Jyoti from WE-AR
WE-AR is a conscious business I've been following since I first began my journey into the realm of ethical fashion. They've been in the game since 2005 creating mindfully made yoga wear, fashion and accessories, without compromising on ethics. You can read more about them in my Brands For Good write up here.
So I'm incredibly excited to not only be able to feature such a beautiful label that I use on the daily (their yoga mats are my absolute fave) , but also have the beautiful founder Jyoti sit down and answer some of my burning questions.
What made you start WE-AR?
I wanted to do something hands-on that addressed the gap between activism (humanitarian and environmental) and business.
What is something others wouldn't know about creating an ethical business that you think they should?
It brings you deeply into some of the profound aspects of human suffering. Everyone is more or less engaged in a survival struggle and the intensity of this - and what will be risked to ensure survival changes in marginalised areas where development has been thwarted by either environmental challenges or (perhaps more commonly) corrupt political and corporate agenda.
What has been the most challenging thing you have uncovered since the beginning?
All production is essentially using life to create a product that is sold, used and then disposed of - it's the entire life cycle of a single product that matters. This includes how it touches each individual and natural system in the process - it's vast and complex to make something meaningful that is a benefit to the ecosystem in which the raw materials are grown, the makers, the users and then the ecosystem in which it decomposes. The cradle-to-cradle design is the only truly holistic way to approach design and its a constant touchstone of inspiration and of course, the hugest challenge!
Within the ethical fashion community, there's a big question we ask which is 'Who Made My Clothes?' - In the scope of WE-AR, who made your clothes? Can you tell us a bit about them?
At WE-AR we are intimately involved with everyone who sews our garments. Our creative workshop in Canggu, Bali is a hub where the sewers come to learn about the new styles and receive the patterns and the fabric to make them. They collaborate with our Garment Tech and Pattern Maker to understand any particularities, technical details or finishing that are new or specific to an individual garment.
Once they understand the brief they go back to their own workshop and make a sample which is then brought back to us to check before they take the bulk fabric and get to work on a line of garments. If they come across challenges in the process they just come and talk to us so we can resolve things together.
In this way, we have a one on one, personal relationship with the people who make our clothes. We actually make them together. They are not anonymous faces somewhere in the world. They are our suppliers but also our daily workmates and we celebrate our victories together - usually in Indonesian style by eating fruit, cakes, and fried snacks whilst drinking iced tea around our central cutting table. As a B-corporation, we have strict ethical and environmental conduct (links to all documents are on our ETHOS page) that we require our suppliers to understand and work with us to achieve.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
Follow your heart and if it doesn't feel right, then it's not.
One tip you'd give to others who are wanting to start their own business?
Be crystal clear in your motivation. Know why you are doing something and dig into the circumferential impact of what you're planning to do. Understand that every action is a stone dropped into shared waters whose ripples affect everything. There is no such thing as 'over there' and no such thing as 'too small to have an impact.' Your actions affect everything. It's powerful and profound to be you and it comes with a responsibility.
Where do you envision WE-AR in the future?
Working more directly with the small-scale farmers who grow the materials for our yarns as they are really the front line of ecological transformation - the individuals called upon to take the biggest risks with the least insulation against failure. We'd also like to expand our store presence a little further so we can connect more directly with the tribe in different cities.
Who or what inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
The people around me - my husband, my mother, my friends, colleagues + collaborators and the natural world - what my mother calls 'life's longing for itself'.
Do you have a morning routine? If so, what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
I'm honestly a bit anarchic about routine. I like just doing what I feel like most of the time haha. I mean there's obviously things like if I'm on Waiheke I always drink some water and then do a little yoga, take a shower and then drink espresso, read The Guardian and try not to check email and social media.
I'm kind of obsessed with breakfast food so I often make myself poached eggs with whatever is ready in the garden. Once I'm on the ferry I usually plug into WE-AR - we use slack as a team communication platform so I check in with what's going on, check our social streams, answer the easy emails etc so by the time I arrive in the office I'm ready to connect with my team and work on our collaborative projects.
In Bali it's a bit different because we have great studios so I normally wake up and go straight to a 7am yoga class and then out to breakfast before heading to our workshop for the morning session with my team. I guess the key features seem to be: Yoga, Coffee, Eggs + Greens.
One book everyone should read? Why?
'The Spell of the Senuous' by David Abram (available from the Book Repository). It places humans back into the natural world which is the key to restoring the reciprocity that underlies real sustainability. Put another way, huamsn are part of a community that includes other species and the landscape we live in but we have isolated ourselves from our community so we are standing outside the key relationships that fill us and nuture us. It's time to step back in and David Abram shares this vision with exquisitie clarity and arching beauty.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
The problem is there are just so many amazing people doing amazing stuff to usher in a new era of connected living. Here’s a list of just some of them with a massive local focus because that’s real and feels meaningful to me as I sit here in a native forest watching raindrops falls from punga fronds.
FYI - not in order of inspiration!
- Charles Eisenstein -writer + speaker ‘Sacred Economics’ and ‘The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible’ amongst others. Charles speaks the language of my heart and is calling out for us to establish or intimate relationship with nature
- Tara Judelle and Scott Lyons -co founders of Embodied Flow
- Kay Baxter -co-founder of Koanaga Institute which has been saving heritage seeds for 30 years and in NZ and therefore hold the master key to renourishing + safe guarding our food supply with much needed biodiversity
- Adi Shanti -amazing interpreter of the school of Kashmir Shaivism
- Vicky Robertson -our new CEO for Ministry of Environment
- Melissa Clark Reynolds who is in deep in Regenerative Agriculture -particularly moved by how she (as a vegan) is (amongst other things) an independent director at Beef and Lamb NZ
- Yoseph Ayele founder of Edmund Hilary Fellowship + co-founder of New Frontiers
- Mathew Monahan -co-founder of New Frontiers
- Rosie Walford of Big Stretch -leadership coaching
- Kashmir Postel -Waiheke environmental advocate focussed on urgently reducing plastics
- Kayla Greenville at Conscious Action (NZ)
- Laurie Foon founder of Starfish clothing and now at SBN
- Gypsy Wilson-Webster -founder of the Shady Shack (bali) -bringing vegan mainstream
- Megan May -founder of Little Bird + educator
- Camden Howitt and Sam Judd of Sustainable Coastlines
- Kazu Nakagawa -Waiheke Artist
- Kara Leah Grant -founder of The Yoga Lunchbox
- Claire Robbie - founder of No Beers Who Cares (in NZ)
- Janelle Brunton Rennie -ethical PR -out there shouting it out ;-)
- Brianne West -founder of Ethique
- Elena Brower -yogi + speaker
- Gosia Piatek (founder of Kowtow) for her commitment to organics and ethics from the start