When ethical meets luxury! The worlds most luxurious organic bed sheets, designed in Melbourne, Australia by Sasha Zaman - CEO and founder of Jonquil . All their bedding designs are hand-stitched by local Indian artisans and are made with 100% organic cotton, sourced from Fair Trade farms. With the recent launch of Jonquil in July 2017, one of Sasha's missions is to create a brand and product that connects timeless design with the qualities of organic and sustainable living. Read more to find out what Jonquil is all about in my brand new #LadyBossInterview with Sasha Zaman.
JONQUIL - PURE. FAIR. LUXURY
Tell us about yourself and background?
Hello! First of all, thank you for this conversation piece, it’s so great to be featured on your website! My name is Sasha, from Melbourne Australia. I have been an avid student for the past 10 years, and recently just submitted my PhD from The University of Melbourne, specializing in childhood epilepsy. I have loved every minute of it. It has been absolutely rewarding and life changing. I’ve also had a baby 9 weeks ago! So launching Jonquil, and submitting my PhD, as well as popping out a baby in the span of 6 weeks has been hectic!
What gave you the inspiration for Jonquil and its title?
Three years ago, I moved out of home, I was newly engaged, rescued my beautiful mastiffs and needed to renovate my home. I spent hours upon hours researching new ways to be sustainable and upcycled so many antiques and furnishings. My home (although renovated) was like a scene from back to the future! My bedroom is my sanctuary and it was the most important room for me to furnish. Everything from the bed, fresh luxurious sheets, pillows to a comfy mattress mattered to me – I wanted luxury!
I had my favorite brands but as I researched into the textile industry, I found that many had a long history of child labour and use of harsh synthetic fertilizers and pesticides– this didn't sit well with me at all. I wanted to find luxury sheets that matched my values, so I needed to create my own! I began the Jonquil startup journey bearing in mind we needed to give back in some way. I researched about the processes involved, who grew the cotton crops and where and followed this all the way through to the final finished product.The farmers we work with are truly passionate and respectful of their land. Many of them have had this land in their family for hundreds of years, so it's basically sacred to them. We wanted to preserve that. With larger companies swooning over them we'll soon lose these special old-fashioned ways of making and growing things to high throughput processing. We wanted to help prevent that from happening.
The name Jonquil derived from my favorite flower that has this beautiful fragrance. I’ve had it at my wedding and many special events in my life.
Can you share with us the brand's mission and vision?
The ethos of Jonquil was that it would take on some form of social responsibility and impact over the long term. Starting Jonquil means we can give back sustainably. Not just once off donations, but actually support people’s livelihoods which has a far greater long term impact. The company embodies everything I believe luxury bedding should encompass – high quality, ethically made and free from unnecessary harmful toxins & chemicals, all while producing the finest organic cotton bedding pieces.
Jonquil is a luxury, ethical and sustainable bedding brand based in Melbourne. What makes it "luxury" and different from other socially conscious bedding brands?
Through our thoughtfully constructed designs, we’ve created a product that not only has the highest thread count in certified organic cotton; we uphold high standards in sustainability and Fairtrade as well. Not to mention, all of our pieces are handcrafted, and each every detail has been designed with purpose. Nowadays, you can create a design upload it and the machine can make it. It’s convenient and easy but there’s no authenticity to it. It’s this authenticity that I love. Jonquil is based around this unique and authentic mindset – from our designs to even our personalized packaging and the way we run our business. With every weave and weft, we ensure the cotton fabric has that slight sheen to it, and the sheer weight of each piece makes it so luxurious to sleep in.
Photo Credit: www.jonquil.com.au (Signature Crochet Quilt Set in Dove)
Photo Credit: www.jonquil.com.au (Signature Crochet Quilt Set in Stone)
Photo Credit: www.jonquil.com.au (Signature Crochet Quilt Set in Navy Blue)
On July 26, 2017, Jonquil launched its first online collection introducing "Heirloom Quality" organic cotton sheets. Can you define what "Heirloom Quality" means?
We have directly sourced the world’s finest organic cotton in order to create timeless pieces that can integrate into your bedroom at any point in your life. It’s our promise that all of our pieces will last you a lifetime if treated respectfully. Each and every detail is intentional, and often can’t be seen with a naked eye. The warp and weft have especially been designed to ensure breathability, strength and natural shine. The tension in the thread and diameter of the yarn is also tested to ensure it can withstand commercial grade washing, being color fastened at 60 degrees Celsius. Our heirloom promise means our pieces will last you a lifetime- the quality is superb.
The first limited release came in three collections: The Plissè Collection, Hotel Collection, and The Signature Crochet Collection. All 3 represent a story or a personal experience in your life. Describe each collection and the narratives behind them?
