SVALA – your brand – has a connection that unites the USA, Iceland and Australia. Tell us about it!
I grew up in Sydney in Australia which is where I went to school and university. My dad is Australian but my mother is Icelandic, so I have spent a lot of time in Iceland where a large part of my family lives.
Australia and Iceland and their natural beauty have always been a source of inspiration for me. After university, I moved to Los Angeles which is where I started Svala. Svala is inspired by the relaxed feel of Sydney and Los Angeles and the simplicity of Scandinavian design.
Of course, we have to ask you about the swallow logo. What’s the inspiration behind it?
Svala means “swallow” in Icelandic and has always been my favorite name. The swallow bird is a symbol of love, hope and freedom in many cultures – everything that I wanted my brand to stand for.
Do you think vegan leather is a passing fad or the future?
I think vegan leather is definitely the future. The last few years have seen so much improvement in the quality, durability and sustainability of vegan leathers and I am excited to see even more innovation.
What types of vegan leather do you use and why did you choose them?
Svala uses cork, Piñatex® (made from pineapple leaf fiber), Italian vegan leather and BioVeg.
Our cork fabric is sourced from Portugal, which is known for producing the world’s most beautiful cork. Cork, the bark of the cork oak tree, is beautiful, waterproof, stain resistant and durable. The harvesting of cork is done in a sustainable manner so that no tree is damaged during the process – the harvesting actually helps the tree absorb CO2 and therefore the environment! The harvesting of cork also creates well paid agricultural jobs and the financial viability of cork helps provide long term habitat protection for hundreds of animal and plant species.
Piñatex® is a natural, innovative and patented new material, made from pineapple leaf fibers gathered by partner farming cooperatives in the Philippines. Piñatex® fibers are the by-product of the pineapple harvest, which brings new income streams to subsistence farmers, allowing them to fully utilize their crops. No extra land, water, fertilizer or pesticides are required to produce the raw material.
Our vegan leather is sourced from Italy from a family-owned factory that supplies various high-end European luxury designers. This eco-conscious factory has installed photovoltaic generators on the roofs in order to produce green energy and save CO2. Their processes are constantly monitored in order to provide an a-toxic product, fully compliant with the recent “REACH” European norm which is much more stringent than other countries. We also source our BioVeg from them – this is an innovative vegan fabric made with recycled polyester from plastic bottles and bio polyols, obtained from non-food and GMO-free corn crops. This fabric contains at least 75% biomass from renewable resources – one of the highest percentages available on the market.
Tell us about your bag models that are based on consumer / custom requests
One of our designs that is based on customer requests is the Gemma convertible Backpack Purse. Another design is the Sara convertible Wallet Purse. Many of our customers are looking for convertible designs – this is a more sustainable choice as these pieces can be worn multiple ways and transition easily from day to night.
Does your choice to make Svala a direct-to-consumer company mean giving up on growth and expansion?
We decided to become a DTC brand so that we could offer products made locally and ethically from the best European, sustainable fabrics available, with more accessible pricing. We are focused on growing with our community and working to offer the best of sustainable luxury without the retail markup.
You are often referred to as a brand fighting for climate change. In addition to using eco-friendly materials, it is important to change people’s outlook. Do you know people who have changed their views because of what you’re doing?
I think a lot of independent, sustainable brands, creators and especially consumers have helped raise awareness and drive change in the fashion industry by questioning what fabrics are used and how products are made. I think all of this change is definitely a collective effort and it is exciting to see.
Which collaborations were you most impressed with?
I am very excited about our recent partnership with Ecologi, an organization that is working to help fight climate change. Through Ecologi, a tree is planted with every Svala order and this has helped fund various reforestation projects already.
Have you ever thought about opening your own boutique so that consumers can touch and feel your products?
We have had several pop-ups that have been a lot of fun so I think opening a store is something we would definitely consider. Although bags and accessories are relatively easy to buy online as there is no sizing, a lot of people do want to touch and feel the materials when they are selecting.
What did the covid-19 epidemic teach you?
The last two years have been so challenging for everybody. I am very grateful for my family, friends and health.