Spotlight on Ahimsa Collective: shaking up fashion’s status quo one pineapple leaf at a time

Ahimsa Collective is a luxury accessories label, intent on producing products with no harm. We caught up with co-founders Tessa and Susie to find out more about their sustainable mission and their latest collection crafted with some very fashionable plant-based textiles.

 

CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHO YOU ARE & YOUR BACKGROUNDS?

We are Tessa and Susie, co-founders of Ahimsa Collective.

Business partners and friends, we met in a Melbourne Yoga Studio. With a collective history of 10+ years in our respective careers in Fashion and Sales/Management, some would say it was like the left half and the right half of the brain finally becoming acquainted.

Tessa’s life has always revolved around Fashion. Spending most of her childhood in front of a sewing machine, it was an obvious career choice for her. Before she was designing millions of handbags, she was buying them which has everything to do with her Ah-Ha moment.

Tessa is our Creative Director; everything you see from AC. Susie hails from Australia’s motherland, England and was instantly hooked on our white sandy beaches, a much more relaxed way of life and the world’s best coffee. Susie is definitely a coffee snob. When she’s not tapping away on her laptop in a cafe, she is teaching yoga in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

Susie is our Managing Director; everything you don’t see from AC. We share backgrounds in commercial Fashion, Social Media, Sales and Digital Marketing. We don’t share skill-sets. We do share a vision.

Co-founders Susie Hemsted and Tessa Carroll
Co-founders Susie Hemsted and Tessa Carroll

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START AHIMSA COLLECTIVE? WHAT WAS THAT JOURNEY LIKE?

We both stopped buying leather about 4-5 years ago and were perplexed at the lack of sustainable alternatives in the accessories market. Before we met, we had both been working on this business plan individually, researching different types of plant-based or recycled fabrications. 

By the time we joined forces we had both the creative and the business strategy ironed out. It was a natural progression for the puzzle pieces to fit.

The journey was and still is, difficult. We are on a path that no-one has walked before us. This makes it exciting, challenging and incredibly rewarding but none the less difficult and means we rely on marketing and PR greatly.

WHAT DOES YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LOOK LIKE AT AHIMSA? WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF THE JOB?

Our days always start with yoga and coffee. Tessa is based in Melbourne and Susie is based in Sydney. We are digital nomads, so our office will usually be a local cafe scene that inspires us. 

No day is ever the same, so there is no such thing as ‘routine’ but for the last three months we have been working tirelessly producing, landing and shooting our new collection. Being such a young company we have been focused on developing our own Hardware for our handbags which is incredibly exciting. 

The best part of the job is proving that there are better ways to produce and consume. We’re not anti-leather, we’re pro-planet, as such we set out to provide an alternative to the leather and PU accessories market. 

Our ranges are designed to be both sustainable and on-trend for the modern consumer. For us, the best part of the job is seeing our ethos come into fruition. 

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE INNOVATIVE MATERIALS YOU USE TO PRODUCE YOUR ACCESSORIES?

The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters in the world, second only to oil and gas. For this reason, it is no longer enough to just be environmentally friendly, we need to be environmentally beneficial. This is why it is so important to us that our accessories are made of innovative materials such as the ones listed below.

Piñatex: Pinatex® is made from the fibres of pineapple leaves.

As pineapple leaves are a waste product of an existing worldwide industry, no additional land, water, fertilisers or pesticides are needed; as such, the production of the leaves has virtually no environmental impact. 

We choose to work with Piñatex because they are the first plant-based textile in the market and are rapidly evolving their range. We can relate to them because they are a value-aligned, fast-paced start-up who are changing the face of the Fashion Industry, just like us. 😉

Washable Paper: Our washable paper is FSC Certified (Forest Stewardship Council). The scope of this certification covers the first stage of the production chain which is the extraction of the raw material. We use this material because it is made from biodegradable raw fibres and has a leather-grain look about it.

Ecoprene: We line all of our bags in a material we have named ‘Ecoprene’, which feels like neoprene, but is made from Recycled Polyester. This material is very soft, but also very durable, so will withstand the daily handbag rummages.

Deadstock: We are proud to work with an Australian company who intercept discarded materials from Australian fashion houses, and we reuse this deadstock for limited edition collections. 

Collection II half moon mini in smoke.
Collection II Halfmoon Mini in Smoke Pinatex.

WHAT’S BEEN THE BIGGEST ‘PINCH ME’ MOMENT SINCE CREATING YOUR BRAND?

Being interviewed by Vogue. Earlier this year, the Sustainability Editor of Vogue reached out to chat to us about ethical and sustainable fashion and what it means to be a part of this rapidly changing industry.

WHY IS PR IMPORTANT FOR AHIMSA COLLECTIVE? HAVE YOUR GOALS CHANGED MUCH SINCE YOU FIRST STARTED?

A challenging part of starting a sustainable fashion brand is communicating to the consumer and industry our Why. PR gives our ethos and value set a platform for circulation and we hope it inspires buyers to look further into their purchases.

DO YOU FIND IT CHALLENGING TO REACH YOUR AUDIENCE? HOW DO YOU CUT THROUGH THE COMPETITION FOR ATTENTION IN THE GROWING SUSTAINABLE MARKET?

Yes. A major component to our PR and Marketing strategy is collaboration. We believe the only way to create change is to collaborate with like-minded brands and businesses. Working with Flaunter gives us a cost-effective and accessible platform to the mainstream media, which as an emerging brand helps us grab attention in the growing sustainable market. 

WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON FOR AHIMSA COLLECTIVE? ARE THERE ANY MAJOR MILESTONES THAT YOU ARE HOPING TO ACHIEVE IN 2019/2020?

We would love to be stocked on platforms such as Net-Sustain (Net-A-Porter’s edit of sustainable products). We would also love love love to be on the arm of Emma Watson, our absolute ‘It Girl’ for both her beauty and her values.

TOP TIP FOR EASY DAILY LIFESTYLE CHANGE THAT MAKES A BIG ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT?

Always leave the house with a Keepcup, Cloth bag and water bottle, packed in your Ahimsa Collective handbag. This is the easiest way to remove single-use plastics from your life. 

FAVOURITE INSPO INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT THAT WE SHOULD BE FOLLOWING?

Currently we are obsessed with Violet Grace – seriously…..that style. Follow her @violetgrace_

FAVOURITE ITEM ON YOUR WEBSITE RIGHT NOW?

Easily our Ziplock Foldover in Metallic Black Piñatex – pictured below.

YOUR BRAND IN 3 WORDS…

The. New. Normal.

Currently coveting the Ziplock Foldover from Collection II.
Currently coveting the Ziplock Foldover from Collection II.

Find and follow Ahimsa Collective at ahimsacollective.com or @ahimsacollective.

Media and stylists – find, download and request PR assets from Ahimsa Collective on Flaunter now. Create a free account here.