home and there it all began. 

How did you come to this idea of creating high-quality wooden baths?

As I mentioned, I was building my home and I really wanted such a bath in it. From that personal desire, or need, we created the first prototype. We put a lot of hard work into creating [the first bathtub], so that it made sense to me to make something bigger out of it. Despite there being other wood-bath manufacturers around the world, such technological solutions [like ours] don’t exist elsewhere. But again, we did put a lot of effort into achieving this durable product. 

"One’s scholarly background is often boring. I always like to say that I have learned mountain-skiing, which is a great passion of mine."

'Eternal KHIS' wooden bathtub.

'Eternal KHIS' wooden bathtub.

We support environmentally conscious consumption. How does KHIS follow the principles of sustainable design?

Now, I’m not 100% sure, but I believe sustainable design means that you have something that’s consumer-friendly, durable, and made out of a renewable resource. That’s what we have tried to follow as well - to create something that lasts for decades and is of the best quality. We use thermally-processed Nordic ash. In addition, the post-processing finish is natural, either with natural linen seed oil or hot waxing. .

What’s your idea of design?

Less is more. Similarly to Nordic design, the less you use to make the most practical product you can - that’s the key. Of course, my tastes have changed over time. I often worked with antique furniture, because of the environment the building or apartment is surrounded by. But now, somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m dreaming of a self-sustainable house with glass walls somewhere remote in the middle of the woods.

"Similarly to Nordic design, the less you use to make the most practical product you can  that’s the key."

Who or what is KHIS?

For us, it means the feeling you get when you come into contact with wood. When your skin touches that naturally finished wood surface - it creates a sense of warmth. Naturally, it took a while before we settled for a specific name. We were looking for something short, yet memorable. It comes from the word ‘kiss’, as you might be able to tell. Our bath models actually refer to it as well - First Khis, Eternal Khis, Natural Khis. It just felt right and it stuck with us.

Bathing is all about the sensory experience. I, for example, love to listen to relaxing music when taking a bath. If KHIS baths could play music, what would the play?

I have actually thought about this before. It has to be classical music. Like ‘Four Seasons’ by Vivaldi. That’s how I imagine it at least. 

Finally, let’s dream a little. What are your dreams for 2017?

You know, this year has kicked off well. I think we will look into expanding our sales to China and other parts of Asia. Hopefully that will work out.

http://www.khisbath.com/

Alpha Shadows: Cornucopia of Far Eastern Design in Peckham, London

The scarcity of garments of Far East origin available in the UK inspired Tom, founder of Alpha Shadows, to start catering a cornucopia of contemporary Japanese design for fellow seekers of Far Eastern impeccable excellence. In his concept store in Peckham, London, built according to his own vision, a slow-paced shopping experience awaits admirers of the finest Japanese porcelains and jeans, whereas even the odd lost wanderer is guaranteed to leave with a few new Far Eastern founds in hand… 

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Tell us more about your background. 

Before the shop, I was camera crew in the film industry. I specialised in Stop Motion Animation, which involves a lot of waiting around, so between shots I started looking at ever-obscure clothing brands on indecipherable websites. 

There came a point when I just had to go to Japan — a country I'd long wanted to visit — to see these clothes in person, but also experience the culture, the food and the country.  On my first trip there, I wasn't especially thinking about starting a shop, more about filling my belly, my mind and my suitcase...

What led you to starting Alpha Shadows?

Once there, the penny started to drop. There were some great brands I was a fan of that were simply impossible to find anywhere outside of the Far East, and I couldn't understand why they weren't. I decided I didn't want to be sitting here in 2 or 3 year’s time, when such and such a brand was picked up by a UK, European or even U.S. shop and thinking, 'I should've done that!'. I was equally inspired by incredible retail environment over there; the whole experience is so well considered and executed. I came home with my mind made up about what I should be doing with my life!

Three of my big passions in life are film, clothing and cricket, and I never had the talent to be a cricketer. A big part of me misses working in stop motion and there's every chance, if I'd never made the journey to Japan I still would be, but after that first visit I knew what I really wanted to do.

How did you grow interest in Japanese fashion to begin with?

