Interview with Sea Jasper

Written by MjauJanuary 13, 2017

How did Sea Jasper start – tell us more about its origins?

Sea Jasper started from a contest organized by AIGA Miami in 2015, the D.eco SUSTAINABILITY COMPETITION.

I had just graduated from MIU with a degree in fashion design and little by little I started to have ideas of making a garment from repurposed materials. At first, I wanted to create an evening dress with bottle caps and fishing nets but beside the fact that it would have been a really fun project to do, I couldn’t see any interest in a larger scale except for an artistic installation.

I had in my garage a bag full of T-shirts ready to give away. They were the free ones everyone gets during events, the ones we wear once and maybe a second time while repainting the house. Having three kids I have a lot of those T-shirts.

I started working with those, cutting yarn, weaving and creating macrame to end up with a beach cover up that was entirely recycled from the t-shirts.

I won the contest and from that moment I was hooked, I started to imagine and explore the infinite possibilities of sustainable fashion.

Sea Jasper, or Ocean Jasper is a gemstone that has the properties of self healing, bringing joy and elevating spirit. It is found only on the coast of Madagascar at the edge of the ocean. The element of water is so precious for our beautiful planet.

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What motivated you to create a business in sustainable design?

While educated myself, I realized that fashion industry is, after oil, the most polluting industry in the world, which is pretty frightening. I think a lot of people don’t know that. A new, clean tee-shirt made of cotton is very harmful for us and the planet. The fact is, half of the textiles are made of cotton, and conventional cotton requires huge amount of water and pesticides. 20,000 liters of water are needed to produce enough cotton for a pair of jeans. For  just one T-shirt, a ⅓ of pound of pesticides are used to grow the cotton needed. In that cotton example, we can add the fact that children are working in the cotton fields, workers are paid way less than a decent livable wage and the cotton seeds themselves are genetically modified organisms.

I think, as designers, we have the responsibility to keep the industry sustainable by using fair trade organic materials, by paying fair wages, and by reusing all material to reduce waste and toxins produced while incinerated.

Sea jasper is using organic natural fabrics in its creations, like linen, silk, natural dyes and Tencel, which is a natural, man made fibre. Along these natural alternatives, Sea Jasper incorporates up-cycled, vintage, reclaimed and repurposed materials like irregular T-shirts (T-shirts that won’t sell because of defects, small holes, stains….). Although these are not organic materials, it is better to use them rather than wasting them.

How would you describe your style to those who are interested in purchasing custom designs by you?

Unique, elegant, and eco-friendly women’s clothing.

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Any advice you can give to fellow women entrepreneurs, especially those with sustainable and eco-friendly business models?

I am still in the beginning phases and do not have much specific advice yet but I would definitely say that you have to be true to yourself, to your beliefs and to keep going.

What has running a business meant to you and your relationship with the environment?

I am becoming more aware of the environment and all the aspects of a business that impact and are impacted by it. We have to be thankful and respectful to our planet. We are her guests and she is very kind to provide us with all the essentials.

In your opinion, what is the main way we can incorporate sustainability into our fashion choices?

Being wiser while shopping, avoiding some materials like polyester, fur, rayon, nylon, PVC…, read the labels, choosing slow fashion vs fast fashion brands.

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Can you give us any at home techniques to spruce up our wardrobe using recycled materials?

For instance, we can give a new life to an old top or jeans with natural stains made from dyes like black tea, saffron, or onion skins. This is easy to do, inexpensive and non-toxic.

How to do this at home:

What you need:

  • Natural fibers top (cotton, silk, linen)
  • 30 black tea bags
  • Large pot for soaking
  • Utensils for stirring
  • One lemon to create some effects on the dye fabric
  • White vinegar to fix the color

Instructions:

  • Prepare the tea, unwrap the 30 bags, attache them together and cut the tags, brew hot water in a large pot and let the tea steep for at least 15 minutes, turn off the heat.
  • Wash the top and keep it wet, to create effects, you can tie the top in different places with some elastics, that will create some patterns.
  • Insert the damp top into the tea brew and swirl it around with the utensil, let it steep for at least one hour.
  • Remove it, rinse it with cold water, remove the elastics and lay it on a flat surface.
  • Use lemon juice drops to create colors discharge on the top, rinse it with cold water.
  • Splash vinegar to set the color and let soak for 15 minutes
  • Rinse again with cold water, wring out the excess of water and put on the dryer on low heat for 30 minutes
  • Iron it

Your new, unique top is ready!!!!! Just be careful when washing it, always use cold water and mild detergent to keep the color.

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What is your favorite recycled material to work with and why?

I am using the irregular T-shirts because there are a lot of them. It is a shame because there is a lot of waste. I have a multitude of colors and white ones which I can dye naturally. There are infinite possibilities when designing with that material.

For my next collection, I am going to use vintage handmade lace. I am very excited to start to experiment with that delicate material and to see what is possible.

From your knowledge and experience what are the perks of thrifting?

Shopping in thrift stores is an unique experience, you can find beautiful gems to create your own unique style. You will never know what you will find, it is always a surprise and something new.

I like to look at the materials because I deconstruct garments to recreate new ones, mixing colors, fabrics and redesigning. I like when the result doesn’t look like it is made from old parts, this is the style i am designing with Sea Jasper.

What are your top tips on how to walk lighter on this planet?

I would say to try to take an small action toward our beautiful planet everyday, maybe a meatless day, walking or bicycling instead of taking the car, reusing packaging, eating locally grown food….

It might be small, but everything makes a difference.

“Small streams make big rivers”.

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