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This team of world explorers are travelling to exotic destinations to find handcrafting communities and bring you a limited edition of homewares, accessories & travel goods. The goal is to empower artisans and keep age-old skills alive for generations to come. Common Texture is also a showcase of natural and environmentally friendly fibres: linen, banana fibre, cotton and wood. What definitely is not “Common” is to see a brand integrating so many concepts at once: eco-materials, minimalism, long lifecycle, zero-waste, up-cycling, fair trade and handcrafting.
We interview Svintha, one of the wonderful co-founders of this – excuse us – “unCommon” and unique brand. She will share with you the poetry of their travels and dig deep into the blend the colours, texture, patterns and ethos. A promise is you will understand how collaboration with craftsmen and women look like. Hope you enjoy this interview as much as we did!
Hi Svintha, what is your background and what made you and your co-founders start Common Texture?
Myself (Svintha Bootsma) and the two other co-founders of Common Texture, Hop Phan Stierli and Gail Barratt, met during our years living in India where we formed a firm friendship based on a common love of Indian travel and the array of lost trades it had to offer. We are a real cross-cultural partnership; a melting-pot of French, Dutch, Swiss, Vietnamese, English and Australian. Between us, we have career backgrounds in Graphic Design, Textiles and Social Media Marketing.
What is the mission behind Common Texture?
We want to create a quality collection of homewares and accessories that would last the test of time; classic pieces with a modern feel that preserve generational crafts. We support craft communities around the globe and celebrate their master skills. We aim to provide inspiration to new generations of artisans, keeping age-old skills alive for generations to come. Our production is limited edition and ethically made, respecting our planet and the talented artisans who help us create our collections.
You travel the world to find artisans and the most sustainable materials and practices. How does your journey look like?
The best part of our job is exploring the vast, unknown lands in search of inspiring craftspeople. When we find that perfectly humble, awe-inspiring artist, it’s like the days of dust and heat slide from our memory. A choir of angels chimes in harmony and ‘BAM!’, we have an idea. A ‘light-bulb’ moment of how we want to collaborate with the gem that stands before us. We want to make beautiful products for the world, which do not need to be produced in factories with inferior materials. Keepsakes cultivated from exotic destinations. The use of interesting sustainable materials like our banana fibre twine keeps us inspired and creative. We apply a zero-waste concept to our creation process, using upcycled materials wherever possible.
Would you explain some facts you have learned about countries, artisans and sustainable materials used?
Mostly we use crafting communities that are independently run by the families living in small villages. We are anti-mass production, we feel that mass production consumerism beats down people’s individuality as a consumer and a producer. Imagine the tedium of creating a single product 10,000 times, it breaks the human spirit. We don’t want to put that kind of pressure on our small collective artisans, we prefer they guide us with what’s achievable. We run smaller batches and repeat if required or try different products or variations keeping everyone inspired.
We personally like to visit all our collaborative studios, we get to know our artisans and their processes. Our choice to only work with small fair trade studios and ethical workplaces is a deliberate one and the only one that makes sense to us.
What are the biggest challenges faced when working with artisans in different countries?
Collaborating in foreign countries has its challenges that’s for sure, there are vast cultural nuances when it comes to doing business. What we try to practice consistently is to treat our artisans with respect, humanity and fairness. Not only to build a rapport for future business but to help sustain the small communities where our artisans live. In doing this we hope future generations will be inspired to take these generational skills to the next level. On a lighter note in dealing with a rich tapestry of people on a daily basis does lead us into some humorous situations. Even the most mundane task of searching for the perfect zipper can turn into a full day adventure, involving the removal of a stubborn sacred cow from the doorway of the shop in a bustling laneway. Which in turn took five men and two vegetable vendors to lure the cow off with carrots. After which we all sat for a sweet cup of chai, exchanged pleasantries about our respective countries and only then could the theatre of haggling begin.
What are your favourite sustainable materials used at Common Texture? And how does the creative process look like for each collection?
