Tell us about yourself – familial/personal story, education, and prior work.
Originally hailing from England, Australia has been my home for the past 36 years. A creative and adventurer at heart, I have always been drawn to textiles and ethnic designs from cultures stepped in rich history. I have been incredibly fortunate to have an eclectic study and working life in Sydney, Auckland, Florence, London, Istanbul and India.
My initial trades are as a textile designer in the soft furnishing industry, producing for leading textile houses; and as a public relations consultant, working on various large national campaigns within the environmental and art sectors. I have been frequently career restless, I can’t always put my finger on the reasons why. Yet one purposeful knowing deep within my core was I needed to make my own conscious mark on the world, and so in the last few years I have combined my skills and experiences and have entered into a significant R&D phase to establish my own ethical textile label.
What is the importance of ethical fashion to you?
It means not sacrificing people and planet for the sake of making another product, rather taking a very considered approach in all the creation processes, such as building ethical practices into every part of my business. Encouraging healthy and fair work practices to ensure my product is safe to handle for the cotton farmer through to the studio artisans. I have no desire to pollute the environment nor endanger workers lives with chemicals nor treat them unjustly for the sake of profit or quick turnaround. I trade fairly with all those involved in my production supply chain in my chosen production country of India. While I apply social and ethical standards to my product with organic and fair trade accreditations (Global Organic Textile Standard and International Labour Organisation respectively), I am often encouraged by outsiders to make life simpler to cut on cost, even by the ‘ethical’ manufacturers. The importance of ethical fashion is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching, not only does this view resonate with my own personal values but I have to live with my thoughts and actions each day, which I hope to encourage within my target market.
What is the importance of sustainable fashion to you?
My idea of launching my own ethical bed linen range was a vehicle in wanting to help make positive change in the world at a valued added scale, via creativity to the highest quality. It’s about a return to a more respectful way of creating and helping workers lives become more enriching. Never wanting to give handouts, I opted to create a business in a developing country that employs a 100% Indian workforce where up to 35+ people are gainfully employed from my textile production. My business is socially responsible from seed to finished product by producing with certified organic cotton; and via fair trade standards; employing women’s groups and empowering them with training; and reviving traditional artisan techniques that are dying out to mass production. While humbling to be involved at the very grass root level of my business, I am assisting to give an equal voice to Indian creatives. In my view these aspects galvanize the importance of a sustainable fashion label.
What is Organic Bed Threads?
Organic Bed Threads is an ethical bed linen label, producing stunning, 100% certified organic cotton and fair trade duvet covers. Uniquely designed in Australia for the international Western décor and artisan handmade by Eastern techniques for adults and children. Organic Bed Threads is a conscious lifestyle textile brand where every thread of the production story counts from seed to linen closet, benefiting and respecting the workers, the planet in developing India and the end bed linen buyer internationally.
What makes Organic Bed Threads unique?
Organic Bed Threads is a small company, yet we have managed to create a truly optimal way of producing, that the larger production houses do not honour, such as providing fair wages, safe working environments, preserving age old artisan technicians, pushing ourselves though expensive and rigorous audits to become organically and fair trade accredited so that consumers feel confident of the products’ origin. We produce to minimum order quantity to reduce excess textile waste & packaging and opt to use organic materials to avoid chemical use that harm the environment and workers. My ‘grrr’ factor is if we can do it, why wont the larger companies! They have the majority pull in the market and they can foster greater confidence in the manufacturing space and for everyone to be ethical buyers. Our uniqueness is that our actions marry our words.
What other work are you involved in at this point in time?
As with all ethical start-ups, it takes some time for the penny to drop in the marketplace, for people to understand that yes ethical products do cost a bit more but for very valid reasons, and Australia, unfortunately is not that advanced compared to the North American and Scandinavian conscious consumer markets, so to keep myself and my business afloat, I freelance or partake in contractual communication and design projects that offer a gritty and unique twist.
What meaning or personal fulfillment does this work bring for you?
My product is handmade, by taleneted creatives, from a designer’s perspective it is incredibly fulfilling to see one’s own ideas, transformed by many hands, not machines. It’s so lovely to know where things come from, and connecting rich, true stories about the processes and people behind my label with the market is a great accomplishment in my books, it’s like imparting a history lesson that comes alive on ones’ bed, I call it bed art. I also set up by myself, under my own steam and finances and walked the streets in a country which is notoriously associated with textile horror stories, so at times I push myself to reflect at my own bravery to reconnect with my personal fulfillment. We always need to be reminded where our story originated.
With regard to ethical and sustainable fashion companies, what’s the importance of them now?
We need them more than ever, we are all moving at a rapid rate, we are interconnected via our devices and social media accounts but we are lacking in the real, personable, social interactions and graces that provide a base to our existence. With 12.7 million tonnes of textile waste ending up in landfill every year, polluting our countries, we lack deeper meaning with our consequences, we are lonely and forever seeking the next shiny new ‘thing’, the swell of ethical and suitable companies can only help reinstate the fundamental, good values we seem to have lost along the way, by grounding us with the important issues that need addressing. Individually, we are small fry but if each of us collectively we can make positive choices if we purchase consciously and socially made products. With an overwhelming list of charities to give to, by buying such products you know exactly how your money has supported communities.
Thank you for your time, Tarsha.