Karina Seljak is the inspiring Co-Founder and Creative Director of Seljak Brand; a carbon-neutral, closed loop, award winning brand that makes blankets from factory floor offcuts, deadstock yarn, or post-consumer textiles waste like old woollen jumpers. I’ve admired Seljak Brand’s beautiful, durable and timeless blankets since they launched 5 years ago. During this period, they’ve diverted over 5 tonnes of textile waste from landfill, donated an incredible 284 blankets and $8,595 to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne, and have spoken to over 2,000 people about closed loop design and sustainable business practices at talks, events and workshops.
Hi Karina! Tell us a little about yourself - who are you and what do you do?
I’m the Co-founder and Creative director at Seljak Brand, which I run with my sister Sammy. We established Seljak Brand in 2016 with the intent to find more circular ways to make and use things. We landed on blankets as a way to explore closed-loop design whereby things are re-manufactured at their highest value to reduce the extraction of virgin materials and divert waste from landfill.
Now we participate in textile waste innovation projects, educate about the circular economy and advocate for climate action. With training in fashion and design as well as business, I lead the design of our blankets.
Can you share with us your journey to creating a brand that’s closed loop by design? What led you to create Seljak with your sister, Sammy?
It was while I was living in New York with Sam visiting that the idea to start a business came to us. Both of us (Sammy in Brisbane) were working alongside a community of innovative and community-oriented entrepreneurs from food producers to workshop facilitators doing it themselves. We realised highlighting local and quality materials, fairer systems of production, and focusing on end-of-life solutions for products were important levers in addressing the damaging effects of hyper-consumption that were becoming more and more obvious to us.
We focused on wool as an Australian material with incredible qualities (warm, insulating, moisture wicking, odour resistant etc) and commissioned a mill in Tasmania to make blankets with the offcuts they’d be collecting and regenerating into yarn. We now work with mills in Geelong, Victoria and Lithuania in Europe to create blankets that are made with pre- and post-consumer waste (like old wool sweaters) that can be recycled at the end of their useful lives and made into new blankets!
Your blankets are as beautiful as they are sustainable. Where does the inspiration for your designs come from?
We have different design directions for different collections. Our launching blanket, the Seljak Original is undyed to expose the recycled nature of the material – lots of colourful specks representing all the different blankets that came before it!
The inspiration for the Colour range mostly comes from landscapes and things of beauty experienced in Australia, everything from the red earth in Central Australia (the Seljak Earth blanket) to the wine from Tasmania (the Seljak Pinot blanket).
As for our Design range, we explore climate themes, like warming waters at the Great Barrier Reef (the Seljak Lune blanket) or rising temperatures in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
You and Sammy both offer consulting on closed loop design and sustainability; what advice do you have for us to live a little more sustainability on a daily basis?
– Start at Home –
How you manage your home is how you’re likely to manage resources at a greater scale. Can you split your bin system into soft plastic, recycling and compost as well as trash? Is it possible to shop for local produce at a market? Could you cycle instead of drive? Do you enjoy meat alternatives? Choose the things you enjoy that lower your carbon footprint and have the agency to change.
– Think About Where Your Money Is –
Where are your big chunks of money going? Where you are banking, investing your superannuation and spending on utilities like your energy provider have vastly different implications depending on their investment charter (look for positive and negative filters, for example investing in healthcare, and avoiding investment in gas).
– Lobby Your Local Government –
Protest or write a letter to let them know you care about climate change and demand action. Writing to your local MP builds pressure over time and gets climate action on the agenda.
– Speak Up –
Don’t let the fear of the ‘doom and gloom’ narrative stop you from talking about the impacts of a heating planet. We can still live joyfully as individuals and communities and take action; it’s not one or the other!
How do you like to start and end your day?
Meditation in the morning (I’m experimenting with sensory cues like incense to help keep me present) and reading before bed (I just finished a great book called Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy, which Sammy lent me).
How do you practice self-care; through rituals, movement, mindfulness, or by doing things you love?
Daily! Whatever it is, it must be something daily. For me, as well as meditation, it’s walking. My occasional self-care thing is dancing, whether it be with friends at an event or solo at home, because it takes me to a place of pure joy, and is creativity that’s not pinned to any outcome.
You’re based on the Sunshine Coast & Brisbane - tell us your favourite local spots for coffee, food and drinks?
On the Sunny Coast, I’d have to say Alley Cat in Coolum because it’s an unpretentious neighborhood hub and the best post-surf spot to drink coffee and get some sun. A crew with a pizza oven pull in on Wednesday evenings and serve what I think is the best pizza on the coast.
In Brissy, it’s Lucky Duck, which is two doors up from the Seljak Brand studio, and has endless good chats and great coffee, food and wine.
What are you currently working on?
On the side of Seljak Brand I do my own artwork, which are mostly pastel drawings with pure pigments and hand-dyed and found textile sculptures on the subject of natural phenomena. I’m creating prints of some of these works so I can ship them to friends and other interested folks – pastels are a little ephemeral in their dustiness!
Lastly, where can we find you?