Tessa Carroll from Ahimsa Collective

Meet Tessa Carroll. Tessa is a co-founder of Ahimsa Collective, a sustainable accessories label using both deadstock and Pinatex to create a product that is both vegan, and good for the environment. 

Starting a label that is ethically made, sustainable and vegan isn't easy by any means. So I've sat down with Tessa to learn all about the process of starting a conscious business and the dreams and goals of Ahimsa. Read on to learn more about why Ahimsa began and some more about the absolute legend that is Tessa Carroll.

What made you start Ahimsa Collective? 
A whole lot of sleepless nights online shopping and morally fighting the choice between plastic and animal products. Ethically, it’s easy to be Vegan, but practically impossible to shop for something that doesn’t harm an animal or the planet.

For us - if you care about the animals then you therefore care about the planet. If you care about the planet then why are we doing things to degrade it? Ahimsa Collective was formed under the banner of Do No Harm and translates from Sanskrit to mean ‘non-suffering’.

We apply this to every aspect of our business and only use materials that place no extra resource on the planet, no harm to an animal and are made ethically here in Australia. 

What is something others wouldn't know about starting an ethical and sustainable business that you think they should?
Prepare for heartbreak. The things I have learnt since questioning the industry I have spent much of my life in are terrifying and I can never un-know what I now do. The good thing is while I can’t take back some of the damage I have contributed to, I can start to make healthful changes and try to impact and influence those around me who are also in a position to do the same.

What has been the most challenging thing you have uncovered since the beginning?
We are all still learning. This is an old industry using new technologies. There has been no-one before us who has used these materials and therefore no-one to turn to for the answers in product development and while this is the most exciting thing to come out of our generation (in my opinion) it also presents challenges as to how best to utilise these materials.

Within the ethical fashion community, there's a big question that we ask which is 'who made my clothes?'. In the scope of Ahimsa Collective, who made your bags? Can you tell us a bit about them?
Our man with the magic hands! We are so lucky to work with one of Australia’s last remaining Titan’s of the industry. Our bag-maker has over 40 years experience making handbags for some of the country’s biggest brands. We were thrilled to find him and won’t be letting him out of our sight anytime soon. Incredibly, while his specialty is in leather-making, his understanding of how the world is changing is just as insightful. He has been so helpful in developing methods for successfully using Pinatex and although he says we’re "crazy” for wanting to use waste, he does everything he can to accommodate our wild ideas.

Best piece of advice you have ever received?
Choose one thing and do it well. Don’t diversify your range until you have refined your main product. Essentially this is the guise “don’t bite off more than you can chew”, refining one idea is worth ten half-cooked ideas.

One tip you'd give to others who are wanting to start their own business?
Firstly, Just Start. It’s simultaneously the hardest and best thing you could ever do. I know, it sounds so cliché but in all honesty it’s nicer than saying “just fucking do it” because over the years I’ve realised throwing caution to the wind and getting on with it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The worst that can happen is that it doesn’t work and you end up with a newfound appreciation for hard work. 

Secondly, what are your values? What makes you tick? Is it the planet? Is it the conditions others live in? Is it the way we treat other species? Decide this and then set about making your business meet these values. Crow about it from the rooftop if you need, people want to know what drove you to do the business so don’t hold back from telling them. In this day and age, Ethics and Values are imperative to the success of a brand. If you don’t have this as a backbone you can almost guarantee defeat since everything we do is entirely transparent, thanks to Social Media.

Where do you envision Ahimsa Collective in the future?
That’s a hard one because we each have so many ideas about how we can change the world, we don't even know where to start. We hope to inspire others to make changes to their lives through their purchases and to their consumption. We hope to inspire the relative industries that are responsible for the health and wellness of this planet (and it’s inhabitants) to change the way they produce things and we hope to continue rewriting the status quo for environmentally friendly businesses. 

What or who inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
Without sounding ‘Earthy’ (because that is precisely the opposite of what we want to be known as); Mother Nature. Born with the curse of wanting to look good, we were brought up to be aware of our impact on this Earth. 

Every day we want to be able to get up, get dressed and go about our day without causing more harm to a planet that is already straining under our existence. Unfortunately, to date, there have been no products available that both satisfy our style whilst aim to reverse its impact. This is our guiding principle and the one that drives us to work hard day after day developing and sourcing materials that in fact benefit the planet rather than just minimising the damage.

Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
Yoga. Day after day. For me, a good day starts with a good flow, checking out of my brain and checking into my body through breath. After that, it’s emails and then coffee. Because, coffee. 

One book everyone should read? Why?
Tracks by Robyn Davidson. My sister insisted I read this book and it reframed my relationship to our country and it’s history. It also proved to me the strength of a woman determined to finish what she started and helped me to identify what triggers my mind and affect my emotions. Which reminds me, I must re-read it. :) 

Are there any other Movers & Shakers our there in your world that you think people should know about?
Yes, all the businesses out there focussed on changing our world for the better! I’d probably start with the two women behind Bob, the sustainable hair salon we get our hair done at. And secondly the incredible duo at Clean Coast Collective who inspire change in our generation through their Beach Clean Ups. We’re currently working on a collaboration with them so watch this space!

If you love Ahimsa Collective as want to learn more, you can find Ahimsa Collective at all of these places: