Interview with Founder Katherine Maunder
Sustainable fashion blogger Nataly Elbaz Björklund asks founder Katherine, some questions about where her inspiration comes from and thoughts on sustainable luxury.
"Founder Katherine Maunder is passionate about discovering handcrafted raw materials to create her unique designs, and has been experimenting with different techniques and material combinations in order to provide her customers with the best possible product.
What is your opinion on the luxury fashion industry today?
I believe sustainability and social responsibility need to be key components of the luxury fashion market today. At Thread Tales Co. we embody a more lasting and emotionally attached approach to Luxury using craft and heritage techniques with a contemporary eye. Luxury fashion needs to be inclusive not exclusive and luxury brands need to lead the way by setting an example.
What motivated you to start your own fashion label?
After may years designing for the high street I decided that producing multiple collections a year to impossible time frames with increasing emphasis on cutting costs is not a fulfilling way to work. I realised that designing thoughtful products with a social and environmental consciousness is where my passion lay.
Whilst teaching traditional birthing assistants in Burma my mother, an inspirational British midwife discovered this incredible material, Hand picked and hand woven from the stems of the Lotus flower. Discovering the Lotus fabric and travelling to meet the community of artisans that weave in it in Myanmar, led me to create Thread Tales Co.
Who makes your scarves?
Our scarves are hand-made by artisans local to Myanmar and Nepal.
Our lovely weavers in Inle Lakes, Myanmar have been weaving by hand and manpower alone for more than 100 years. These skills have been passed from mother to daughter. They professionally start to weave from the age of 15 but watch and learn from their mothers from a young age. 45 year old Daw Sone, was 16 when she started weaving. In the workshop the men are responsible for the translating my ikat designs from paper to thread.
In Nepal, on the other hand, the master weavers Yamin and Sachin are men, originally from Bangladesh. Before weaving they are responsible for preparing the warp according to my design and translating my ideas from paper to cloth. For our hand spun scarves the women spin the luxury yarns on traditional spinning wheels. The dye master has a team who are responsible for colour matching according to our designs using eco-friendly dyes from Switzerland.
As a fashion brand, is it important for you to know every aspect of the manufacturing behind your designs? If so, why?
I only work with manufacturers who share the same values as I do. I visit my suppliers and follow the entire process of production from the source of the raw material to the finishing of the garment. I work with people who are prepared to work with me to constantly improve our practices.
Some people say that ethical and sustainable fashion is too expensive. As a sustainable luxury brand how do you respond to that?
Yes, our garments are on the higher end of the price spectrum. The reason for this is that in order to pay a fair price to the workers at all stages of the process garments cost more. Our products are all hand-made, and it can take up to 3 days to make one of our scarves.
By buying one of our pieces consumers are helping to support Artisan skills and empower weavers, allowing them good working conditions, and the ability to work from home whilst supporting their families.
I encourage customers to buy something that means something. Rather than purchasing throw away fashion products, we are providing customers with a timeless piece they can treasure for many years to come.
What are your favourite fashion brands and/or individuals, whose ethos you most respect and are inspired by?
Stella Mcartney for being one of the few Luxury designers who managed to be innovative in a sustainable way.
Eileen Fisher, for their vision 2020 campaign and their focus on continually improving their environmental and social impact.
Everlane, for there transparency on pricing and suppliers.
In starting your business what was the best advice you were given?
Do something you believe in. The passion will show and don’t give up!
What are yours plan for the future?
In the future, we plan to introduce: new sustainable innovative yarns and fabrics into the collection, men’s scarves, homeware, and yoga accessories. We also want to constantly improve on our social and environmental responsibility.
And finally; What item in your closet do you use the most?
My Thread Tales Co. Handwoven cashmere wrap. It is such a versatile timeless piece, for travel or layering. It’s light enough you can wear it all year around.
My Veja trainers, ethical, ecological and timeless.
What Nataly says:
"The beautiful red scarf that I am wearing is hand-made in Nepal from fine wool woven, cashmere, and yak in a two-tone herringbone weave. The vibrant edging of the scarf is created using a hand-finished fringed. It is extremely soft to the touch and is non-itchy, an aspect that is extremely important to me when wearing knits as I have sensitive skin.
Make sure to keep an eye out for new red scarf additions in the upcoming days, elegant and classic wardrobe additions for the holiday season which can be worn year after year. I know that mine will definitely be starring all season long (and for many winters to follow!)
This keychain is made using remnants from the production of their hand-woven scarves, what a great way to reduce waste!
If like myself you have a lot of love for cozy knits, I would absolutely recommend to invest in a timeless scarf from this lovely brand. I have a few scarves from different luxury brands which I have cherished and loved for many years, but I have to say that they are nowhere as meaningful as the scarf I now own from Thread Tales Co. The knowledge that a beautiful and luxurious piece was hand-made with people and ethics in mind has far greater significance than anything else."
Nataly Elbaz Björklund
Sustainable fashion, ethical luxury, and lifestyle blogger.