1. Victoria, could you tell me how you developed the idea for S A Y A Designs and why you decided to start your own business in Indonesia?
The idea for S A Y A Designs arose over two years ago when I left England to live and work on Bali. During my first couple of months on the island, I became increasingly conscious of the environmental problems which surrounded me. For further investigation, I visited various forestry projects, took part in sustainability conferences and sat down with local artisans. All of this in order to improve my understanding of the topic of deforestation. It has drastic consequences on a local and global level and we urgently have to put more attention towards those.
At the same time, I got to understand the concept of a “circular economy” and in which ways it differs from our current economic model. I realized that I could start my own business, become part of this new and amazing concept and hence have a positive impact concerning these issues which had by then captured my heart and mind.
So why hair sticks? I have been wearing and adoring them for years. When I had to decide, what I want to design, I wanted something that is small enough to be sent easily, useful and unique. After I connected all the dots, S A Y A was born!
2. Can you give us a short insight into the production of the hair sticks?
The production of the hair sticks is based on the principles of the “circular economy”:
Recycle | Repurpose | Replenish
Wood is only a sustainable material if it is sourced in a sustainable way. Tropical hardwoods grow very slowly and in low densities. Unfortunately, because of their value, these species are often cut illegally and in high numbers. On my search, I met a group of artisans, who dig out and recycle roots from abandoned Indonesian plantations. These have been left behind by loggers and have little value for the ground.
Hair sticks have been used for many centuries and in various ancient cultures, they provide means of decoration, fashion and a plastic-free alternative to common elastics. The designs of S A Y A hair sticks are influenced by the Indonesian flora and fauna and are made by Balinese artisans.
In order to close the circle of the “circular economy” within my small business, for each sold hair stick up to 10 endangered tree species are planted. We work with the organization GAIA, which works with local communities all over Indonesia.
The finished hair stick is then packaged and shipped by a workshop in Bali in recycled paper and fruit pulp. This workshop only employs women, so they get the same chances and opportunities as men. By doing this, more jobs are being created in Indonesia.
3. Why did you start S A Y A Designs and which values does it stand for?
For me, S A Y A is a medium to explore and push environmental conservation and at the same time it gives me the opportunity to inspire others to do the same. Through S A Y A we want to spark interest and enthusiasm for these topics and invite others to take action with us. I want to develop S A Y A to a platform, which stands up for this beautiful planet and its people.
At S A Y A we take a waste material and convert it into something beautiful and useful. The chance to get money directly to the artisans, NGOs and to support people who work ethically in a time of globalization, industrialization and climate change is an incredible powerful privilege. I believe that we are very close to real changes and personally I am determined to put all my energy into making those happen.
4. With every sold hair stick up to 10 endangered tree species are being planted in Indonesia. Please tell us a bit more about this.
Planting trees is one of the best opportunities to fight problems caused by climate change: Soil erosion, environmental destruction, rising average temperature, low rainfall and increasing CO2 emissions. Our partner organization, GAIA, has its headquarters in Jakarta and two additional offices in Puncak and Lombok. They work together with different communities in Indonesia in order to increase the knowledge of the local population about deforestation. They also work together with big organizations like the FFI and talk on a governmental level. The trees we support through S A Y A sales are endemic species which are planted in the forests of the Rinjani National Park.
5. What does the name S A Y A stand for?
S A Y A means “I” and “mine” in Indonesian. It depends how the sentence is structured. So S A Y A Designs means “my designs”. I loved the word and the fact that it is directly connected with Indonesia.
6. What is your personal advice for more sustainability in our everyday lives and especially in fashion?
One of the most important things that I have recently thought about concerning sustainability is the simple concept of “wanting less”.
S A Y A uses recycled wood and materials, but at the same time the hair sticks are made out of hardwoods which take incredibly long to grow. The basic idea behind S A Y A is to start a conversation and inform about this slow process – about how unique and special these woods are and about how we have to reduce our consumption in order to really appreciate their value. Wanting less, but to love what we have, is very important when talking about sustainability, because we constantly move further and further away from this basic idea.