Sustainability is a miscellaneous concept and there is only one way to use it flawlessly: buying nothing. Any other way is just us trying our best. So, let’s start with admitting it first.
We are romantic creatures and we do love attributing emotions, meaning or memories to objects. In that manner, we have always wanted to possess things and keep them around us. Turning it into an obsession is a relatively new thing, though. The more we are isolated from the nature, the more we get sucked into the material world. As a result of this, we are now standing at a critical point that the consequences of our actions are visible, measurable and irreversible impacts on the planet.
We believe that sustainability is basically taking a step back from there and reducing our ecological footprint in any possible way. Whether it be going zero waste, cycling to work or using solar energy, they all serve for the same purpose: preserving the ecological balance of our beautiful planet while maintaining our daily routines and fulfilling our emotional needs.
Since we wear clothes all the time, building a sustainable wardrobe is also substantial in order to reevaluate our footprint on nature. But, what is a sustainable wardrobe, anyway? Does it come as a pre-packed set of garments that we go and buy from the mall? Is there any sustainable fashion formula that suits for all and gives instant relief of conscience? Or is it one of those fashion trends that temporarily charms and fades away? No, darling, it is highly personal, you have to work on it and it takes time. Besides, the life on Earth depends on it too, which makes it more than just a fashion trend, obviously.
It is basically creating a personal dress code that feels the best, while carefully curating garments according to their features such as materials, manufacturing standards and impacts on society. You are the only one who knows what you love to wear and what makes you feel comfortable. So, the first step is refining your sense of style based on your feelings and needs. Don’t buy or keep anything that you are not sure about or don’t wear anymore. Secondly, you should be aware of what you are buying and how they are made. Always check the materials and buy the ones that has less impact on nature while being manufactured and/or when discarded. If possible, prefer brands with social responsibility. Do it yourself, recycle, reuse, repair and donate. Get off the fast fashion track.
Besides implementing these principles in our own lives, we have also created a brand, sat-su-ma, to meet them. It’s not perfect, it won’t be able to save the world (wish it could) but, at least, it represents the ideal of a clean product that has a transparent manufacturing history, that uses eco-friendly materials and processes available in the market and that always appreciates human labour.
Cotton is a shrub so supremely useful that it has been cultivated for thousands of years. But it’s not the easiest plant to grow. It’s prone to blight, while the fluffy bolls provide cosy nests and food for insects, both of which can render cotton useless. Worldwide, the cotton industry uses 10 per cent of the world’s pesticides and a shocking 22 per cent of the global stock of insecticides -on a crop that takes up just 3 per cent of the world’s agricultural land. And it gets worse. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), chemical pesticides kill 20.000 farmers a year, of whom 99 per cent are from developing world. The impact on the natural world is even worse. It wipes out the birds, animals and insects that populate agricultural land (1). These chemicals seep into our water supply and impact our soil by producing a surface level of salt that sits on the top layer of soil and makes that plot of land virtually unusable for growing anything else.
It takes around 150 grams of pesticides to grow the cotton for a single conventional T-shirt. Multiply that by how many T-shirts you have and that basic T-shirt no longer looks like a harmless souvenir.
The simplest definition of organic means that the product doesn’t utilise any pesticides or fertilisers. Buying organic clothes helps to ensure that our planet’s soil and water won’t be poisoned with pesticides.
At the moment using chemicals to grow, process, and finish the materials used to produce apparel are often cheaper than their organic counterparts, but the real costs are deadly. Fortunately, as the industry embraces the use and production of organic materials, the costs will come down and their accessibility will go up (2).
For our clothes, we supply the organic cotton locally, -grown in our homeland, Aegean coast of Turkey. Since mid 2000s, Turkey has ranked in the top four in terms of organic cotton yield per year around the world (3). So, we work with a prestigious local company with accountability for fair wages and standardised safe working conditions in İzmir, Turkey. Not only using organic cotton to keep our water and soil clean, by supplying everything locally we also reduce our carbon footprint caused by transportation and support fair trading and local economy.
We borrow our colours from nature
Natural dyeing is one of the oldest crafts of humankind. Up until synthetic dyes were invented a century ago from today, the nature was our only source of colour.
Today, there are more than ten thousand synthetic dyes commercially available, and experts estimate that 12 to 15 percent of these toxic dyes are emitted as liquid waste or sewage during the dyeing and finishing processes. With a standard dyeing process, fibres are prepped for dyeing with bleach and coated with chemicals so that dye remains intact on the finished products to give them their vibrant colour. The process off-gasses nitrogen and sulphur dioxides, chemicals that can wreak havoc on the environment when released into water systems.
The consequences of synthetic dyeing are significant. The global textile industry discharges 40.000 to 50.000 tons of dye into the water system every year (1). These effluents greatly disrupt our ecosystems, pollute our water streams, leach chemicals into our soil, cause skin irritations, and, more seriously, have carcinogenic implications (2).
On the other hand, throughout the history we have mastered on natural dyeing and obtained a large spectrum of remarkably vivid colours from plants, fungi, lichens, invertebrates and minerals. Although the old recipes are still here, our expectations and lifestyles have changed so much that we have almost abandoned this craft.
Natural dyes are genuinely organic. They can be disposed directly into soil, because they are basically derived from the earth itself. By doing this, you also enhance the fertility of soil since natural dyes are rich in organic compounds. When compared to its synthetic counterparts, natural dyes are more likely to lead the way in sustainable practices for the future of textile dyeing.
This is why we hand-dye each sat-su-ma piece in our studio with organic certified plant dyes, such as pomegranate, madder, cutch and indigo, that are being sustainably grown in North India. We use a revolutionary natural dyeing technique, -cold dyeing. This is a modern twist to natural dyeing, that greatly lowers energy and water consumption, since traditional methods involve hours of fabric boiling.
Keeping it ‘simple’
As we mentioned earlier, mass consumption of goods and turning this behaviour into an obsession are relatively new to us, if we consider our history on Earth. And we made a truly remarkable impact in such a brief period of time. Now it seems we have no other choice than becoming more self conscious and making better decisions.
We believe that the concept of simplifying our lifestyle, meaning, being able to distinguish our greed from our true needs is a good start for it. Once we achieve this mindset, it becomes impossible to act relentlessly.
We have set up our business not to make huge amounts of money, but to create a brand that can survive without compromising any of our principles, even if they are really hard to handle in terms of running a business in today’s conditions. We know that things will change. They must change.
We design our clothes for a decluttered, refined lifestyle. Multifunctional pieces with clean and simple cuts for an effortless and easy look. You may call it unsensational, or you may say it’s a naive utopia, but we do think that it’s the outcome of emotional stability and self-awareness which is our sole remedy for survival. So, we prefer imagining such future while creating our designs, rather than a wasteland dystopia.
Clothes are not only good representatives of our emotions, but also they influence our feelings and thoughts with their colours, shapes, fabrics and ideals behind them. This is the simplest explanation why we should be conscientious while choosing the clothes we wear, -or making them for you to wear. You know what they say, buy less, but better.