In my early teens I was really into skate brands and whilst my local town had a pretty decent skate shop, I always wanted some shoes or hoody that I knew I wouldn't see someone else wearing. This was in the late nineties/early noughties when the Internet was still in its infancy. I'd find myself on a website for a shop in the U.S. that had the thing I'd never seen anywhere else. As my sartorial 'persuasions' changed and developed, the habit of always looking further afield continued. 

At some point I got my first pair of ‘Made in Japan’ selvedge denim jeans (I'd hazard a guess that for many people, like myself, it all started with a pair of Japanese denim). There was something about the quality and attention to detail, even on something so simple in many ways, as a pair of jeans, that was just better in every way to any I'd owned before. This realisation that maybe they do everything a bit better quickly expanded beyond that pair of jeans. Obviously there is incredible clothing made all over the world, but what I found over there, as well as its scarcity, really appealed to me.

"From the fabric to the stitching to the buttons and the zips, it's about either sourcing or developing what they feel is the ideal component for that item, rather than the cheapest and quickest to produce."

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

What was the one most important thing you kept in mind when starting Alpha Shadows?

The most important thing at the beginning and always will be is to be different. I'm happy to admit that there's a handful of brands we stock that have a few other stockists outside of the Far East. In the grand scheme of things they're still pretty niche, but not that hard to find with a quick google search, but nonetheless, brands I'm a big fan of and wanted to have in the shop since day one. People might query how this makes us different and what I hope people see is that the majority of brands we stock are very, very tricky to find outside of their home country. When customers see the brand mix, I hope they appreciate the difference we attempt to offer vs. other retailers. The most important thing is visitors love the clothes or footwear or ceramics, but alongside that also feel like they've discovered something new and different. This is as important to me now, as it was at the start and will continue to be.

"I was equally inspired by incredible retail environment over there [in Japan]; the whole experience is so well considered and executed. I came home with my mind made up about what I should be doing with my life!"

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Why is Japanese fashion so hard to get hold of in the UK?

You may be able to find a coat by a certain Japanese brand on a website in Japan, but the site is in Japanese and even if and when auto-translate works, it is unlikely the brand will ship abroad.  While there are a very small number of sites that do offer some international shipping, it has only begun to happen fairly recently.

How important is sustainability for the designers you represent?

In terms of sustainability, I can't speak for each brand directly, but what I can say is the materials used are the very core of the brands' philosophies. It's what defines their clothing and, as a by-product of this ethos, they source the best fabrics and dyes rather than the cheapest, which in turn usually carries little regard for the environment and the people that make them.

Your branding is eye-catching and unique. What influences did you consider when creating the visual identity for the web shop?

I was pretty clear about what I didn't want rather than what I did, so much of the influence came from what I thought was wrong, rather than what I thought was right. I sketched out a few ideas for the logo and left this is in the far more capable hands of a designer, who turned it into something that I liked the minute I saw it.  It had to be clean and simple, but also unique and recognisable. This 'design philosophy' and this ethos I hope remains consistent with both the website and physical store. I didn't want to be too clever — the focus is to have a site that is usable with a well-presented collection, as well as clear, simple and honest product information.

Considering the designers and brands you represent in your store, what perhaps unites them?

What unites the brands we work with is a desire to make the best product they possibly can. From the fabric to the stitching to the buttons and the zips, it's about either sourcing or developing what they feel is the ideal component for that item, rather than the cheapest and quickest to produce. Some of the products I sell couldn't be more varied; there is denim created on antique looms and hand-woven sweaters, but also jackets with heat bonded seams, made from some of the most technically advanced fabrics on the planet.  

"This this realisation that maybe they do everything a bit better quickly expanded beyond that pair of jeans."

Where do you source the brands?

It's down to a lot of research and a lot of tough decisions!  I'm always finding new designers and brands that I appreciate, but I always try to consider how they will fit in alongside the other brands we stock. I want every brand to stand out in their own way, but I don't want them to seem at odds with one another. Just because I love a particular brand, doesn't mean it's right for the shop.

Name a couple of your recent favourites.

They're all my favourites, because each in their own way are doing some brilliant things. What is of importance, though, is the fact that we support and stock some really special young designers and brands that are in my mind criminally underrepresented. So to give them a platform is something I'm particularly proud of. andWander, Meanswhile, Niuhans, and Salvy have all been around a few years and these are some of the brands I have a certain fondness for.

