Meet Jessica Abraham
Meet our mate Jess. Environmentalist, van life traveller, previous publisher/founder of Tidal Magazine and she has recently added clothes designer to her long list of "killing it" titles after launching Tasi Travels a couple of months ago. We had a chat with her about travel, her new label and how to be more sustainable in our every day lives.
How did Tasi Travels come about and where do you see it headed?
Tasi was inspired by a trip I took to Timor-Leste late last year. East Timor is an incredible country with a difficult climate, temperatures are in the high 30 degrees/90% humidity but it's also quite a conservative culture, so women need to be covered up. I'd found it really difficult to pack for the trip, nothing I owned was practical, yet I still felt good in. I took a dress over with me from a well-known outdoor brand and it was just designed so poorly and the fabric was all wrong - it got me thinking that it should be easier to find quality travel clothing for all kinds of adventures. That's where the idea came from and nine months later Tasi has launched into the world and is teaching me so much every day.
As for where I see it heading, I'm really not sure yet. Already my ideas have changed for what I want Tasi to become - when I first had the idea I was thinking a lot bigger, a lot busier, but the more I learn about myself and the kind of lifestyle I place value on - the more I realise I don't necessarily want this to be big. Environmental and social responsibility become very difficult the bigger a brand gets, there's a more complex supply chain, more people, a bigger environmental footprint.. So while I have no doubt in my mind I want Tasi to be successful, I think success for me might look a little different to how it would for a lot of people. If I can build a business that is responsible to both people and planet, that encourages women (and men) to get out in the world and have new experiences, and that allows me to slip out to surf or sneak away for van trips I will be very, very happy. I would also love to see Tasi move further into the conservation world and look at funding trips to remote cultures and countries to implement marine debris recycling programs.
What made you want to use sustainable fabrics?
This was always a non-negotiable for me, if I couldn't find a way to make sure that Tasi was kind to the environment in all it's practices I wasn't going to go ahead with the idea. Fortunately I found an incredible fabric called Tencel which is soo amazing and I could talk about all day long! Tencel is regenerated from sustainably grown wood cellulose from the eucalyptus tree, and the cellulose is treated in a closed loop system, meaning no waste is produced and the solvents are recycled with a recovery rate of 99.5%. Tencel also doesn't wrinkle, dries quickly, is more absorbent than cotton, softer than silk and cooler than linen, making it perfect for travel. The last two years I had really begun to learn about the fashion and textiles industry and how detrimental it is to the environment (the second most harmful industry in the world, topped only by coal), and it just blew my mind. I couldn't believe the water that was being wasted, the harmful chemicals in the dye, the pesticides in cotton.. it was really overwhelming. Fortunately there are some incredible sustainable fabrics available and we incorporate three of them into the Tasi collection; Tencel, hemp and organic cotton.
Have you always been environmentally conscious or is this something that you starting to delve into deeper now that you are working with and designing clothing?
I think I've always been pretty switched on to the environment having had a childhood that was very much based on the outdoors, but it wasn't until I was sixteen that I really began to shift towards environmentalism. I've been pretty heavily involved in ocean conservation efforts since high school, I was always organising fundraisers or beach clean-ups through school, and since have continued to work closely with grassroots environmental organisations, particularity in the marine debris world (that was actually why I was in Timor-Leste in the first place). Now working in the fashion industry those values have absolutely stayed at the forefront for me and I'm really loving learning all about this new world, because when I understand more I can also understand more about how I can make sure I'm running a responsible business.
What are your top tips on how to be more sustainable in every day life?
Single use plastic is a massive one, and that's always the first thing I would encourage people to reduce in their lives, it's so simple once you start checking in with your everyday practices. The other one would be looking at more mindful consumption; this is relevant for everything we buy but particularly with clothes, try & check in with yourself with each purchase. Do I actually need this? Is this made in a way that aligns with my values? Will I still love this three months from now?
We notice that you get away in your van exploring quite a bit - why do you make this a priority in your life?
Yes! Van life is the best life! I unfortunately had to go through a few years of glorifying busy and pretty awful burnout before I realised that was no way to live my life. I've really shifted my values as I've learnt what's important to me, and lately I'm being drawn to a much slower and simpler life. I am 100% at my happiest, my kindest, my most creative when all the excess material stuff is stripped away, and it's just me, good friends, fun little waves and a big campfire. Spending time away in my van teaches me about mindful, conscious and slow living, it connects me to incredible like-minded people and it allows me to explore the incredible backyard that is the East Coast of Australia. So, so lucky.