Meet Seljak Brand. Founded by the Seljak sisters, Karina and Sam, their vision is ‘to create a world without waste’ through the production of recycle-made blankets. We sat down with Karina, who previously worked in the low waste, handcrafted, food movement in Brooklyn, and apparently spends more money on repairing her old clothes then on buying new ones (keep it classic, right?). We chatted about the brand, how they prevent waste, the work they do with asylum seekers and her love of This American Life.
How would you describe your personal style?
I’m all about utility, as I ride a bike a lot. I love texture and natural materials. A bit of mohair fuzz over a silk shirt with hearty denim and leather boot is a winter winner for me. I buy less pieces; classics, with the intention to make them last – I spend more on repairs than new clothing!
What was your inspiration behind starting Seljak Brand?
I started exploring zero waste, trans-seasonal and modular concepts at fashion school (I did Fine Arts Fashion at QUT in Brisbane). For a few years after graduating I worked in the local food scene, with Morris Kitchen, in Brooklyn. The handcrafted food movement saw consumers think more about how things are made, and where they come from. I wanted to see this interest in other areas, like fashion. I was also inspired by the way these companies pooled resources, like their waste products, to be bigger and better than they would be alone.
Samantha was the Project Manager at Gilimbaa (an Indigenous creative agency) for 2-3 years, where sharing stories was the essence of every project. Prior to that she ran a community art space in Brisbane. This background fostered her passion for social sustainability and the idea that good design can empower people and communities. She has degrees in Journalism and Economics.
We have complementary skills and have always wanted to start a business together.
You say that you spent time understanding circular economies and closed loop methodologies. Can you explain how these methods work? How did you develop your idea to create an environmentally friendly brand?
The Circular Economy operates outside of the take-make-waste model. Waste can be a resource – an input for another product (hence circularity). Using waste diverts it from landfill and means you do not need to use virgin, or new, materials.
For our blankets to last is the primary goal, through repair and reuse. At the end of this process they can be broken down and remanufactured into new blankets.
Finally, there are solid options to work with renewable energy, or carbon offset companies now. The key is to work these costs in, and ensure you communicate why it’s important.
Our value chain was consciously built to align with the values of the company. It can be hard to retrofit these approaches into existing business models, but that’s where we’d like to help companies.
How did you approach the mill in Tasmania?
We could see the potential in a practice they already had (collecting, spinning and weaving offcuts) to reach a new audience. It was the perfect way to tell the story of how we think things should be made, and how companies can help shape the future. The mill was happy to support, and worked us into the schedule.
Tell us about your work with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Victoria.
Materials Aid at ASRC needs blankets to support their members, particularly in the wintertime. We offer a simple solution that is both physically warm and comforting. We’d like to work in a more interactive way with the refugee community eventually.
How useful have you found social media as an advertising tool?
Wonderful. Our customers share with us and their community how they use the blankets, what they like about them. It’s allowed us to reach other companies, like TOMs Organic, that we really admire. We’ve been able to grow a community of like-minded people, that help us tell our story, and in return, we learn and listen to what our customers want.
Where do you see the brand going?
We’re looking to prove the closed loop process can work for us, have a strong base of closed loop products, and then introduce a service, helping other companies employ similar methodologies.
An app that you can’t live without?
Instagram. A lovely, simple set of windows to explore what’s happening in the world. Also, This American Life is like an endless flow of incredible stories and skilled storytelling.
A typical life in the day of Karina:
A typical day in my life at the moment consists of yoga in the morning at my house or at BodyMindLife in Surry Hills, a coffee at Brickfields a bakery cafe in Chippendale (where I live in Sydney) and off to my studio in Marrickville for Seljak Brand (I work in a ceramics studio which is full of equipment and beautiful table wear pieces at once). There will be Facetime meetings with Sammy and our wool mill, yarn samples strewn about, a measuring tape around my neck.