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EXPLORING THE MEANING OF TRUE “LUXURY” WITH ETISHA COLLECTIVE

Ottoman, Etisha Collective

ETISHA COLLECTIVE IS A BERLIN BASED SUSTAINABLE BRAND OFFERING LUXURY TOWELS THAT MARRY AN ANCIENT WEAVING TECHNIQUE TO MODERN DESIGN. TOGETHER WITH THE FOUNDER, WE EXPLORE THE INTERSECTION OF SUSTAINABILITY AND THE IDEA OF “RESPONSIBLY LUXURIOUS”.

Words By Natsumi Amano

Etisha Collective was launched this year. How did your brand begin?

“Etisha”: Growing up in India, I was always surrounded by charity, social work, and also waterways and mountains, and I was fascinated by the virtue of human connection and nature. Fast forward to the 2000s, I was working in Singapore as a designer, which then led me to Milan, where I completed my master’s in Fashion Management and Design with an emphasis on the luxury market. It was at the time when the Rana Plaza incident broke out in 2013, causing deaths of more than a thousand garment workers in Bangladesh. Sustainability was often overlooked in the luxury market at the time, and it was a significant wakeup call that shook the entire fashion industry. The world was never the same thereafter – consumers started to demand greater justice and transparency in the product supply chain, which had been habitually clouded by the industry, and the conversation to drive practical change in the industry became a major focus. Top luxury brands also became subjected to critical spotlight and were not exempt from the movement.

“Fashion is not merely a style choice, it’s also a political choice”.

For me, personally, just like many others across the world, my heart was broken having been enlightened to the devastating practices and impacts the fashion industry has on society and the environment. I was dumbfounded to discover how ‘luxury’ conventionally meant the consequential harm on others and the environment through widespread unethical practices. I became a strong believer that “You decide the world you want to live in by voting with your wallet”, and there was no doubt in my mind that sustainability is going to be the core value of the future. My upbringing in India and knowledge of the luxury market, combined with my newfound shock and understanding, motivated me to do my part in making ‘luxury’ socially and environmentally sustainable.

One summer, I travelled to Turkey for my vacation. I came across a small, beautiful textile atelier on the coastline, where artisans made towels, and I was extremely impressed by the quality, versatility, and technique employed. There, I learned that in the short span of fewer than twenty years, approximately eighty to ninety percent of all the hand-waving artisans and their knowledge have been lost. There was no way that I was going to let the art of old looming die out, so Etisha Collective was born in 2020. Now we are a small team working towards shared values and purposes, doing our part to make the world a better place, by creating exquisite towels, employing 17th-century techniques treasured in Ottoman weaving heritage. Etisha has launched in an interesting time of our history, where the world has turned upside down by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and great socio-political changes. It definitely has been a challenge for a small business like us, but in hindsight, more people are waking up to the layers of oppression and injustice we face today in society and are being encouraged to challenge the status quo, where we believe it unjust and going further to educate ourselves.

 

What is the story behind your company and the products?

“Etisha”: All of the five collections are inspired by the traditional Ottoman art of marbling, calligraphy, and goldsmithing. With a slight influence of contemporary design, our towels are of a unique fusion of history and the future.

The way modernity subtly flirts with conventional art is a romance we cannot resist and hence have found the perfect balance between the two.

As for our production, we work with a lady who formed a group of the last-remaining artisan weavers in Anatolia, Turkey. Their handweaving skills have been passed down through generations for centuries, since the great Ottoman empire. Employing Ottoman techniques and revitalising it’s heritage is one way for us to help sustain the practice of this art, and we are whole-heartedly committed to doing so. Despite being an ancient art-form, the finest fibres are loomed in between four to six days, forming a piece that can stand the test of time, fifteen to twenty times above market standards, while ageing beautifully – it is made to last. We are proud of our towels’ exceptional quality. The weaving construction is precise and extremely meticulous, and the quality can be felt in every weft and every knot, of each piece. This craft is irreplicable by machines, not to mention they are incredibly soft and each piece is completely one-of-a-kind.

More and more informed research is suggesting how our skin absorbs potential toxic carcinogens, toxins, and insecticides, often within a matter of six seconds. The majority of mainstream market towels are heavily dependent on chemicals in its production, quite literally from field to fabric. Imagine after a bath, your soft and supple skin’s open pores absorbing these harsh chemicals within six seconds. This is why our organic, chemical-free towels keep you away from all the nasties!

