Bob People: Five Minutes with Ahimsa Collective Co-Founder, Tessa Carroll
Growing up in a household where minimising unnecessary waste and engaging in sustainable practices was the norm, Ahimsa Collective Co-Founder Tessa Carroll's education in and care for the environment started early.
It comes as little surprise then, in the wake of the launch of her sustainable bag line, that making elaborate garden composts and designing handbags out of old denim jeans was commonplace for the creative Tessa. With a modern, design-driven aesthetic that is anything but hippy, Ahimsa Collective's collection of bags is for those that equally favour style and sustainability.
Here, we learn about their unique pineapple leather product, what ahimsa means, and Tessa's tips for creating sustainable habits.
What is your background, what led you to Ahimsa Collective, and how did you become so sustainability minded?
Growing up, my parents always instilled a love for the outdoors whether it was orienteering in the Yarra Valley or swimming in the Indian Ocean. We were brought up to turn off the taps when brushing our teeth and making sure lights weren’t left on unnecessarily. Through this upbringing, coupled with their careful use of paper and glass over plastic and elaborate garden composts, we were schooled on our usage and impact on the planet.
Despite being sustainably minded, I knew my whole life that I wanted to work in design, and the fashion Industry. I have always been creative and innovatively used materials that didn’t fit the mould. I wore skirts out of fly-wire and made bags out of old denim jeans. Sadly, this was never scalable on a commercial level so once my career in fashion took off these ideas were left behind. Until now… Now technology has caught up to these ideas, and new materials are being created out of existing resources. For example, Pinatex®
Tell us a bit about Ahimsa Collective, and your unique leather product?
Ahimsa Collective is a brand built on the need for a non-leather product to be introduced to the market that doesn’t use plastic. We are lucky enough to be working with Pinatex® who are based in the UK. Pinatex® is a material made out of pineapple leaf fibres that are left over from fruit farming. Essentially it is the by-product of the pineapple harvest, thus no extra land, water, fertilisers or chemicals are utilised in its production. Currently, this is the only true ethical and sustainable textile the market, filling the gap between leather and petroleum-based textiles.
In addition to this, we source deadstock materials that would have otherwise ended up in landfill and use them to make our luxury handbags for the accessories market.
What is the design intent and aesthetic? What inspired you during conceptualising these designs?
Ahimsa is sanskrit in origin and translates to non-suffering. We apply this word to not only our treatment of animals but to the planet and all of its inhabitants, too. This means no animals, people or the environment are to be harmed in the making of our products. Under this guiding principle we have developed our ranges to appeal to the mass consumer market as well as the eco-conscious and vegan sectors of society. We strive to only use reused materials to avoid any further environmental damage but we understand that for change to occur there’s no point in preaching to the converted. Offering a range that is on-trend is imperative if we want to inspire others to make the change too.
Favourite local sustainable and natural businesses?
Dirt Laundry, Eco Mono and of course BOB!
These are the three first businesses that come to mind when someone asks me this question. Not only are they all female founded but they take current society’s needs and offer an alternative that is as on-trend as it is sustainable. Businesses like these are re-carving the way we consume and opening the conversation to mainstream society, helping them question their ethics and providing a viable option for a better future.
Tracks by Robyn Davidson. My sister gave me this book and it entirely changed the way I view not only this giant island we call home but our own personal relationship with the land we live on.
Davidson accounts her journey crossing the Australian desert barefoot with three camels in 1977. Not only is it an empowering account of female strength but it relays Indigenous culture and their utter resilience to the harm we as white settlers have inflicted upon their livelihood and home.
I bought a copy (second hand, of course) for both my business partners for Christmas, it’s a must-read.
Favourite slow living activities and practices?
Shopping in bulk wholefood stores and the Richmond Farmers markets. When I started on my plastic-free journey I found it challenging but rewarding. The convenience of larger supermarkets may seem like an easy solution to busy lifestyles but it isn’t nearly as rewarding as setting aside time each week to shop in the whole foods stores. Incorporating this into my routine was game changing to my lifestyle and I like that now I make everything from scratch. This means I not only avoid over-consumption of plastics, I am also aware of everything I am nourishing my body with.
If one person was to make three small changes towards a more sustainable life, what would you suggest?
I used to say there were three small things anyone could do to change their habits and that was to make sure when you leave the house you have your Keepcup, water bottle and cloth bag with you.
But then Bob came along and so now I add, and a date with Bob! It’s incredible the things you don’t know about your own consumption until you really scratch the surface. And once you know, you can’t un-know.