Interview with Tessa Carroll from Ahimsa Collective
The fashion world is changing drastically, with the removal of fur from some of the biggest fashion houses in the world. The new technology that is available for textiles and fabrics removes the need to harm while remaining on trend. The use of plastics to make synthetic materials is now common, however, sometimes overlooked is the disastrous effects on the planet when disposed of.
In steps ‘Ahimsa Collective’, a trio of ultra-chic fashionistas hell bent on delivering high-quality fashion, on trend, but completely ethical and sustainable. We had the privilege of speaking with Tessa Carroll about how the journey began and what is coming.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in Fashion
When I was 7 years old my mother taught me how to sew. And I decided then and there, that I would work in the fashion industry.
I was one of the lucky people or unlucky, that I had very much tunnel vision as to what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. A lot of people are jealous of people who know what they want to do their whole lives, I would be jealous of someone who had more of an open mind.
I knew my whole life I was going to work in fashion and I chose every job that I had to get there. I worked in Spotlight for years and studied fashion, then started my first business at 18. Now I find myself at 30 starting a new brand again, so it’s very exciting.
Why did you choose fashion as your platform for making a difference in the world?
I have always been governed by fashion. It’s not something I am proud of. But it’s the truth. I’ve also always been governed by the planet and all the things that happen in nature and the outdoors. So marrying those two things has been a lifelong dream of mine and there is just such a gap in the market.
There’s literally no options out there for people who are fashionable but also care about the planet. You look to the leaders of the world like Patagonia, who developed so many products for people who love the outdoors and they use waste and textiles that complement the outdoors where they insist on a lower level consumption.
But there is nothing in the fashion industry. There is no garment production out there or accessories range that is fashionable but also does not hurt the planet. Or even aims to reduce the imprint on the planet. For me, that was the dream for many many years.
What is the most exciting thing about working in this industry?
I think that the most exciting thing about this industry is technology. I never thought I would say this, I always thought I was born in the wrong era, brought up years too late. But now that technology is finally caught up, it’s the most invigorating time to be in the industry. With all this technology we have developed new textiles and using the resources we have in the planet to create new ones again. That’s got to be the most exciting thing for the industry.
Why did you use vegan leather and what’s the difference?
Vegan to start with is such a hugely bandied about word these days but a lot of people come to the veganism from many different ways. I came to it from sustainability. My business partners came for ethics and the other came from health. So for us, veganism was the absolute pinnacle, as our driving ethos.
We chose vegan leather for all of those reasons. Our leather is completely different to the current market which is the PU market. The leather, or non-leather that we use it’s actually called Pinatex, a Pineapple plant-based fabric.
As Pinatex will tell you, they don’t like to be defined as a leather, for many different reasons. The main reason is that it has nothing to do with animal products, so they don’t like. It confusing the market with that word and our plant-based material biodegrades, unlike PU and PC’s in the world.
We define our product as being environmentally beneficial which makes our Vegan Leather or non-animal product, head, and shoulders above what’s available out there.
One thing that you can look at from a vegan perspective is if you care about the animals, then you care about the planet. If you care about the planet, then why are we doing things that degrade it.
And therefore why are we creating more plastic that will never ever break down.
How did you discover Piñatex®?
It’s a tiny industry it’s so small and new that even our product testing has been tried and tried and tried again. It hasn’t been an easy path.
I discovered Pinatex® through Facebook, to be honest, all those great gurus of Facebook who rant on about new technology or what have you. Originally, I wasn’t sure about using Pinatex, just because I couldn’t get my hands on any. Now I’m really excited to use it!
I am also looking forward to mushroom leather becoming available. That’s our next step. It is made from mushrooms but it’s not the skin, unlike pineapple skin, its a completely different topic.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
One of the things that we abide by in the ahimsa collective is to live simply. So our inspirations come from developing products that you need a lot of. Every single product can complement each other. They connect to each other. They don’t have to be worn together, they can be worn separately but there is nothing unnecessary about them. That comes down to the handles that come with the bags and the pockets within them. Basically simplifying your life.
One of the things that we always laugh about is that when we first started this brand we were in the market for clutch bags for weddings. As we got further and further into this concept of biodegradable, environmentally friendly leather we realised that if an ahimsa girl was going to carry a bag, she’s going to need her KeepCup, her cloth bag, and her water bottle in there. So lets not just produce a clutch bag, let’s make that a pencil case that goes inside the tote bag.
That’s the most inspirational for us. It’s something that’s a go-to, easy functionality, as well as looking good.
What’s behind the name Ahimsa Collective?
Ahimsa is Sanskrit in origin. It’s defined in the Sanskrit language as being ‘non-suffering to all beings’ but we apply the word Ahimsa to our treatment of the planet, the beings, and the people.
We don’t use animal products, everything is environmentally beneficial and everything is ethically produced. So for us, ahimsa is non-suffering as a whole.
What advice can you give people starting out on the green journey?
Three things: KeepCup, water bottle, and cloth bag. Don’t leave the house without them. They’re such small things but they make such a huge difference and you notice it as soon as you order coffee you realise you’ve got a takeaway coffee cup in your hand and you know there’s nothing you can do with it.
The other day we were walking down the beach and there was this woman trying to take a photo of the coffee cup she had in her hand on the beach.
My sister and I just looked at each other and said how ironic, that plastic will end up in the ocean eventually, but you’re marvelling at this beautiful coffee cup that you have in your hand looking out onto this beautiful ocean.
KeepCup, cloth bag and water bottle, they are the three smallest things that you can do and they make all the difference.
Well we are obviously starting with an accessories brand, and we’re coming out with two products, then we release the next two. We hope by the end of 2018 have full range of 10 to 12 different handbags. Then what we’re going to men’s ranges.
As you can imagine it’s one of the most exciting things doing men and women’s ranges. We have a lot of other things in the pipeline, but currently focusing on one thing as per business 101 will tell you. Do one thing and do it well, then start the next.
Ahimsa Collective officially launches on the 8th March 2018
Pre-orders will are available now.
Visit ahimsa online:
Image Source: Greta Carroll