I've been asked lately when will we have more meditation cushions in stock? To say the pandemic has affected our production would be an understatement. There have been many set backs this spring and summer, delaying new stock by months. While I admit this is nerve wracking for me as a business owner, it's also been a perfect time for me to step back and see how the situation serves to remind me of our company values and priorities.
Slow Textiles. Even though I use the word slow to describe our process, many times our full process ends up being much faster than mass-producers over seas who start planning their collections over a year in advance of shipment. Producing our products here in the US is a major pillar of our company: having our small-scale manufacturing close to our customer base has many many benefits (a whole other journal post is required!) including supporting the local textile manufacturing industry here in Minnesota. By employing stitchers in our own community, money stays within our community. What makes our process "slow" is the length of time to complete each step. From collecting fabric scraps from local cutting facilities, sorting them, cutting and piecing the fabrics together, then sewing, finishing, packing, and shipping. This requires an immense amount of labor to accomplish.
Speed, uniformity, and perfection at all costs are ideals of the mass market fashion and textile retailers with large profits going to their C-suites and meager wages to their skilled laborers. These narrow ideals also belong to the white supremacist patriarchal predatory-capitalist system (which passes as the status quo) in which we live. It's all about extracting from the Earth and its people to drive profits for a few, while throwing sleek marketing at us consumers to cover up what goes into making their products.
Instead at Ethel Studio we embrace variety, going at our own pace, and embracing fabric nuances (some may call them “imperfections”) of each one-of-a-kind cushion with it’s unique piecework fabrics. We place material efficiency above time (and thus monetary) efficiency. This is what sets us apart in both our process as well as aesthetically in our final designs.
The well-being of everyone involved is another priority for us. When working under time crushes, not only will quality suffer, so will the mental and physical state of the maker. While I and my sewing contract partners do our best to adhere to timelines, inevitably life happens, or in this case a pandemic and an Uprising happens. I try to create timelines which have extra space in them as best as I can manage to accommodate for this, but again anything can happen along the way.
I haven't chosen to tackle pre-consumer textile waste for some sales points just merely to set my company apart from competitors. I do this because I can't unlearn about our landfills piling up with clothing worn once or how incinerators are always built near communities of color to breathe in their toxic fumes. I can't unlearn the destruction that fossil fuel extraction has on the earth and it's creatures just so we can have cute yoga pants for a season. Our clothing and our home textiles are almost always made in "far away" places where mostly people of color are subjected to health-altering chemical exposure and labor injustices. THIS is why we have our "no new textiles" mission at Ethel Studio. There's so much fabric out there that needs to be used: we don’t need to necessitate more to be made.
I want the meditation cushions we make to reflect what I want for you, the users, to get out of them. I want our processes to contribute to the transformation of the textile industry: just like I want to create a place for you all to work towards transformation while ON the cushions. Everything is connected, and while that phrase is perhaps overused and trite, it really is true. I strive for our company and our growing community to all build our awareness around this truth.
I want us to all ask ourselves what we are contributing to through our purchases, our work, our actions, and our in-actions?
Where in our lives can we pause and just slow down?
The time is overdue for us to examine ourselves, our beliefs, and all our many facets. We are living in a time of great transformational change. Let's not rely on that change to be happening solely around us, but let's ensure we carve out time and space to do the internal work to transform ourselves from the inside out.
—Maggie, founder of Ethel Studio
Photo: Charlotte Dupont