Relevant selection from the article. Link to the full article at the bottom.
I have decided to ask Zoe Masters, the Oscha founder how “caring” wrap manufacturers live and what they can tell about their principles and aspirations.
Oscha offers and promotes 100% linen slings as ones having a low environmental impact. How popular are they now? Do you believe that a linen wrap can be a substitute to cotton blends, or is it just a good change for summer?
The 100% linens are still popular with more interest over the summer. I guess cotton will probably always be more favoured since it is softer and has a bit more cush, but you really can’t beat 100% linen for breathability in the heat.
My Mum has taken over the job of doing all the dye work, so it’s all her creation now and she is busy investigating new dye techniques for us to develop. We’ve also spent a lot of the last 2 years looking at developing suitable silk screen options, which would allow us to be more creative with the 100% linen, so we hope to bring that to fruition at some point!
Linen is a hardier plant than cotton, so it requires less pesticides etc, plus all parts of the plant can be used. We are also looking at a totally organic linen to use for our cotton/linen blend wraps.
And speaking of cotton – you use different types of it, including organic Pima-cotton. What makes it organic? Is it more Eco-friendly than the other types?
It is organic, and more eco-friendly because chemical pesticides and fertilizers are not used, therefore growth of the crops doesn’t have the same impact on the surrounding environment or the workers.
We have finally found a good source of organic combed cotton in the same weight as our regular cottons, it has always been our intention to switch to organic as soon as we were able so I’m really pleased we’ll be making that shift very soon.
The organic Pima is the best quality cotton out there really, as well as being environmentally friendly, but it was a slightly lighter weight yarn, so perfect for summer wraps.
I admire Oscha for the refusal to use Mulberry and Bourette (unethical ones) silk. You found an alternative in Tussah and other wild kinds of silk. And your silk blends seem to be loved and popular! Are you often asked to make Mulberry-silk slings? Do you think you lose money on this refusal – or, maybe, on the contrary, gain customers and reputation on being unique in this way?
To be honest I wasn’t aware that customers had noticed we haven’t used mulberry silk! In some ways I guess we may lose some custom as we can’t make that super shiny silk wraps that the long mulberry threads can create, it also means that our silk has more grip. Having said that it has meant that we’ve experimented with other silks more and thankfully found the wild silk blend (like SN Nebula), which I think makes one of the nicest wrapping fabrics around. We are still on the lookout for more wild silk yarns to create different fabric types.
Do you consider wool manufacturing ethical? What can you tell about production of wool in your fabrics?
Our wool all comes from suppliers in Great Britain who source the yarns from British & Australian sheep farmers where certain criteria must be met for the ethical treatment of the animals. We have consulted with all of our wool suppliers on this and are satisfied that the animals are treated well.
You believe in working with local suppliers and craftsmen. What material can’t be found nearby and still need a far shipping? Are there possibilities of improving it in future?
Most of our yarns come from Britain, Ireland and Italy, cotton is probably the main one that is hard to source locally.
We have used American combed cotton many times (it’s the thicker combed cotton used in the original Roses Eros and Aphrodite for instance), but otherwise it has come from India, and more recently from Egypt & Turkey. It isn’t really possible for us to do much about this as its too cold to grow cotton in the UK. However, we are about to move onto using only organic combed cotton, so although it doesn’t solve the local issue, at least it addresses other major environmental concerns.
As far as I know, Oscha is the only (or one of the very few) sling manufacturer with such principles. Is it difficult? Do you have customers, who stay loyal to the brand due to its ethics? (Well, I guess you do, it’s me for a start :))
Awww, that’s nice to hear! To be honest we haven’t really received much feedback that customers stick with us for any ethical reasons. However it isn’t hard for us to operate in this way and to continue to try and improve our supply line as it simply feels like the only path for Oscha.
One thing we’ve had a lot of pressure about, especially when looking at making new products that require a lot of manufacturing time, is making things in the UK, and paying a good living wage to everyone concerned. It has been suggested to us many times that we should move production to the Far East or Eastern Europe in order to cut our costs and produce more. Whilst there is obviously value in employing people anywhere, we feel that taking advantage of cheap labour and materials would be exploitative. We want to support our own economy and local community. Also, we could not keep such a close eye on production and quality if we didn’t do it all in-house.
I know that most people (myself included) are used to being able to buy fabrics & clothes very cheaply, the idea of ‘throw away fashion’ is predominant. So it can be difficult to understand why our slings are the price they are, and the price point probably does lose us some custom. The fact is that producing quality items from the finest yarns around and having it all manufactured in the UK is just a lot more expensive. This limits us in some ways, but in order to feel happy with our business and its impact on the wider world and community we feel this is the only way Oscha can operate.