THE JOURNEY OF HOW KATE OF ECOSOPHIA, FOUND HER PASSION IN SUSTAINABLE TEXTILES
I am the owner of Ecosophia, a sustainable interiors brand specialising in organic, handwoven and botanically dyed textiles for the home. I set up the brand in 2015 with the aim of showing how textiles can be used not only to create beautiful homes, but also a more beautiful world. I was driven by concerns about climate change and global poverty, but also by a desire to challenge the view, widely held in the West, that materialism is somehow bad and that decoration – be it of ourselves or our homes is a fun but ultimately frivolous and wasteful activity. I have always had a love of beautiful, wellmade things and this has sat uneasily with my awareness of the environmental footprint of the products I buy. Surely, I have often thought, it must be possible to create beautiful things without destroying the environment in the process?
ORIGINS OF ECOSOPHIA
I started working on the idea for Ecosophia in 2012. I had no clear idea of what the brand would look like, I only had a vision of a world in which textiles enrich the planet rather than destroying it, and I set out to discover how this could be achieved. I undertook courses in sustainable design, international development, and cultural anthropology, and I travelled through India, Bangladesh and SouthEast Asia visiting NGOs and textile organisations that were pioneering sustainable production techniques.
What I learned through this journey was that textile production has huge potential to reduce poverty and increase biodiversity at the same time, and that the greatest effects can be achieved at the level of fibre and dye production.
GIFTS FROM THE FOREST
The most effective techniques that I came across in my journey have now been incorporated into my brand’s initial two collections. The first collection, called Gifts from the Forest, uses a fibre known as wild silk. This fibre is cultivated in the forest areas of Eastern India, home to the country’s indigenous tribes. It comes from the cocoons of silk worms living in the forests (in contrast to conventional silk worms which are farmed) and has the benefit of creating livelihoods for the local people while giving them an incentive to preserve their local forests. In some areas, the growing popularity of wild silk has led people to plant trees on wasteland in order to create further habitat for the silk worms. Wild silk thus creates jobs for people who have few other livelihood options and serves to preserve and in some cases create forest cover.
INTO THE BLUE
Our second collection, called Into the Blue, is made in Bangladesh using cotton dyed with botanical indigo. The indigo is grown locally and contributes an additional source of income to farmers, many of whom are landless and grow the plant along the sides of roads. Indigo is a very hardy plant and can be grown without artificial inputs in soil that is unsuitable for crops. It is also a legume – a particular type of plant that has the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil – and it thus acts as a natural fertiliser. As in the case of wild silk, the production of indigo dye plants benefits both people and the planet in highly significant ways.
A MINDFUL SHIFT
Textile production is currently the source of terrible social exploitation and environmental pollution. A shift toward a mindful approach to fibre and dye sourcing, however, has the potential to change the textile industry’s reputation from one of destruction to one of regeneration.
Organic fibre and dye production in particular, because of its labourintensive nature and location in rural areas of tropical countries, has the potential to benefit some of the poorest people in the world and to make a significant contribution to biodiversity. As with everything, there are many challenges involved, but the potential is huge and I feel very happy to be part of the process of bringing it about.
I will be one of the exhibitors at Threads: Rethinking Fashion.