When sisters Karina and Sam Seljak left for a three-month trip to India at the beginning of 2015, they only knew one thing: they wanted to grow a business founded on ethical practices and a circular business methodology. One year on from that trip, Seljak Brand married their interest in ethics with the blankets to create a beautifully soft woolen blanket spun from recycled wool, which they gather from the offcuts of a factory (the name of which the pair are currently keeping secret). Although the idea for a blanket began to germinate long before they left for India, when they visited Tasmania for PANAMA music festival and discovered Australia’s oldest mill, Sam says the trip to India helped consolidate their business ethos.
“We wanted to be able to create something that people knew wasn’t furthering harm on the environment or supporting bad working practices or unethical treatment of workers. So, we had come across the idea of using waste as a resource for blankets, but we hadn’t decided to pursue that path,” says Sam. Until later, of course.
Before launching Seljak Brand, Sam’s first foray into the business world was starting up Brisbane venue The Box, an art space run by eight Brisbane creatives – until it closed its doors in January of 2014. Karina was also adept at running a grassroots business from spending three years in New York City working for Morris Kitchen, a small syrup company in Brooklyn. “Karina and I both have pretty strong branding and communications backgrounds, so that was a really fun part of the process. Then we were able to launch in April with our first products,” says Sam.
During their trip, they had the opportunity to spend five days in a traditional weaving community in the far North-East of India where they observed women weaving using handlooms which had a noticeable impact on the sisters and they began to get to work as soon as they returned home. “When we got back to Australia, we went about the process of putting together a business plan and getting some advice from friends and a couple of mentors about our idea,” says Sam.
What resulted was a range of blankets that are just as attractive on your couch as they are when viewed through an ethical lens. “The idea is that resources should be used in a circular, not linear, way,” explains Sam.
The blankets are made at the very same mill the sisters visited in Tasmania a year ago. They process all of the waste from the factory floor and spin it into yarn to create their beautiful blankets, which are a minimum of 70% Australian Merino Wool and the remaining 30% is “whatever else is on the factory floor, so a bit of alpaca a bit of mohair,” Sam says. “We also use a little bit of polyester, for strength.”
But the beauty of the product is much more than the look and warm feel of the blankets: the girls have managed to completely close the loop on the blanket production.
“Not only will you be kept toasty warm tucked up in the blanket, but you’ll also get the warm and fuzzies knowing that none of the Seljak Brand blankets will end up in landfill,” Sam says. “When you’ve tired of building blanket forts, Sendle will collect your used blanket, free of charge, and take it back to the mill to be shredded and spun into new yarn. In that sense, the blankets are entirely circular.”
This way, the girls have managed to create the ethical, beautiful business they set out to build when they set out on their business-soul-searching trip to India back in 2015.
“I feel that if you’re starting a business in today’s world there are so many issues with the world, you may as well focus on one or a couple of them as part of your business model.”
The blankets are available from the Seljak Brand website and for every ten blankets sold, a blanket will be donated to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
Images: Elisabeth Harvey