Jonquil is a brand I’m passionate about, it’s a true reflection of my personality, passions and values, so it’s been a very personal journey. I love history, fine details and I'd say I can be quite eccentric. I don’t see myself as a designer or stylist by any means! However, I do love and appreciate detail. I love how people can finnick over small small details that nobody else would care about or notice but to that particular piece, it meant something. When I started designing Jonquil pieces, I went in with the same mindset. I sketched things, imagined how it would look on the bed, why I liked certain details and how those finer makings would fit in with pieces people already had in their homes. I draw my design inspiration from memories and experiences. For example, the crochet collection was inspired by the calligraphy I saw everywhere in Rajasthan, India when we went backpacking years ago. It’s breathtaking to see the amount of work and depth in these structures, temples and palaces. The signature crochet is a pretty special reflection of this through the hand stitched details. The Plissé collection is inspired by mum. It’s structured, perfect but also contains a lot of depth in the detail. Mum is one of the reasons I started Jonquil. We have a mutual passion for bed linen and homewares, so I’d say there’s a trace of her in all of the collections! The hotel collection is inspired by the memories I have of roughing it up a in Nepal and then finally getting to a beautiful hotel, having a hot shower and slipping into this amazing, fluffy, fresh bed. It’s clean, crisp and luxurious.
Photo Credit: www.jonquil.com.au (The Plissé Sheet Set in Baby Pink)
Photo Credit: www.jonquil.com.au (Signature Crochet Quilt Set in Dove)
Jonquil directly sources its 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton from five Fairtrade certified mills across Kolkata and New Delhi. These partnerships, allows your company to provide fair employment for the farmers, sewers and seamstresses. How do you ensure ethical treatment of your workers and a sustainable production process?
We wanted to make a transformative difference in the textile industry by making ethical luxury more accessible. This was the major challenge we faced and set us back more than 18 months trying to source the finest certified organic cotton, all while being fair throughout the entire supply chain. We work with Fairtrade Australia to ensure our farmers are fairly paid and that they sell their organic cotton commodity at a fair price. In fact all our farmers earn over 200% more than other cotton farmers. The group we work with is Chetna Organics, which consists of 30,000 small farm households. Within 2 years, over 15,000 farmers have been certified Fairtrade and organic. Through partnerships and targeted programs, we can scale up these numbers, increasing Fairtrade and organic farming coverage by helping farmers transition their land to organic crops. By supporting these communities we help support and maintain good, clean, healthy practices for both people and the environment. When farmers join the Chetna Organic community, support is provided to ensure all farmers and farm households are paid well above minimum wage. They have set hours of work with set breaks and paid holiday leave. There will never ever be children working in these places whether it is on the farm or in the mill. I mean never. I have been there myself and even been there while farms and mills were being audited. They have extremely high standards and it's reassuring to see that changes are being implemented for the benefit of the farmers and the environment.
Was ethical and sustainable practices something you deemed important while growing up? If so, why?
Growing up in such a great country I was not aware or exposed to the harsh realities of manufacturing, factory farming or what it takes to grow crops! The idea of being ethical and sustainable dawned on me about 6 years ago when I backpacked through India and Nepal. We lived with families who solely relied on the land they live on and nothing else. Since then I questioned everything we bought and researched how food is grown, how products were manufactured and even how animals are farmed. I’d say that was the turning point in my life. It wasn’t until I visited India and various other countries, that I started to see the difference between Fairtrade and non-Fair trade practices. This was really important to me and drove me to ensure that every person, the environment and animals were treated fairly and without harm. This is why it was so important for us to receive Fairtrade certification. I'm still learning and shaping my values! Definitely nowhere near perfect! But I try to educate myself as much as I can to ensure I've made the most educated well-rounded decision in everything I do. At Jonquil, it's a learning process. We research, we make mistakes and make more mistakes. It's not about being perfect. It’s about being authentic, unique and taking pride in every step of our process. I can sleep easier at night knowing that we’re a clean, transparent business that gives back.
What are the most challenging parts of being not only an entrepreneur but a woman in business?
Wow great question – I’ve never really sat back and reflected on the challenges. It’s always challenging! Starting a business from the ground up is terribly exciting and frightening at the same time. There are so so many unknowns and numerous little steps and obstacles that need to be addressed before getting to the final destination. There were times where I just wanted to give up. I’m my own worst enemy. I have a major fear of failure and I needed to constantly remind myself why I started Jonquil – the great impact it’s having for the people we employ and the change we’re making in the textile industry. The most challenging aspect of Jonquil was finding the right people to work with. Business is all about relationships and if you can’t or don’t get along with your colleagues or suppliers, it’s really not worth it.
Because Jonquil is so personal to me I find that the brand exudes what goes on behind the scenes. I’m lucky to have surrounded myself with amazing people who understand the importance of having a positive impact in the world, no matter how small. I don’t feel being a woman has negatively impacted my startup journey. I feel that the challenges I’ve faced would have been the same either way.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
EFFICIENCY! I’m proud to say, that I no longer procrastinate like I used to while writing my PhD thesis! This is because when my baby sleeps, I make the most of it! Otherwise there is no time. I’ve never had a baby before and learning to juggle so many tasks has become a priority. It’s hard, but I get through it. Even if it means I type these answers one handed while I hold and breastfeed with the other! Also, my husband is amazing. He is absolutely amazing, that’s all I can say.
Photo: Sasha Zaman
What is the legacy you wish to leave behind?
This is an interesting question! I would like to leave a legacy of goodness and altruism.
“If I am not for myself, who is for me? And when I am for myself, what am I?” by Hillel the Elder. This quote perfectly describes my everyday mantra. Since having my daughter I am more aware and conscious of every decision I make.
Do you ship internationally? Where can customers purchase your products?
From September, we will be shipping internationally. The demand for ethical and sustainable products has been extraordinary and we’re so happy we can bring our bedding to people's homes from all around the world. We are solely online at www.jonquil.com.au.
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