Sisters’ blanket ambition to cut fabric waste
A Coolum Beach fashion designer and her like-minded sibling have been awarded a $30,000 grant to rescue truckloads of used textiles from landfill.
Karina Seljak, 31, along with Brisbane-based sister Sam, 30, in 2016 founded the Seljak Brand, which has diverted more than 3800kg of textile waste to create luxurious and useful blankets.
Their mission is to create a more circular economy where nothing is chucked on the scrap heap.
It was motivated by learning 87 per cent of all disposed textiles were sent to landfill or incinerated.
Karina said she was working in New York in the handcrafted food movement, which was all about making products from local ingredients, while Sam had worked in Brisbane in the social justice sector when they decided to combine their talents.
“We were seeing all kinds of inspiring things popping up all around us and we wanted to do something together,” Karina said.
“We have a very complimentary skill set and way of working and shared values.
“We thought about wool.
“I have a fashion training background and we just went on a little bit of a mission to discover where the wool industry was at in Australia.”
The sisters soon discovered wool was incredibly hard to replicate – a renewable resource that was odour and stain resistant, antibacterial, lightweight, breathable and insulating.
Karina said through a circular loop of reuse they were looking to apply the natural regenerative cycles of forests and other ecosystems to the industrial sector.
The search for a project finally led them to Australia’s oldest textile mill in Tasmania and a 92-year-old weaving mill in Lithuania to weave recycled wool blankets using material offcuts in a closed loop system.
Their Seljak Brand blankets are made from a minimum of 70 per cent recycled merino or lamb's wool and a 30 per cent blend of blend of other fibres such as mohair, cotton and alpaca.
They even collect old blankets free of charge using a carbon neutral courier service.
The blankets are then shredded and spun into new yarn to give new life to an otherwise spent product.
“We have a mission to make beautiful things from waste to exemplify these better systems,” Karina said.
“As well as making and selling products, we also do lots of advocacy work like the climate campaign and we do lots of education work.
“We also work with peak fashion bodies in groups to figure out how we can manage fashion waste better.”
They donate one of every 10 blankets they make to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne out of respect for the world’s displaced people, including their own family connection.
“Our own grandparents had to leave Slovenia,” she said.
So far they have given away more than 280 blankets.
“When we’re making a product as essential as blankets, we thought the least we could do was donate a certain amount of blankets to people who were in need of material aid,” Karina said.
“They (the resource centre) just do really, really great work.
“We’re in conversation with them currently now about how we can partner with them in a more meaningful way, especially with COVID, there are people really struggling.”
One the Seljak’s latest products is the Pressing Matters floor lounger created with Sarah K of Supercyclers that’s made from shredding and compressing textiles waste as part of the mattress recycling industry.
The floor lounger is a combination of felting, moulding, compression and heating/cooling created with no additional chemicals added to the production process.
They hope the lounger can be used in public spaces like libraries, for wellness in places like yoga studios, or for home use in the living room.
The sisters have also crowd funded $32,000 for research and development of other businesses’ textile waste to make more blankets.
Last year they were awarded The Design Files’ Sustainability Design Award.