Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Interview with Nan, Co-founder of ethical brand Seeker x Retreiver

Seeker x Retriever is a beautiful protest against the exploitive and consumerist attitude of fast fashion, ethically making their clothes to last and be loved. All of their seasonless clothing is hand-crafted in Thailand, where all of the production processes are overseen by their artisans, starting with the hand-weaving and natural dyeing of their cloth. They use only natural dyes from seasonal plants that are native to the area. Their grey colour comes from the leaves of the local Takian tree while their mango colour comes from actual mango leaves!
I also love how their artisans are free to determine the price of their own creations.  

1. What inspired you to start Seeker x Retriever and what lead you to become so passionate about sustainable/ethical fashion?

Fashion has always been a personal passion of mine, even when I was working in media. We originally launched Seeker x Retriever as a vintage clothing store, but then I got the idea to create our own line using handwoven cotton when I travelled to the North of Thailand, where my mother is from. Around the same time I was getting frustrated about how fast trends are changing and wondered why it was so difficult to find classic pieces made ethically. So Seeker x Retriever as a brand was born.

2. What inspired your latest collection, Kakadu? 

The other half of Seeker x Retriever is from Australia and I've always been inspired by the colours of nature and outdoor living, so Kakadu National Park inspired the story behind this collection. We wanted to bring a sense of natural wonder and a care-free feel to the narrative of this collection.

                                         3. Who are the makers behind Seeker x Retriever? 

All of our products are collaborative efforts between us and local artisans. We aim to make Seeker x Retriever a love-story where handmade products are the main characters. Currently we're working with artisan groups in the North and North Eastern regions of Thailand. We only work with home tailors, based in Bangkok, who set their own working times and their own prices. We never do bulk-discounted products, which is what's popular here in South East Asia where brands order large quantities to make production cheaper.

Aunty Nid, who is 58, never thought that making clothes was for her until she was taught how to sew by a local tailor around where she lives in Bangkok.
She saw having her own business as a way to live a more balanced life by getting to work on her own schedule. She loves coconut ice-cream and when she’s not working, she enjoys watching her favourite shows on TV with her husband.
We work with Aunty Nid on a commission basis, where she gets to name her own price and time to make each item. There is never a “bulk production discount” when it comes to her wage. Thank you again Aunty Nid for sharing your skills and growing with us.

4. You describe your clothes as ‘seasonless’ and ‘classic’. How can fashion adapt to become an industry which places value on versatility and longevity instead of trends?

Having previously working in fashion media, I think the industry should take greater responsibility to promote sustainability because these publications are often the starting point when people want to buy something. We need more honest media who promote smaller brands instead of just taking money from the big guns. Instead of writing about "what's new to buy," they should focus more on the stories of the makers.

      5. How have the clothes at Seeker x Retriever been designed and produced in a sustainable way? 

Our pieces are only made with handwoven cotton by artisans. We produce items in small quantities (30 meters = around 8 pieces) to guarantee that there will be no waste. We also use a lot of seasonal dye materials so certain colours are not available at a certain time of the year. 
This year, we will be introducing our recycling initiative where if a customer has worn a certain piece of ours for a certain period of time, they can return it in exchange for discounts on other products. We will then recycle their pre-loved items into one-of-a-kind pieces, whether fashion or homeware.

You can learn more about our process here:

6. Why is it important to know who the people who make our clothes are?

Every product carries a story of its makers. It's important to have this mindset and people need to practise consuming consciously because clothing isn't supposed to be this cheap. It's hard to look past the flashy and beautiful clothes in store and imagine that the person who made this has earned less than 5% of what it's sold for. 

                               7. How would you describe Seeker x Retriever in three words? 

                                                                   Honest, conscious and creative.

Thank you Nan! I love that you emphasise the importance of having an understanding of who makes our clothes and what goes in to making one garment. I definitely feel like this makes me more aware of the value of my clothes, and the lives of the people who make them.

  Beccy x


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