What was the catalyst for Seljak blankets? How did you get started?
As best friends and sisters, it was only a matter of time before we collaborated. We came together over our love of resourcefulness and hereby our interest was sparked by the circular economy, where things are built to last and be renewed. We poured our time into understanding closed loop methodologies and wanted to test the new paradigm ourselves. When we came across a mill that had the ability to turn their offcuts into blankets, we saw huge value in the process and its ability to tell the story of circular models. We worked together with the mill to make the blankets that we now sell. We also took the recycling process one step further and implemented a closed loop system. So now we offer a collection service after people have finished with the blankets so we can remanufacture them into new blankets at the end of their life.
Can you tell us about the ethics of the company?
We had a strong ethical lean from the very beginning. We didn’t want to be making anything that was harmful to users, or that exploited the planet’s resources nor the people that did the actual manufacturing. We also wanted to take responsibility for the whole life cycle of our products. As such, using waste as a resource has become our mantra. And local manufacturing has enabled us to ensure our products not only have more impact locally, but that we can ensure the conditions in which our products are made are of the standard that we all would expect. To put it simply, our ethics lie in the mutual benefit for people and the planet and we understand the importance of purpose-driven business for enabling creative, future-proof systems.
What is closed-loop design? And how achievable do you think it is?
A closed loop system differs from the existing take-make- waste paradigm (that is, extraction - manufacture - consume - dispose) and instead, uses a system that uses renewable resources and energy to manufacture items that can be remanufactured at the end of their life to create something of equal or higher value. It is difficult to achieve, and there is certainly a long way to go before it becomes commonplace, but there are some incredible real life examples in companies like Mud Denim, Shaw Floors, Fair Phone and Swedish Stockings that continue to inspire us.
Can you describe what the process of creating a Seljak blanket looks like?
We just wrote a blog about that! Check it out here.
What were you doing before Seljak?
Sammy was working at Gilimbaa Indigenous creative agency and ran multiple projects in Brisbane (including No Lights No Lycra and a community activation space The Box) so her experience has been grounded in community engagement, social enterprise and sustainable project management. Karina was working in artisanal food production in Brooklyn before moving home to establish Seljak Brand with Sammy. Having been trained in Fashion Design, she was well aware of the waste in the manufacturing world (both in food and fashion) which was the catalyst for using waste as a resource,
What would you be doing if you weren’t making gorgeous blankets?
Well unfortunately our blankets aren’t our full time job! Karina works on the marketing team at Australian Ethical Investment to help people understand the power of their money. Australian Ethical invests in companies that are beneficial to people, planet and animals (companies that do things like create energy from ocean tides, and make closed loop carpets with ocean plastic).
Sammy, on the other hand, is currently living in Sweden where she has just graduated from her Masters in Leadership for Sustainability with a focus on implementing closed loop methods in large scale companies. So we wear many hats!
What’s your favourite Seljak colour (aka, who’s your favourite child)?
Such a hard question. We’re pretty in love with our latest addition to the family, the Seljak Pine! But of course, we can’t go past the undyed Original, as you can see all the beautiful colours from past production runs in its rainbow speckles.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Going forward, we want to work collaboratively to create more closed loop products and assist other businesses in reaching circular outcomes. We know we need to draw on a range of expertise to create new systems and we’re working out how to help corporates think differently about how they make, use and dispose of the stuff they make (we are already getting approached by many companies to find value in their waste streams). We want to consult for these companies and take our model to scale so we can spread the impact!