How have customers reacted to the physical shop vs web store?

The reaction to the physical shop has been overwhelmingly positive. I suppose because the building we are in is a little rough around the edges (it's well over a 100 years old, so hardly surprising!), people aren't really sure what to expect. When they come inside the reaction is usually something like, 'It's actually really nice in here, what an amazing space!'. That's obviously nice to hear, but more importantly, is the fact that a customer is more likely to spend thirty minutes or more in the shop, rather than three. I hope this means our customers are comfortable in the space, find it a relaxing and welcoming place to be and one in which we can have a chat about the clothes or anything else for that matter.  

You can't really transfer the 'vibe' of the physical space to the web store, so keeping things clean and simple was always the priority in this respect and our customers seem to appreciate this.  We're always looking to improve both shopping environments, but we want to do this gradually in a way that makes sense.

"What is of importance, though, is the fact that we support and stock some really special young designers and brands that are in my mind criminally underrepresented."

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Who is perhaps the stereotypical customer of yours?

Our customers are as varied and interesting as the brands we stock; so to describe a stereotypical customer is almost impossible! What I can say is that our customers are united by their appreciation for good quality and interest in discovering new things. Whether it's men or women, there's no specific age, they come from all walks of life and from all over the world.

What makes the niche brands you represent popular with your audiences?

As much as a something being 'rare' or hard to find with limited quantities, what ultimately matters is the quality of the product. The fabrics, the fit and the finishing are the things that customers appreciate and admire. One of the most rewarding things for me on a personal level is for a customer to purchase an item from a brand that is new to them and for it to then become their new favourite brand.

What are your plans with Alpha Shadows going forward?

That's a bit of a secret to be honest, but I'd like the to naturally evolve and develop. I'm very conscious of the importance of keeping the number of brands limited. This isn't because I think we should only ever carry a specific amount of brands, but because I don't want any brand we do stock to get lost amongst a sea of others. A trap I'm keen to avoid is focusing on brands just because they sell well for a couple of season; I don't think that's enough to keep it interesting. 

We're very fortunate to have built up a solid base of customers who I hope appreciate this longer-term vision. 

Visit the store:

Unit C1, Bussey Building, 133 Rye Ln, London, SE15 3SN

www.alphashadows.com

 

Beej x Raag Workshop: Homage To India's Traditional Textile Skills Heritage

As a brand that proudly celebrates the heritage of Raag workshop with its tradition dating back to 1975, Beej draws upon a modern, moveable take on India's traditional textile skills. Whilst placing the highest importance on sourcing locally from different parts of the country, the uniqueness of Beej lies in making their clothes entirely in-house. The nature of Raag's repertoire of garments enhance a subtle self-confidence and ease of movement. We say 'yes' to wearing traditional feminine enigma paired with flawless fluency. 

Ikat Overlay Coat by Beej, 2016. 

Ikat Overlay Coat by Beej, 2016. 

Foreword:

Beej started with the idea of bringing Raag, started by Asha Sarabhai in 1975 and available in other parts of the world but not yet at home, to India. We are keen to complement the Raag line of clothes with other objects that share its ethos and so created Beej as an umbrella brand under which these products can be sold. We want to celebrate India’s rich heritage, stand for uncompromising quality and a delightful customer experience, and adhere to the highest ethical standards. The Beej and Raag logos, created by Ivan Chermayeff, emphasise the relationship between the two and the fact that we think of ourselves very much as a contemporary brand.

What are the sustainable solutions you have incorporated into the making of your garments?

All Raag clothes are made entirely with handloom fabrics, the production of which keeps alive rich traditions, provides employment opportunities to artisans and is far less resource intensive than mill made fabrics. The environmental impact of our production processes is negligible as our clothes are made by hand.

Our clothes are designed to be durable and make allowances for the wearer to gain or lose a few pounds. Construction techniques and finishing details such as the elimination of seams when possible, addition of gussets for ease of movement and the avoidance of zippers ensure that our clothes last well and give pleasure over the years. We further facilitate their use over time by offering free alterations and repairs for life. Customers who would like to recycle or repurpose an old garment, by making a stole out of a beloved old coat for example, are encouraged to send them to us.

