As an entrepreneur, I want the values of my business and its principles to match my personal values. Sustainability is an important value to me personally, and therefore it’s natural that sustainability is at the very core of my business practice. To me, sustainability is as much of an environmental theme as it is a social one: I want to spare natural resources and I want to see my products produced in decent labour conditions.
On this page I tell a little more about how sustainability is visible in my design processes and in my business principles. For my business, the key in sustainability is continuous action—making choices that guide my practice to a sustainable direction each and every day.
As a Textile Designer and an entrepreneur my precept is that if we cannot avoid textiles in life, we should focus on producing textiles of quality and textiles that are sustainable. A product of quality brings us joy and stays in use for a long time: when cared for properly, products may last from one generation to the next.
I want to design products, in which the textile fibres and the characteristics of the fabric are attentive of the product’s intended use, and in that way increase the product’s life span. I want to design products, which are a delight to use—products that customers will cherish even after several years of use.
We need textiles in our everyday lives; some bring us joy at times of celebration while others are trusted products we use every day. We often need new textiles, be it a piece of clothing, an accessory, or an interior textile, but how much do we actually need and how often? What kinds of textiles do we really need and why? Do we acquire things just based on trends or outside influences, or do we acquire them based on our values and needs?
ELISA PENTTILÄ wants to be part of a sustainable textile industry, where customers are not directed at only buying what’s trendy, nor incited to always buy more than what they need. Rather, I want my business to encourage customers to consume sustainably, within the limits of their own preferences. Trends come and go, but products that suit one’s preferences and style do stay relevant from one season to the next. I hope that every purchase from my business is deliberate, and that the product is cherished and looked after in a way that makes it last as long as possible.
Textile production and sustainability
Textiles and sustainability
Sustainability in textile production is a complicated matter. Different raw materials have their pros and cons when considering both sustainability and their characteristics, and even natural fibres are not necessarily produced in a manner that’s completely eco-friendly.
Out of natural fibres, cotton requires a lot of water to grow and many chemicals are used in the production of cotton products (thread, yarn, and fabrics, for example). Regenerated cellulose fibres (rayon/viscose, for example) also require many chemicals in the production process. Out of oil-based synthetic fibres, polyester is recyclable and thus may be reused; however, the fibre’s raw material remains oil. As you may see from this (very much simplified) example, choosing fibres based on their sustainability or eco-friendliness is not completely black-and-white.
Moreover, materials are only one part of the production chain when it comes to textiles, as production and shipping also account for much of the environmental impact textiles have. Every production step takes energy and water, chemicals are used in dyeing yarns or fabrics, and raw materials, fabrics and products may be shipped around the globe between stages of production.
My business’ operating principles are based on aiming for a sustainable practice in all aspects of my business.
Local production reduces the need to ship raw materials and products around as well as guaranteeing decent production conditions. When I weave the fabrics that I use in my products myself, I know exactly how they’re made and what has gone into making them: materials, time and expertise.
To put it simply, zero waste principles aim to reduce the amount of garbage going to the landfill as much as possible, if not completely. In my practice, zero waste principles can be seen in many processes: I recycle everything I can, I choose recycling friendly materials for my packaging and marketing materials, and I carefully plan production so that there are as little leftovers as possible.
Using natural and recycled/second-hand materials
In my products I mainly use natural fibres (wool, cotton, linen and silk). I sometimes also use regenerated cellulose fibres (such as rayon/viscose), even though their production is not perfectly eco-friendly. However, I do regard regenerated fibres to be a better choice than oil-based synthetic fibres.
Zero waste principles are reflected also in the materials I use, as some of my materials are second hand fabrics and surplus yarns. Throwing away perfectly usable material does not align with my principles, so using everything I have and acquiring surplus, recycled or second hand materials is an important part of my practice.
Continuous business improvement
I constantly aim to improve the processes in order to steer my practice into an even more sustainable direction. Sustainability is a key deciding factor in the process when planning future operations and products or when purchasing new materials to work with, for example.