One of our absolute favourite sustainable materials is relatively unknown banana fibre. We discovered this natural thread on one of our travels through South India at a gorgeous little weaving nest and we were simply mesmerized by the nimble fingers weaving banana fiber rope into all manner of products. A small group of women sat on the floor forming a weaving circle, chatting whilst working, rocking babies wrapped in sari’s and manning a small shop. The entire house was painted white with curved concrete walls, which showed off this natural sustainable fibre beautifully. We learnt they were a village co-operative and, with the help of a very dedicated leader, they were learning to create some rather modern products from this very ancient technique. It didn’t take long for us to partner up and start creating our own designs for our brand. One of the most adorable things was to find each woman’s name on a piece of paper inserted into each of our Common Texture weaved clutch bags, our customers receive this name whenever they purchase from us. It’s a connection to your maker.
To be honest, this is how most of our products are being created, we are always on the lookout for craft communities to collaborate with. We always meet the artisans first and then start the creation process with them, the personal connection with the people and their craft is what drives us.
As we travel often we get a chance to explore the world. We have found beautiful woven bangles in the jungles of Malaysia made from sustainable rattan fibre but we also do a fair share of the work ourselves. When we find some great quality fabrics, for example, our minds start spinning with ideas for new products. Gail is a talented seamstress and Hop a leather crafter, giving us lots of room to try and create.
What is the whole range of products we can find at Common Texture?
Our collection exists of homewares, such as pure linen bedding, decorative hand block printed cushions, throws and table linen to accessories for men and women including woven bags, bracelets, earrings, linen robes, travel goods and yoga mat bags. We only use quality natural fibres for our product range such as linen, banana fibre, cotton, wood and leather.
What kind of packaging do you use for your products?
It’s very important for us to try to be minimal with our packaging avoiding plastic. Our choices matter and we opted to take care of the shipping process ourselves to ensure no unnecessary materials are used while each order gets packaged with love by one of us. We use our screen printed cotton tote bags for customers, giving our packaging a second life.
What does your brand stand for, in the world of fast fashion and mass production?
We see our customers as ethical conscious shoppers who appreciate good design in timeless products. A lot of thought goes into being able to blend the colours, texture and patterns so that our customers can enjoy the possibility to mix and match making our products last.
We describe our products as an intrepid collection of handcrafted homewares, accessories and travel goods. We don’t want to produce disposable seasonal goods and that ties back to our philosophy of ‘embracing the beauty in the handcrafted’. Say no to mass production, how long do cheap pieces really last and who had to suffer to produce that fast fashion piece? The workers, the environment? Isn’t it comforting to know how and where your purchase is made? Learning the story behind the product, that’s what our brand stands for.
You are based in France, how does a social entrepreneurial venture look like there? Do you feel there’s a change happening in the country?
Social entrepreneurship in France is definitely booming and we feel like social entrepreneurs are better recognized by the public as well. An increase in stores with fairly made products is evident and larger department stores are now also stocking slow fashion brands. When customers are demanding better products, stores will follow.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to other businesses trying to make a difference for good?
The hardest thing about being an online business is that people can’t feel your products before they buy. Our collections are very textural, so most people are blown away by the quality and feel of the products. Some people just gasp and say… ’oh I didn’t think they would be this luxe.’ Conveying that online is our biggest challenge, our advice would be that stockists are your friends. Opt for stores that stock fairly made products so it’s easier to get your message across.
If you could write a message on a big wall that the entire world could read, what would it say?
We all came up with one.
“Embrace the beauty in the handcrafted.”
“Use me, love me, pass me on.”
“Buy less buy right”
Finally, where can we find Common Texture? Shops, online, worldwide…?
Our full collection is available online on our website commontexture.com and we ship to over 50 destinations worldwide with free shipping to Europe and Australia. You can find a selection of Common Texture products in stores in France and Australia.
Is there any other similar brand you know or are curious about? Comment below, and we will make it happen!