"Overproduction, rampant consumerism and wastefulness, especially in the case of fast fashion, further compounds the adverse global impact that the fashion industry can have."

Where do you see the importance of ethical fashion stand today? Why are we only now starting to open our eyes to the downside of the fashion industry?

The way clothes are produced can often be extremely destructive to the environment and exploitative of the people who make them. Overproduction, rampant consumerism and wastefulness, especially in the case of fast fashion, further compounds the adverse global impact that the fashion industry can have.

An increased awareness about these issues has made people more conscious of the choices they make. The building collapse at a garment factory in Bangladesh, which tragically killed over a thousand workers in 2013, was a watershed moment and resulted in global outrage. It brought to the fore concerns that had been harbored for a long time and which could no longer be ignored.

In light of these realities, and given the huge increase in the number of brands that have launched in the Indian fashion industry in the recent past, an ethical and humane approach to fashion is especially relevant.

Wrap Top by Beej, 2016. 

Wrap Top by Beej, 2016. 

What were the main social concerns that led you to inventing a sustainable brand? 

We started out with the goal of making simple, durable, quality products, in an ethical manner, that we hope would bring pleasure to their users. We were keen to dispel the notion that good business practices make bad business sense by running a humane and efficient setup.

In the Indian fashion industry, it is common practice for many aspects of production to be outsourced. In such a situation, especially so in a developing country, it is very hard to ensure that the people making your products are working in a wholesome environment and are being treated fairly. We were adamant about wanting to make all our products entirely in-house. It enables us to guarantee that those involved in the making of our clothes get a fair wage and work healthy hours in an environment in which they are treated with dignity and respect. Having direct control over all production processes also enables us to maintain high quality standards. Very few companies, and none amongst our peers that we are aware of, make their own products entirely in-house.

"We were keen to dispel the notion that good business practices make bad business sense by running a humane and efficient setup."

What does the pairing India x Sustainable Fashion tell us today and possibly in the future? Where does its heritage stretch back in time? 

We’ve always thought of tradition as a continuous strand, incorporated in the contemporary – that’s what keeps it alive. India has a long tradition of minimizing waste. Recycling has always been an imaginative and inventive art and is very prevalent. Old saris, for example, are turned into quilts when they can no longer be worn. The sari itself, being an unstitched garment, essentially a piece of cloth that is given its dimensionality by the wearer, is an inspired heritage. It can be worn in many different ways, limited only by the imagination of the wearer, and places emphasis on her instead of on a brand. We feel fortunate to be part of this heritage.

Your pieces look modern and comfortable, and not traditional at all! Who is the customer Beej is aimed at? 

We hope Beej would appeal to those who have an understanding of detail and the feel of what they wear. Our audience is discerning women (age 25 and above) with a simple, understated aesthetic and a personal sense of style that isn’t dictated by trends. We envision our customers to have a wide range of interests, be global in outlook and have an appreciation and affection for India’s rich cultural heritage.

"The sari itself, being an unstitched garment, essentially a piece of cloth that is given its dimensionality by the wearer, is an inspired heritage."

What's the best opportunity that creating Beej has led you to? What has been the surprise element?

Appliqué cardigan by Beej, 2016. 

Appliqué cardigan by Beej, 2016. 

It has been a tremendous privilege for us to get to work with Asha Sarabhai and to get the opportunity to bring Raag to customers in India. Being a small, and young, company we can be nimble and we want to make the most of this by transforming ourselves with each collection. Our first collection takes inspiration from the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich to reinterpret Raag classics and we have exciting plans for future collections. Each collection, while rooted in the values, sensibilities, and the design language of Raag, will hopefully seem fresh and vital. Exploring a different theme for each collection has been great fun and an intellectually and creatively stimulating experience.

https://www.beejstore.com

HIIS Design Furniture: Interior Solutions with an Eternal Stamp

Looking for something to light up your interior design dreams? Something timeless, yet modern? Something bold, yet subtle? Estonia-based HIIS Design furniture stunned us with their effortlessly elegant design furniture made sustainably, with a dash of care and love. To shed light on HIIS Design’s innovative creations, young furniture maker Tõnis-Sander Maarits opened us a door to his creative workshop...

