I have cut down how much I talk about fashion around here significantly. That’s partly because I want to embody the minimalist and mindful philosophy I so often support and embrace. It’s also because when looking for special things to feature, I only want to share things I want for myself, things that tell a story and that can become part of my own story, things that not only reflect my tastes, but my own values, convictions and the way I live my life.
Where should I begin with S A Y A Designs? This brand epitomises all the right reasons for still loving fashion and beauty, all the right reasons why fashion still matters. Minimalistic and head-turning, subtle and bold, beautiful and meaningful. Stemmed from the love for nature, traditional craft, and pure and organic beauty, S A Y A Designs is the kind of brand that is created with timeless style and lasting memories in mind. A passionate pursuit in purposeful design.
The Mini Pandans by S A Y A Designs
S A Y A Designs makes hair sticks. They are handcrafted by artisans of Bali from root wood salvaged from abandoned plantations in Indonesia. They take a waste material and turn it into something beautiful and purposeful. Each S A Y A hairpin is inspired by the rich flora and fauna in Indonesia, and designed to directly reflect local plant life. It is carved by hand using simple tools and techniques, and finished with natural wax and oils. It is the original hair tool, durable, elegant, and a welcome and thoughtful alternative to plastic and elastic. And for every purchase, up to 10 endangered tree species are planted back into the rainforests in Indonesia, thus contributing to the restoration of our global ecosystem.
These are hair sticks that turn heads for all the right reasons.
I can honestly say that I fell in love with S A Y A the moment I discovered the brand and its story, and my admiration was only reinforced when I got to try their products (I opted for the Mini Pandans, which are specially designed for hair that is medium to short in length, and not too thick) – I admit, they are now my main reason for not going for a new pixie cut, an idea I had started to play with again. And after my conversation with the founder of S A Y A Designs, Victoria, I am more committed than ever to trust my own style and choose wisely. Read on for our interview, where we talked about the inspiration behind S A Y A, about the importance of raising awareness through a new approach to beauty, about starting a new life in Bali and the Indonesian unique business environment, and about the one thing she can not start the day without.
Turning heads for all the right reasons
In an overly-digitized world, it feels so special, and crucial, to make things with your own two hands. Coupled with an awareness for ethical production and the artistry of local makers, even more so. What are the core tenets on which the idea behind S A Y A Designs is based?
I have always had a deep respect for the hand-made and appreciated the heart behind its craftsmanship. This has become of more importance to me, defiantly in many ways due to the increased dependance we have on technology.
The core contents of S A Y A also highlight the key concepts of the circular economy. Which, in short, is making sure a respectful exchange happens along every step of the way; this requires slowing things down, learning and listening…
For me, S A Y A is a way of creating a platform to stand up for a cause I am passionate about whilst being creative, which is what I love most.
Why hairpins? Why not something else?
I had worn and adored them for years, first inspired by a gift from my partner who bought me one from a trip back from Beijing 6 years ago. It was red with hand painted flowers and it was so beautiful, it gave me little insight into the elegance of traditional Chinese culture. When it came to deciding what to design, I wanted something that was small, functional, and most of all unique! I joined all the dots, and S A Y A was born! I thought about how it would be something that would be a pleasure to use everyday and what a reminder it would be of supporting a cause you believe in.
That’s wonderful. Is there any significance to the name S A Y A ?
Yes! S A Y A means ‘I’ or ‘my’ in the Indonesian language depending on your turn of phrase. So S A Y A Designs means ‘my designs’. I loved the fact that it was fundamentally linked to Indonesia.
One could say that you design first and foremost for yourself, making sure your designs reflect who you are and your own values. I think that’s very important and it just shows in your unique products. Who else do you design for?
Yes, fundamentally I would say so. I also design for women who appreciate a more organic style which I think appeals to a more subtle sense of beauty… They are very tactile objects and shapes!
In this regard, could you tell me a little about the materials you use and why?
Our hairpins are made from reclaimed root wood left behind by loggers in Indonesia. Some have been in the ground for decades and simply abandoned in ex plantation sites. The root wood we use currently are tamarind, teak and rosewood. I felt there was such an interesting story to be told here coming from root to tree… and found the circular business model was able to support the idea and raise awareness towards the global issues we face around deforestation.
We are still very much in a young stage of the business and so have many more bridges to cross… I would say some of the perks are that it really is an island of opportunity… So if your work hard and follow things up, you can manifest ideas very quickly… The craftsmanship here is so skilful, and for me that was one of the hugely inspiring factors.
Challenges are that it can also be a place that is hard to sustain things, it takes a long time and large amounts of work go towards building strong structures and frameworks to build things long term. Getting things done sometimes can be hard, especially when you have responsibilities in contrasting hemispheres, extreme weather conditions and cultural parallels. The key I think is being open to adapt where necessary.
You mention the craftsmanship of the people of Indonesia. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from the community of craftsmen in Bali you work with?
One of the most important creative aspects they taught me was that respecting and understanding your material is fundamental in your design… This was a light bulb for me!
How do you see the future of fashion? Because so many of the people I admire and come in contact with prefer mindful shopping and meaningful brands, such like yours. Are things starting to change?
I definitely feel that things are changing, this is what I look forward to watching most in 2018! Everything we buy is like casting a vote for the direction we want to move in and I think this movement is defiantly making headway…
I think once bigger brands start feeling pressured to ‘go green’, capitalism can turn upside down. If we can all compete to be greener, cleaner, more ethical… that would be what drives the change. I do feel like the pressure is growing from the consumer end, so we just need to keep telling these stories and providing options until everyone cant help but be faced with the reality of what’s happening.
I would say its an equal amount of all three. Hard work definitely keeps the wheel turning!
Who and what inspires you?
I am inspired by many, many people, but especially artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Barbara Hepworth, whose organic forms I love. Activists like Dian Fossey, who was an American Conservationist in 1966 who went out to live alone in the jungle to protect mountain gorillas. She was so brave and courageous, especially at a time that when hardly any people, let alone women, were doing what she way doing. She inspires me allot!
What advice would you give someone with their own idea or dream?
Why Bali? What made you start a new life and a brand there?
I love the environment and community here, I first moved to work for an adult arts school and then realised what kind of life was here… Lots of start-ups, co working spaces and environmental based businesses. Bigger world issues also hit home allot more here as they are more visible… so that triggered allot of ideas and passion.
One favourite thing to do in Bali and which you would miss if you lived anywhere else in the world.
Seeing the colourful Balinese daily life around you and its never ending smell of incense…
What does style mean to you?
Style is about feeling good in what you wear and celebrating your own character.
One thing you can not start the day without: Cup of coffee!
Where would we find you when not working?
Walking in nature or in museums.
You wish people appreciated more: The power we have…
What makes you happy at the end of the day?
photos: 1-6: Classiq / 7-12: S A Y A Designs