How to begin introducing someone’s whose work I admire so much? Over the last three years, I have become a big fan of Carol’s work. She has single-handedly brought us a brand with timeless style and quality. Quality, in the final products and also in the lives of the makers.
It is my great pleasure to Introduce Seek Collective, sometimes referred to as “Seek” for short, a name which inspires thoughts of searching for better, looking and learning about better practices and doing it together.
Seek Collective as a brand has become very close to my heart and of course the strong woman behind it. I have been lucky enough to meet Carol through a serious of fortunate friendships, so I know not only does she make some serious fashion waves but she is also a really great woman to hang out with.
First and foremost I want to say that Carol’s designs speak for themselves, each piece is beautifully crafted in India. Secondly, rest assured that there is no brand (that we can think of) creating their collections more ethically conscious than Seek, through dedicated work with artisan communities that are experts in hand block printing, handloom weaving, and natural dyeing.
The feel of each garment is of distinct ease and relaxed luxury, handcrafted with focused attention to construction and detail, making every item one of a kind with sustainability and heart coursing through to the centre of the brand.
We also really love the creative campaign photography which runs alongside each collection and are lucky enough to feature the new SS18 campaign within this article. Make yourself a cup of (fair-trade) tea and enjoy reading our exclusive first look at Carol’s exciting new collection and read all about the work that goes into each piece.
ITE: Hey Carol, how are you and how did you start your day today?
SC: I’m good, thanks! First I always make a cup of green tea, it’s a routine I love. Then go about my morning routine, water my plants, light some incense, a yoga practice, and get dressed. Once I have breakfast, I go straight to work, often while I’m eating but I’ve been trying to get better about carving out some quiet time to read while I enjoy the first meal before starting what is often a 10+ hour day of work.
ITE: Wow, that sounds like a great morning routine, one that I would love to replicate. Tell us a bit about your creative process and how you got to your finalised line up this season?
SC: I think the creative process is something hard to really define or pin down. It never feels finalised to me as it’s a constant exploration and there’s never enough time each season for development so I like to continue styles, concepts, details, or textiles into the following season to expand and take it further if I feel I need to. I’m always gathering ideas for current or future collections, whether it’s a plant growing in a strange shape, the colour of paint being exposed from weathering on a wall, dance, art, street style, movies, architecture, a concept I’d like to try to capture abstractly, etc. It always feels endless and surprising what might instigate an idea or be a source of inspiration.
For me, there’s always an element of my emotions seeping in either consciously or unconsciously and there’s often overlap between seasons in designing for me. For SS18, an extended stay in California was very inspiring during the time of the super blooms. By May of 2017 I had spent months thinking about the collection, sketching, and developing ideas on the side, as well as probably painted at least 50 different print ideas. In the end, I narrow it down to a fine-tuned the colour palette, finalise my handloom designs and the final patterns. In June of 2017, I was in India on a production trip and played with the blocks, which had been hand carved based on my paintings, to create the print repeat. There are always several fittings where often the designs of the clothing pieces get finalised and shift a bit. By August the samples were completed but even then I altered some things as well as cut some styles and fabrications out. In September the collection is presented to buyers, production begins in November, and everything goes to stores and customers in March of 2018.
ITE: Thank you for such a detailed description of all the work and passion that leads to the final pieces. How do you think this varies from the fast fashion process in your opinion?
SC: There’s a lot of differences and one is I design both the textiles and the clothing. I don’t design in reference to “trends”. I want things to be beautiful, interesting, playful and sophisticated; clothing that can keep being worn years down the road. Another is I like there to be an overlap from one collection to the next. I like a sense of blurred lines so while I show collections and launch them seasonally they are also season-less. A huge difference between Seek Collective and fast fashion though is the process and timing of how things are made. All of our handloom woven fabric takes at least 2 months if not longer. Seek Collective’s prints are created by having the design first carved by hand into wooden blocks, then printed, and then dyed by hand. Each step takes days and for the final outcome, it takes weeks. The natural dyes used are all done by hand and have slight variations, which makes each piece subtly unique. I personally work incredibly closely with each producer Seek Collective partners with and have been present for all the steps of the production chain from weaving to printing to dying to stitching. The intimacy and slower pace makes Seek Collective really the opposite of today’s “fast fashion”.
ITE: Were you always ethically aware from the early stages in your career? What was the main moment which made you break away to start your own brand journey?
SC: I was always ethically aware in the sense that I’ve always tried my best to live my life consciously both environmentally and socially. We are all really the same and we are all sharing one planet so I’ve always felt that it’s important to treat others as well as mother nature with respect and consideration. It was always hard for me as a designer to come to terms with the waste, pollution, and exploitation that is so rampant in the apparel industry. I knew that eventually if I were going to stay in the field that I could only do so if what I was designing was being produced responsibly. I felt disconnected from the supply chain both as a designer and a consumer so when I began Seek Collective it felt like an exploration to see if it was possible to produce by empowering instead.
ITE: I feel exactly the same way, so it is great to see how you are channelling your concerns into something positive. There is no doubt that India has a strong influence on your designs. What is the best thing about working with Indian companies?
