The Passionate Pursuit of Ethical Hairpins: S A Y A Designs

I’ve been getting some questions and stares — what’s that stick hanging out of your hair Christine?

I’m excited to share S A Y A  Design’s story with you today, from their founder Victoria. Her wonderful story traces back to her roots in design and journey to Indonesia, where she was inspired to leverage otherwise wasted wood material from deforested areas to create these beautiful, ecological and handcrafted hairpins. Her startup recently hit their goal on kickstarter and I could not be more excited for their cause — you’ll have to check all the details of their mission minded venture here (the video posted speaks for itself!).

I asked a few questions to S A Y A ‘s founder, Victoria, to learn more about her story and journey as she led this sustainable venture. It’s wonderful to see the results of her work, and I hope you enjoy hearing more about her work as I did!

Q: Please tell us a bit about who you are and what inspired you to start S A Y A.

V: S A Y A Designs is a brand new start-up creating hair pins out of reclaimed roots. For each piece purchased we are planting up to10 endangered trees into micro forests around Indonesia.

My name is Victoria, I am from Oxford in the UK and I started S A Y A. My back ground is in visual arts, I studied at Central Saint Martins and focused on sculpture and performance art. I set up my first business after I graduated, selling antiques. My love for hand crafted objects stemmed from my time analysing crafts and traditional techniques. You really can’t even begin to compare the skill of past generations with modern day, mass produced, machine made things. The beauty of the handmade is always in the imperfections.

I was inspired to start S A Y A because I wanted to establish a way I could create a direct link between giving back to the planet I love, whilst expressing my creativity. Circular business models always made so much sense to me. S A Y A Designs is really a social enterprise and what we have launched is our first collaboration.

Through S a y a we are creating excitement around issues we believe in. We hope to invite others to learn more and get involved with environmental and wildlife conservation. We aim to do this by creating things people can treasure that have stories tell. We have many ideas for the road ahead, whats exiting is that this is just the beginning.

Q: How do S A Y A ‘s hairpins differ from the conventional hairpin, and what are some of the benefits of using a hairpin over a hair tie?

V: Whats interesting is that every time one is made they are never the same, the wood varies in colours and the grains are unique. Being handmade they become so much more than a product, they are a link and connection between cultures. The designs are also all unique to S A Y A. I was inspired by shapes and textures from nature and as a result the feel has become quite contemporary.

Whats really special is that they are made of reclaimed root wood left behind by loggers in Indonesia. These roots have really rich beautiful grains but are abandoned by plantations and the logging industry, as they serve no purpose. Some have been in the ground for decades. The hair sticks have a mission of their own and are completing an amazing cycle. Using our designs and one dead root, we can plant thousands more vulnerable species.

As for the benefits there are many. They are a 100% reusable and biodegradable option to all the plastic and elastic disposable’s. Elastic bands can damage your hair and plastic clips tend to break so easily.

I used to use pencils and paint brushes in my hair when I was at university. My partner then bought me back one from China as a gift and I haven’t used anything else in my hair since. I loved that it was hand made and felt so elegant. Hair sticks are the original hair tool, used for thousands of years across the world. Anthropologists can see our female ancestors used everything from bones, sticks and stones to fashion crude hair pins. I don’t know why we don’t use them more.

Q: What are some of the challenges to running a sustainable, socially minded business?

V: There have been a variety of tricky things. Its not easiest path to take, but i think there are hurdles for any business.

The main challenge I would say is that there is no rule book to sustainability. Sometimes people give you advice that you don’t agree with. My advice is to know your own standards and always stick with your initial gut feeling. People place their own depth to the word ‘sustainable’, I realised quite early on. I felt determine to keeping doing everything in a way that I could be proud of.

Another challenge for me personally has been the language barrier. Although this is not going to be the case with all social enterprises. My Indonesian has a lot of room for improvement. Finding a common ground with some of the people i am working with had to be communicated outside of the box!

The ultimate thing, is being able to keep positive and stay optimistic. Especially during this current political and environmental crisis. I personally try to let any negativity propel me even further into being indefeatabley optimistic. This is the time where our planet needs us more than ever. We are the problem, but we are also the solution. Right now I am focusing on what I am doing right and how I can make that better.

Q: Could you share with us one of your most fond memories due to your work?

V: Some of my fondest memories during this time setting up S A Y A have been working with the artisans We share the same passion in creating things. It has been such a pleasure to get to know them, meeting their families and being accepted into the balinese way of life.

Another more recent memory is when I was counting the total amount of trees we have planted so far during the campaign. As I was driving along I tried to imagine what an area of 571 fully mature trees look liked. That made me feel very happy!

Q: How do you think you’ve changed since you started S A Y A? Do you find that you have become empowered to change your own lifestyle because of it?

V: Yes it definitely has! I think it has shaped me personally by learning to be more assertive, more confident in taking risks and more confident in my own ability. It has empowered my lifestyle, as it feels like all those things have had a ripple effect into every small area of my life.

I feel more empowered to make sure I stand firmly for what i believe in, otherwise it all means nothing. I also just feel motivated to do so much more.

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