What is the extent of the brand’s impact, in terms of both social and environmental sustainability?

“Etisha”: Just as Staiy is all about sustainability, so is Etisha Collective. One of the most important aspects of sustainability for us is not only to safeguard, but also to preserve the vanishing art of handweaving and bring its craftsmanship back to life. The preservation of even a small part of Ottoman heritage is what Etisha Collective keeps close to its heart.

All of our towels are made of highest quality GOTS-certified cotton, whose standards ensure that our responsible ecological and social criteria are met, and is backed up by independent certification of our entire supply chain. As for carbon emissions, we minimise transportation by localising our supply chain. All our towels are made in Turkey (whose processes are predominantly manual) and packaged close to the point of consumption within Europe.

@cottonbro

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“Staiy”: On top of these efforts, it is amazing the brand instructing your customers on how to take care of the towels in the right way for it to be healthy and beautiful in the long run. The brand provides them with in-depth care instruction on the website so that it can be kept in its best shape and potency. This aspect of initiatives generally gets missed out on, but it is very important!

The idea “Responsibly Luxurious” seems appropriate for current consumerism trends in the developed market. Could you explain more on this?

“Etisha”: In these fast-paced, yet lazier modern times, many associate “luxury” with sinfulness, because it is likely to be produced at the cost of others and with a silent conscience. For me, “luxury” has always been about history, storytelling, attention to detail, care, and beauty. It is not about how expensive, fancy, or Instagramable it is, rather it is about how it makes you feel. It is important that we redefine what true “luxury” means to us individually, so that we do not mindlessly resort to materialistic pleasures, which keep the wheel of mass production, consumption, and disposal turning.

I believe “luxury” can come from a place of trust and accountability, and all brands should prioritize this. If customers are supporting our brand by purchasing a product from us, you are placing trust in us in exchange, andwe do not take this lightly. Our weavers and artisans put their pride and love into making these products. I have the responsibility of looking after my supply chain so that I can give back to you with integrity. That is what we do and what we believe in, and we think that the right consumers recognise its value and appreciate the beauty deservedly.

 

What can we expect from Etisha Collective in the near future?

“Etisha”: First and foremost, as we can only make a substantial impact on the environment and how people consume, our team is working at best to expand the business and reach as many people as possible. We want to be the model brand for everyday towels so that we do not only make people fall in love with the product but also educate people how to make a buying decision that does not require throwing towels in a rubbish bin every two years.

Our main target customers, at this point in time, are sensible luxury consumers in Europe making more conscious choices and who appreciate quality everyday products and the impact they have on nature and the people who produce them. Our products are perfect for anyone who loves cosiness and an unbelievably soft touch of a towel. Imagine comfortingly wrapping yourself in the sanctuary of “organic goodness” after a shower!

“Staiy”: Who doesn’t adore that? They say that a good product sells itself, and I totally see that happening with Etisha Collective’s towels. Because if someone loves something, they cannot help but talk about it and recommend it to family and friends. 

Shop Etisha Collective

Earth Lines Towel

Plush & Bare Towel

Silent Ripple Towel

Happiness is a warm bath and a soft, fluffy towel.

What’s more, we are very excited about increasing product transparency for our customers. In a few months, we plan to implement a product passport system, using Distributed Ledger Technology, popularly known as Blockchain Technology to provide our customers with trustable information on the entire lifecycle of the towels, tracing all the way back to the farm where the cotton came from, how it is imported, which specific artisan wove it, while also calculating its carbon footprint. All customers have to do is scan a barcode attached to the towel to receive the full transparency about where, how, and by whom the product was made. We are confident this product passport will allow the actual value of the products to be realised.

Is there anything you want to say to our readers?

“Etisha”: We are working very hard at Etisha collective to weave beauty and all things nice into our towels for our clients to enjoy a memorable experience with our products for years to come. We hope you see our sincerity, the promise of quality, and our intention to delight through the lens of our brand. We hope to be the world’s most innovative heritage bath textile brand, with an honest green heart.

“Staiy”: we cannot wait for Etisha Collective to grow and reach new fans that will cherish the experience of taking care of themselves with the soft touch of handwoven towels and make an even greater impact on the people and the planet. Their products are going to be available on Staiy from the beginning of next year.

Find out more at https://etishacollective.com/ and @etishacollective.