Good bedding is hard to come by. It's a touch and feel thing – the type of experience that can't be quantified online. Once you find the one, you're bound for life. It's that simple really. For co-founders of STUDIO SUTRAM, Kate Fowler and Rukaiya Daud, creating a sanctuary in the sheets was always the intention. With their inaugural launch, they have done just that – launching a Sydney-based textile house focused on organic cotton bedwear and accents for the home.
A complex and exciting interplay of colour and texture, SUTRAM is just as much an expression of self as it is essential luxury. The meaning behind the name stems from the Sanskrit or Tamil word meaning overarching formula, plan, string, or thread. A sentiment that speaks clearly to Fowler and Daud's concise, meaningful and true intentions, they have created pieces that aim to blend seamlessly into the existing fabric of your home.
RUSSH caught up with Fowler and Daud ahead of SUTRAM's launch to talk about their joint love of homewares, organic cotton and the inspiration behind the campaign.
Congratulations on the launch of SUTRAM. Tell me a little bit about how the project began – has this always been a space you have wanted to explore?
Thank you! It’s interesting that all these years later the mutual interests we bonded over at high school have formed in the way of a business. Rukaiya moved to Sydney and we first explored a small run of furniture pieces, then landed on bedwear which seemed more natural to start with. It was always going to be in the home space. We both love homewares.
You speak a bit about colour being a key inspiration behind the brand. How did you decide on a colourway for the collection that spoke authentically to the ethos behind SUTRAM?
The ten colours in our first collection are loosely based on an extended version of primary colours. This wasn’t planned but a happy accident that makes sense in hindsight. They all go with each other and each is as key to the overall narrative as the other.
For many of us, our beds represent a sanctuary from the outside world. How have you emulated this feeling in what you have created for SUTRAM?
Although we speak a lot about the colour, the feeling and quality of SUTRAM cotton is at the forefront. It’s super crisp, and cool and feels like heaven against your skin. My sister’s partner Nathan explained he was never ‘a sheet guy’ but now he’s experienced them he can’t go without. He was away and said he couldn’t wait to get home to his SUTRAM sheets. He isn’t one to speak for the sake of it so hearing this was the a big confirmation for us!
Our beds are home to so many of our least guarded moments. Our bed takes us as we are no matter where we may be at that time. We know rest is important but our view of it can be a little narrow at times – there is a place for a smug early night but other times rest might mean a night out dancing and waking up to the untouched glass of water by your side the next morning. We want to celebrate both the bed, and us, in all our varied forms and stages (whether the bed is perfectly made or not!)
The cotton you use is 100% organic, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Fairtrade certified. Was creating an environmentally conscious product a non-negotiable for you both? What was the process like?
Creating something new always has an impact – neither of us would have felt right making something that didn’t at least lessen these effects along the way.
That our products are made in ways that improve outcomes for the people in our supply chain but also for soil health is important to us as a matter of good conscience. We are not here to beat our chest about it but we feel a need to support better practices where we can. It also makes sense for us to offer this to the market. People don’t really want sheets made using harsh chemicals and toxic dyes against their skin each night. We are proud we can offer GOTS and Fair Trade certified cotton for our sheets and pass on the benefits.
Our production partner made the switch to exclusively organic and Fairtrade cotton back in the mid 90s. They have laid such strong groundwork that the process has been mostly smooth for us – the certification process can be involved, but rightly so. Our supplier also sources our cotton from a collective of small and marginalised farmers in Maharashtra which has grown steadily in number from 234 to over 15,000 over the course of their 18-year partnership. This allows for a direct flow of capital to the farmers and their rural communities.
Our other production partner supports, employs, and trains vulnerable women. Providing skills, a proper wage and ultimately economic empowerment towards women is an effective way to have a direct impact.
We are happy that we can support organisations like this with our business and, though a start, we know there are many ways we can continue on this learning curve.
Tell me a bit about the inspiration behind the campaign – the imagery is so unique and personal.
For our first campaign we knew we wanted to tap into the feeling and emotion of the bed. We wanted to create beautiful imagery that was human, and light-hearted, but also create a relatable sort of intrigue.
Bruna Volpi took this, along with our description of bed as ‘home’ and really solidified it. Your bed feels like home no matter where home may be at that time. Her enthusiasm for the project and how she put it in to words, and then images, along with Jake Terry exceeded our expectations. We can’t wait to continue expanding this narrative.
Everyone has pieces in their home or space that bring a sense of safety and calm – what are yours?
R: A bit simple but just my notebook. I always need to put pen to paper. Writing everything down or just a to do list provides some ease. I am also looking at one of my Fourth Street Limestone Egg Sculptures. A customer returned it because it had a visible mark on it – actually a fossil. This would have formed along with the millions of years ago and was only visible when we cut the piece. I love that about it and saved it for myself.
K: Saachi and Alexa’s artworks. Books. I have a clock hanging in my kitchen that my parents recently passed on to me. It was handmade from copper in New Zealand, and has an amazing oxidised patina to it. It bears a real sense of nostalgia and it feels really grounding to have something that was such a constant my own childhood here whilst I am raising my girls.
CREATIVE DIRECTION Bruna Volpi
PHOTOGRAPHY Jake Terrey