Words: Johanna Raudsepp

HIIS Design furniture, 2016. 

HIIS Design furniture, 2016. 

What’s your personal take on furniture? What makes a piece of furniture excellent?

The attractive outline, not only at the shop or in pictures, but in the interior where it’s used. Comfort and simplicity, while having down-to-the-tiny-detail design and quality combined, make a piece of furniture a great one. Something made from heart is not just another piece of furniture, but creates an exquisite experience in a room. Take a table, for example – it’s not just some thing to sit and dine at, but it creates a heartwarming shared experience with your friends and family. Good design can help enhance that feeling. 

How does HIIS Design apply ethical practises in your workshop? What’s particularly important for you?

The most important thing in furniture manufacturing is that quality and timeless design [are there]. When a design piece lasts you ages, fitting in with the old and the new, it becomes an environmentally sustainable piece. HIIS Design is for someone who values quality and wants an enduring piece of furniture to bring into their interior that lasts for years. We aim to create furniture that can be the anchor-point in a room, around which you can design everything else. 

As wood production can be harmful for our environment, we make sure to use FSC certified wood as our resource. For Hiis Design, it’s of high importance we use consciously produced wood to ensure forests lasts for future generations. That also reflects in our name (’hiis’ in Estonian translates to ’ancient grove’).

"We aim to create furniture that can be the anchor-point in a room, around which you can design everything else."

HIIS Design furniture, 2016. 

HIIS Design furniture, 2016. 

Is there a personal story… how did HIIS Design come to be?

As a young boy, I used to make ships and other toys in my father’s wood workshop, hammer and chisel in hand. When I was 13, we moved to a new house and I didn’t have any furniture in my new room. That’s when I decided to design and make my own furniture. I made a pretty good bed, which gave me more drive to build other things, like a closet. Every summer I used to earn pocket money from furniture making and restoration. At first, in 2013, fresh out of university, I started my own custom-made furniture workshop, but I always felt like it was not enough for me to build things designed by other people. I began to experiment more with my own designs and one thing led to another, as they say. In spring 2016, HIIS Design was brought to life. 

“Take a table, for example – it’s not just some thing to sit and dine at, but it creates a heartwarming shared experience with your friends and family. Good design can help enhance that feeling.”

HIIS Design furniture, 2016. 

HIIS Design furniture, 2016. 

With regards to environmental protection, how do you imagine the future of furniture design?

Endurance is what makes furniture environmentally friendly. An oak table will last generations, unlike a cheap mass produced equivalent from melamine. A toxin-rich piece of furniture will last 10 years at most. But an oak table will last you until a new, baby-oak is growing, reducing environmental damage. More materials will be used, of course, and a lot of new solutions to battle space deficiency. However, we must not undermine natural materials and living in harmony with nature. I find that people are starting to value earthiness and natural things even more [in furniture design]. Families with kids, especially, want to be able to make more sustainable choices when choosing products for their homes. 

If your brand has a soundtrack, then what would it be like and why? 

The first song that popped up in my head was ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC. Probably because I often listen to that song, when I start my day at the workshop. It creates a nice energy and gets you going for the day. But that’s only a small part of our brand. HIIS Design’s soundtrack would be ‘Spiegel im spiegel’ by Arvo Pärt (Grammy-winning Estonian composer), because when I listen to that piece I find myself in a powerful state of creativity. As the title suggests, a mirror against a mirror reflects into infinity, the same way inspiration has no boundaries. 

"A mirror against a mirror reflects into infinity, the same way inspiration has no boundaries."

Where do you draw inspiration from for new pieces?

Inspiration can strike at any moment, which is why I always carry a notebook along. Even a quick sketch right there in the moment can be a life-saver of a striking flash-idea. I feel like inspiration is deep inside of us, piling up in our sub-conscience since childhood, and is often brought onto the surface again by some small trigger in our adulthood. It’s important to capture those moments and know how to fuel them. I like to get my creativity flowing by going through old books, magazines and websites. Other times, I draw inspiration when watching a movie or a TV show – like Mad Men, where the 60s American-style surroundings can fire up some great memories.

http://www.hiisdesign.com/

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