is an LA-based sustainable lingerie and loungewear company that makes delicate, feminine pieces out of surplus lace and sustainably-sourced bamboo viscose under ethical labor guidelines. I've been hunting for simple loungewear pieces to replace some of my older items and Svala fits the bill. I had the opportunity to ask founder and designer, Helga Douglas, about the inspiration behind her collection, as well as some nitty-gritty sourcing and sustainability questions. Thanks to Svala for sponsoring this post.
FIRSTLY, TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF!
My name is Helga and I am originally from Sydney but I have been living in LA for the past seven years. The name for Svala comes from Iceland where my mother is from. It is one of my favorite girls' names and means swallow (bird) which represents freedom and hope.
HOW DID SVALA GET STARTED?
I have always loved fashion. My first job out of high school was at the wholesale office for Versace in Sydney. I also love nature and the environment and as I learned more about the detrimental effects that the fashion industry can have, I started to research brands which were producing sustainably. I ended up writing about sustainable fashion for the Los Angeles Examiner a few years ago. Researching what other people were creating in the sustainable scene inspired me to create my own brand.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL WORK DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
I usually get up pretty early and try to get to a yoga class before starting work. Then I begin dealing with what needs to be done for the day, including marketing and design.
WHAT STEPS DOES SVALA TAKE TO ENSURE THAT FACTORY EMPLOYEES ARE PAID A FAIR WAGE IN LIGHT OF RECENT CONCERNS ABOUT LA SWEATSHOPS?
During production we use established companies that have a good reputation and pay their workers fairly.
I LOVE THAT YOU USE SURPLUS LACE IN MANY OF YOUR PRODUCTS. HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA TO DO THAT?
When I first started designing lingerie and sleepwear, I tried using organic cotton lace but it didn't seem to keep its shape very well and was difficult to work with. I love lace and started searching for alternatives and ended up choosing to use factory surplus materials.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR ORGANIC COTTON AND VISCOSE TEXTILES SOURCING...
(...I know that bamboo viscose can be processed organically or chemically and that the latter poses potential environmental and health risks. Can you speak to that concern?)
Our supplier uses bamboo which is certified as organic by the Organic Crops Improvement Association (OCIA). The main chemical in processing the bamboo fiber into viscose is caustic soda or CS2, one of the most widely chemicals used in the world. This chemical is used in production of paper, soap making, food production and nearly all cotton fabrics including organic cotton (during the wet processing). It is approved for use on textiles under the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
HOW DO BAMBOO VISCOSE PROCESSING PLANTS ENSURE THAT NO CHEMICALS LEAK DURING THE MANUFACTURING PROCESS?
Our supplier states that the process is done in a hermetic container where 100% of the chemicals that are used are trapped and contained, not released into the factory, environment or atmosphere and 73% of CS2’s are recycled while 26% are recycled into Sulfuric Acid (H2S04). They do not claim that the whole process is “green” but they do strive to be as eco-friendly as possible.
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR DESIGNS?
The colorful feel of Sydney and LA and the simplicity of Scandinavian design. I want everybody who wears Svala pieces to feel beautiful and cozy.
WHAT'S THE BEST SELLING ITEM OR SET IN YOUR CURRENT COLLECTION?
The Vivien lace lingerie set in beige floral and sky blue, which is my favorite set.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE IN TERMS OF EXPANDING THE LINE AND INCREASING SUSTAINABILITY?
I am always on the lookout for new fabrics and dyeing methods to expand the line and increase sustainability. I am currently looking for fabrics besides viscose from bamboo for the sleepwear range which are biodegradable and produced more sustainably.
WHAT'S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU LIKE TO GIVE TO PEOPLE WHO ARE TRYING TO LIVE MORE SUSTAINABLY?
Every little bit counts!