We chat to the team behind Ahimsa Collective about how it all started, being a sustainable business and creating the new normal.
What inspired you to start Ahimsa Collective?
As three founders, we individually shared the same desire―better options from the fashion industry.
Leather handbags and accessories were the norm and that didn’t sit well with us. We also didn’t want to purchase alternatives made from PU because of the environmental impact and harmful emissions from the manufacturing process.
Individually, we searched for alternatives that were ethical to both animals, human workers and the environment; but without compromising on design and aesthetics. We wanted a look good/feel good product. We couldn’t find anything, knew we couldn’t be the only ones searching, so thought….why not make it ourselves? That’s where the Ahimsa Collective journey began.
We first collaborated 18 months ago, formally launching in March 2018. We have to remind ourselves that we’re not even a year old, as so much has happened in such a short space of time.
What have been the highlights & challenges so far?
As we are working with innovative materials, it’s been a challenge sourcing these materials, as they are in high demand and have low production runs. Once we finally have our hot hands on the materials we want to work with, then comes the challenge of building products from materials that haven’t been used before. Most machines are made for leather and it is trial and error whether something if going to work or not. We have had to become very creative and adaptable.
The highlight has been the incredible support we have had along our journey. People really believe in what we are doing and want to get involved and help, which has built such a strong community around the brand.
Tell us more about your products
The primary materials in our products are essentially ‘waste’, which is different to other items in the accessories market.
Our Pinatex range is the result of a process where pineapple leaves from existing pineapple farms, are stripped into fibres and then pressed. Our Vinyl range uses remnants from the fashion industry in Australia.
We work with some incredible people who intercept these materials from going to landfill, because the original owners changed their mind or no longer needed this material. We scoop it up and produce very limited-edition collections.
We also use post-consumer water bottle material for our linings, taking those very unnecessary plastic water bottles from our oceans and land and turning them into a neoprene feeling material, which we have named Ecoprene.
In addition, we have recently released a washable paper collection. The sourcing of this paper ensures no clearing of the Amazon or natural ecosystems and is also as strong as a leather option. Plus, if you spill your rose` on it, it wipes right off!
We see ourselves as being different in that we aim to not only bring transparency to the fashion industry by trying to reduce its environmental footprint, but also attempting to reverse it.
How important is sustainable and ethical design for Ahimsa Collective and how do you incorporate this into the business and your products?
Extremely. It’s a question we put against everything we do. From day to day processes to product production and even shipping options for how we get our products out to our customers. We implement no-plastic rules from an internal office point of view, through to externally partnering with Australia’s first 100 per cent carbon neutral and certified B Corporation delivery service.
Each product is handmade to reduce the mass production and impact fast fashion has on the worlds waste. We recently posted a Blog post about fast fashions impact on Australian charities due to the cheap materials they use, so we see the slow fashion model as a sustainable one.
At the end of a products life, we encourage our customers to send back any items they no longer need, so we can break them down and recycle every component. We are so aware of the vast volumes hitting our landfill and want to ensure that AC offers a closed loop alternative.
What kind of stores can we find your products?
We are currently stocked on a number of online retailers. Each follows our same ethos of non-harm and ethical fashion choices, as well as offering a range of high-end luxury products.
We currently stock on Ethical Gallery, Thread Harvest, Velvety, Lekker Project and will be stocking with Neena in early 2019.
What has the feedback been so far?
We have been very fortunate to have been given very positive feedback so far; from those that have seen our products, and those that have already purchased.
It’s always a buzz when we introduce our brand and what our products are made from, because people’s reactions are priceless. It’s something that’s quite unheard of, especially in Australia, so we are proud to be one of the first Australian labels to be doing what we do.
Where do you see Ahimsa Collective in 5 years’ time?
In 5 years, we would love to see the materials we are currently using (and new options―mushroom & apple leather are making noises) becoming the ‘norm’ within the fashion world.
We don’t see what we are doing as a trend and want other brands joining forces. We want to help create the new normal.