Shopping With Soul members and sustainability - Samantha Warren
I design printed accessories such as bags, pencil cases and hair accessories. I keep my product shapes simple, as I want the focus to be on my print designs. This approach poses a significant challenge to creating a sustainable product range as textile printing is traditionally a resource expensive process. To counteract this, I aim to be as resourceful as possible when it comes to sourcing and making the most of the materials used in my products. For example, the leather used to make my clutch bags is sourced from merchants that sell discontinued stock which would otherwise have been discarded. Another major project I am currently working on is a collection of silk bags that use 100% natural dyes which is a cleaner and more environmentally friendly process than other printing methods. It's a major challenge, but the makers and brands of today have a responsibility to find ways of making products that are as sustainable as possible.
Was sustainability a consideration for you when you first conceived and started your business, or was this something which evolved over time?
I think sustainability is a primary factor for most designers from my generation and younger. The impact that designers have and the responsibility we bare is something I learned early in my design education, so it's always been there. When working for large high street brands, I was exposed to the realities of large scale fashion and accessories production and I became acutely aware of the environmental impact. Much of the problems arise from the status quo of mass production, which will eventually change as a result of consumer demand and legislation, but until we reach that point, I will strive to make my products in as transparent and sustainable a way as possible.
How easy have you found it to implement environmental and sustainable elements to your business? What have been your greatest challenges with this?
The biggest challenge is the manufacturing industry itself. There is no denying, the established way of producing printed textiles at scale needs to be improved. That's not to say that printed textiles are inherently harmful, they don't have to be. Finding ways to produce products in a sustainable way, that is affordable, that can meet demand, and that can support business is a huge challenge.
A really good example is my current work using natural dyes to create a new collection of bags. There are so many variables when naturally dyeing fabric and so many things need to be considered and controlled, such as duration of dyeing, the volume of water, the concentration of dye etc. I am currently doing this on a very small scale, figuring out the details as I go, and regularly finding new problems to solve in the process. But, bit by bit, an approach that works and is repeatable is revealing itself, which is exciting and can hopefully offer an alternative and sustainable option for my customers.
If you have any changes you would still like to make or further developments planned, what would make it easier for you to make your business more sustainable?
Finding a manufacturing partner to collaborate with on the challenges of sustainable printing would be amazing. I will continue with my natural dyeing and hope to find ways to make it repeatable and hopefully scalable. Also, I’d love someone to design a platform which would allow makers to access materials from sustainable sources or tap into excess materials from other companies.