For Seljak Brand, sustainability has been a family affair for decades. It’s a way of life that has been passed down for generations to co-founders and sisters Sam and Karina Seljak.
This sibling duo imagine a world without waste and are finding new ways of making and using beautiful things that are regenerative by design. And since the brand’s inception, it has diverted 4,309kg of textile waste from landfill.
“I founded Seljak Brand with my sister Karina back in 2016. We have been heavily influenced by resourceful living, which goes back to our roots. Our grandparents were refugees from Slovenia and they would do things like use tea bags multiple times, never throw anything out, find a use for everything and repair things rather than buying new things,” Sam says.
“We were also taught the value of local manufacturing by our mum and spent most of our teenage years op shopping.
“Resourcefulness has always been a pretty ingrained part of us.”
While the pair went on their own paths during and after university, they came back together knowing they wanted to start a project.
“We wanted to work on something together, but didn’t want to bring anything into the world that would cause more harm than good. That led us to the circular economy. We did a lot of research and we became really inspired by the circular model and wanted to find a way to create a product in a closed-loop cycle,” Sam says.
“We came across the oldest mill in Australia, down in Tasmania. It was collecting offcuts from its factory floor, shredding them and spinning them into a new yarn – a practice that mills have done for decades around the world.
“We believed that people would find the story inspiring and the aesthetic of the recycled yarn to be really beautiful. We decided on blankets as not only was this a product that could use waste as a resource, it could be remanufactured at the end of its life.”
Seljak Brand’s blankets are made from a minimum of 70% recycled wool.
“This wool comes from wool scraps collected off the factory floor from production offcuts. And more recently we’ve started working with post-consumer textiles waste, so old woolen garments and jumpers that are being turned into yarn,” Sam says.
“The remainder of the product is whatever else is on the factory floor, so it could be mohair, cotton, alpaca, whatever the mill has been weaving into blankets. Then it’s spun with a polyester, for strength. Because we’re recycling fibres mechanically, the fibres become shorter and shorter and so they need to grab onto a strong fibre.”
When originally looking to bring a product to market Sam and Karina were particularly interested in local materials.
“We knew we wanted to use a resource that is local to here and wool has long been a really important part of Australia’s economy. Our Mum’s side of the family were sheep farmers and Australia is known for its wool,” Sam says.
“With that being said, as we’ve grown we’ve started manufacturing in the EU and so we are now using wool waste local to those regions as well.
“When we were looking for overseas suppliers, I was living in Sweden, which meant I was able to visit the mill we work with in Lithuania and take a third-party auditor to ensure that our offshore model was sustainable and ethical.”
Reducing waste is a key component of Seljak Brand’s business.
“Ultimately we have a zero waste production process. We are using waste as the input and any offcuts from our production goes into the next production run,” Sam says.
“We’ve been on production trips to Italy, which is where some of our yarn is sourced, the post-consumer textiles I mentioned earlier. So these woolen garments and jumpers are turned into new yarn in a little village outside of Florence. This region has been recycling wool for over 100 years and are experts at it. In some cases they don’t even need to over-dye the yarn, instead they use the previous colour of the garments and perfectly colour match them to create yarn colours. That eliminates the part of the production process that is water and chemical intensive.
“Beyond eliminating waste, we’ve recently gone carbon neutral, which involved a full lifecycle assessment of our products and also an audit into our business practices to work out exactly what our carbon footprint has been and is. We’ve offset our carbon footprint from when we launched the business until now and will continue to do so.”
Seljak Brand also works with a charity partner to make its blanket production even more responsible.
“We have a donation program set up with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), so for every 10 blankets sold we donate one to them,” Sam says.
“As we’ve grown and are about to hit the five-year mark, we’ve recently announced that this donation will now be monetary – $5 of every blanket sold goes to the ASRC. This was really important to us as it means our contribution can ultimately go further for them.”
The nature of the Seljak Brand’s products means it attracts a wide range of customers.
“Many of our customers are looking for sustainable alternatives to what’s on the market and they are pretty clued in to what some of the ethical and sustainable issues are with textiles production,” Sam says.
“We also have other customers who love Australian wool and love to celebrate wool as the wonder fibre it is. It’s antibacterial, moisture wicking, has longevity and is extremely warm. As a completely natural fibre it’s really an amazing resource.”
Ultimately Seljak Brand is working to create beautiful and useful products that are regenerative by design.
“Using waste as a resource is paramount to our core values, but more importantly, encapsulating the entire life cycle of a product to facilitate the system change that we need in our society. Beyond creating a sustainable product we educate and advocate for a paradigm shift in the way we make and use things.” Sam says.
“This is what Seljak Brand is really all about.”
Find out more and shop Seljak blankets here.