SC: India most certainly influences my designs and me! There’s a real sense that anything is possible in India when working there, that a solution or alternative can be found if you have the patience and think outside of the box. All the different people and their techniques are a profound influence on my designs, both in what is possible as well as what restrictions there are. I still think every part of hand block printing can leave me in awe when watching it, natural dying is beautiful magic and almost like alchemy, handloom weaving feels like history in present form. The great relationships I’ve developed over the years with each person I work with has been very rewarding and inspires me to do them justice.
ITE: Beautifully put Carol! The fashion industry for the first time is slowly starting to make conscious changes, mainly because we are wising up as customers. You must feel good to be at the forefront of the movement? Have you noticed these changes affecting you?
SC: I’ve noticed that consumers are slowly starting to care about how and where their products are made, which gives me a lot of hope for the future. I’m not sure I’ve noticed the changes affect me specifically but I have seen it affect how other brands market their goods and the kind of questions consumers are starting to ask. It’s wonderful that consumers are beginning to care more and take notice and it’s even better that more and more designers are trying where and when they can to produce in more environmentally or socially responsible ways. We have a long way to go but what’s starting to happen is promising. My goal is to make the complex supply chain of the apparel interesting enough in order to engage people to understand it better so that they can ask the right questions before purchasing.
ITE: We are avid followers of your Instagram stories, always sharing the beauty of India and the process along the way. I am the proud owner of a seek summer dress, the fabrics and colours are so beautiful and I get complimented literally every time I wear it. I can’t think of any brand I would rather be walking around from head to toe in. What is your favourite piece from the collection, if you can choose?
SC: So happy to have you in the Seek Collective community! Choosing a favourite it too hard for me because they are all sort of my babies. I’m usually always most excited about the future season I’m working on, what’s next. From the SS18 Collection, I’m excited about introducing embroidery for the first time as well as the gorgeous new natural dye shade of poppy. From the past, I have too many that hold sentimental value. Each and every style is special as so much time, care, and thought goes into everything.
ITE: You are lucky to be able to wear your own creations on a regular basis, but do you have any rules you follow when buying clothes?
SC: These days I am always either wearing Seek Collective, vintage or buying directly from friends who have their own brands. I enjoy supporting fellow independent designers I know and mixing it with Seek.
ITE: You are obviously very passionate about creating clothes in fair working conditions and having a positive social impact. What motivates you and what do you think is the best way for people to affect change?
SC: I think with the society we live in, change is effected by where and how you spend your money. That would mean support brands and people who are being transparent about how and where they are producing. Where something is made in terms of what country does not matter to me because the fact is we are global and we are all sharing the same planet. So no matter where the production is happening, what is important is the conditions for the workers, their fair wages, their hours and treatment, their health and safety, and how their environment is affected. Often people get hung up on where a garment is stitched but that is really only a part of a larger process and doesn’t take into account the manufacturing of the fabric itself. These days I’m motivated the more I learn about and see what’s happening to our world both environmentally and socially. I don’t want to be part of the continuing problems and would rather be trying to find solutions and leave a positive footprint.
ITE: You are a woman of many talents, designers need to wear many “hats” running your own business is tough, especially a conscious business, what are you at your happiest doing?
SC: I’m happiest when I’m gathering new ideas and inspiration, designing, and experimenting. I’m also happiest when I’m on the ground with the artisans and being able to interact with them, be a part of the process while sharing a chai and a laugh.
ITE: Tell us about a particular highlight of your journey so far with Seek Collective?
SC: The journey so far has been hugely challenging but also rewarding. I have learned and grown more than I ever thought possible in the time since I began Seek. I now know just how much I’m capable of tackling. The highlights have been all the different people become friends with through the business along the way. I love that my work requires travel and has allowed me to visit places that are off the beaten path. In the end, the incredible and diverse people who have been brought into my life through what I’m doing is what keeps me motivated and grateful.
ITE: Do you have any exciting news coming up that you can share with us today?
I’m launching both hand and machine embroidery with the SS18 collection, which I’m really excited about. It’s a technique I’ve not used yet with Seek and had been wanting to for some time. I’m also excited about some special pop-ups happening this Spring and Summer. I have a few more things in the pipeline but that’s all I can say for now!
ITE: Lastly, Do you have a personal motto?
SC: Never stop challenging yourself, feel all the feelings, remember that it is all a process with lessons to be learned, hold compassion for others, and laugh at yourself.
Speaking to Carol always reminds me that sustainable fashion is more than clothes, it is a way of life, a strong community if you want to be a part of it. Wearing clothes that look amazing and feel just as good. Seek Collective allows us all to buy into an independent brand that we believe in, with no compromises on style.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this article and the generously detailed response Carol has gone into for us. If like me you can’t get enough head on over to the Seek Collective website to check out the beautiful new Spring Summer collection and much more, and be sure to follow the journey on Instagram, where Carol shares many fun stories from India, enabling a refreshingly transparent and personal look into the production process.
Seriously, good luck trying to blend in when you wear these vibrant clothes, you will get noticed!
Thank you all for reading,
Lots of Love
Into The Eco xx
All photographs were taken by Josh John Photography