Shifting to more ethical and intelligent ways of working is the zeitgeist of fashion in 2019. Slowly but surely, more brands are placing an emphasis on environmental consciousness – and, as ardent supporters of sustainable efforts, we’re celebrating the brands doing just that. Each week, we’ll be meeting the brands fashioning beautiful goods with the greater good in mind.

Throw-away fast fashion is a breeding ground for a complete disconnect of where the clothes on our backs come from; so far removed from our consciousness in the West is the notion of a sweatshop and what that actually looks like as a way of life. Ergo, transparency is the key word we should be looking for in brand manifestos – a lay-it-on-the-table approach with no corners cut. And with leather goods brand STELAR that's what we get. 

"Our longterm goal is to build a sustainable and transparent brand that supports the longterm livelihoods of skilled craftsmen and artisanal techniques, so I wanted to find a way to forge an authentic narrative between the artisan, the customer and the international marketplace," says Lorna Watson, the designer and creative director behind the brand.

This narrative she speaks of is rooted in the brand's unique coding system, which puts a face to a name for every handcrafted good via the idiosyncratic code it comes complete with. As easy as one-two-three (four-five), through inputting the digits into the brand's website, you're invited to journey through the items lifecycle – meeting the artisan who lovingly created it. "At the moment you discover how your artisan first learnt to weave and what weaving for STELAR means to them, their family and their community today," explains Lorna. "Longer term you will also be able to learn about their artisan culture, the provenance of the materials used, and educational initiatives that we are introducing within their communities."

Working with several communities in various regions of Bali – including 
East Bali, where traditional Balinese basket weaving originates from – the workers are not only provided with a living and a sense of purpose, but the brand teaches them to use techniques indigenous to the land in new ways.

"When Mount Agung erupted in 2017, many of the villages located directly below the volcano were evacuated and displaced for five months, without any means of passing their time or making a living... We introduced a basket bag project to them, using a locally grown atta vine, and weaving techniques already familiar within their communities," says Lorna. "By harnessing skills they had inherited since childhood – to weave the roofs they sleep under, the mats they sleep on and the prayer baskets they make offerings with – we were able to create a unique collection of bags with them. Its great to see how this is evolving with them now they have relocated to their villages."

A firm belief in supporting communities with high level craftsmanship skills ("we currently work with a variety of traditional weaving techniques and locally sourced materials such as locally grown dried vine, atta, as well as super soft sheep leather – both of which lend themselves beautifully to reinterpreting ancient skills in a contemporary way," adds Lorna), the brand is excelling in supporting its employees both culturally and economically. 

And as for the finished products, the vegan Spring/Summer collection offers up bags that work just as hard in the city as they do on the beach – from robust string basket styles to totes and drum bags, which feature interchangeable straps and clasp details. Meanwhile, for the workers, the beauty of fashioning such m
odern design sensibilities means their skills are given a contemporary relevance. As Lorna enthuses: "We are able to elevate the expertise and empower young artisans to seek a long term future in skills they have inherited from their forefathers." May traditions live on and empowerment abound.

Discover STELAR's signature styles here.

More Brands To Believe In: 

+ London-based jeweller Pippa Small

Bespoke London-based label Eponine

+ Organic haircare by OWAY