How Matter Prints is Using Alternative Production to Inspire and Celebrate Heritage
It’s not everyday that you get the opportunity to learn more about the behind-the-scenes of a company that you admire.
Known for their fun modern prints, and unique timeless shapes, we were quite excited to be able to send a few questions to their team and get some insight on one of our favorite sustainable companies.
Based in Singapore, Matter Prints started in 2014 and is truly a leader in sustainability due to their alternative production methods, and thoughtful design.
Their mission is to inspire customers to value the importance of provenance. To ask where and why something is made, by whom, and to expand a community that celebrates heritage.
With the majority of the collection made in India with the exception of an Ikat partner in Thailand, the Matter Prints collection definitely made a name for themselves when it comes to working with artisans, using natural dye, hand looming and block printing.
If you haven’t had a chance to check them out, you definitely have to take a look at their unique jumpsuits which as we all know can be such a pain to wear, but their two piece hidden design make these so easy to wear (aka use the bathroom!).
We also are obsessed with their pants especially the Lounge Lunghi style which has the coolest closure and design we’ve seen in a while.
So without further ado, please take a peek with our in depth Q&A and learn what it takes to truly become a successful sustainable fashion company.
How did MATTER Prints come about? Was there a lightbulb moment? What is your background and how did it play a part in this brand.
I had always loved craft through travels that my mother took me on sourcing trips to craft communities when young, but it properly took shape when I met my co-founder Yvonne and we were working in Mexico together in 2009. It stayed on the back burner over the years, where we’ve had different full-time jobs but would still meet up to do sourcing trips. It then catalysed shortly after a fundraising for charity tuk tuk trip from North to South India with my fiancé, where our motto was "Little things go a long way".
To cut a long story short, it was a domino effect of meeting the right people to work with and also having an experience that kickstarted my determination to start something that made a difference, no matter how small.
We love your mission and core values. What has been your journey with sustainability and ethical practices?
Ethical textile was at the core of our beliefs, we were passionate about sharing traditional textile techniques as well as the stories of people who made them and the culture they live in. Sustainability, naturally, was a pillar to that, although what it meant to us became more complex over time. There is no clear cut definition but the way we see it, sustainability is a journey with the actions taken shaping its impact. It’s about the decisions we make everyday, as individuals and businesses, that come together to collectively affect greater change.
Beyond our commitment to ethical production and eco-friendly materials, we’ve aligned ourselves with sustainable practices across our production and design process. For that reason, our practices have also included minimal waste design, hybrid production process, and a design approach rooted in seasonless styles.
How did the association with Banyan Tree Gallery come about? Tell us about that relationship and how it plays a part of the MATTER Prints business.
Matter Prints joined under Banyan Tree Gallery in 2016. The mission for these two brands is simple, and the same - drive positive impact for all stakeholders, and to create shared value. In specific terms, its all about connection. To create environments and products that cultivate more connection within oneself and each other because it is an integral step to more conscious choices and living in general.
How do you go about finding your suppliers and artisans?
Each of our supply chain partners are chosen based on a set of criteria emphasizing product integrity, community integration, and good business practice. Each of those four categories have another 5 to 8 criteria within them which we score accordingly when we do our partner reviews. At the same time, I think personal visits and gut feel are a must to really make a decision. Afterall, a business is a sum of all the relationships you choose to develop whether its with your production partners, suppliers, customers, and team. We personally visit each partner to establish a long term relationship, which is founded upon many cups of chai together. We currently work with both fair trade factories, artisan cooperatives, and family-owned businesses.
Is the majority of the collection made in India?
For the time being, most of our artisan partners are all based in India with the exception of one Ikat artisan partner in Thailand. We’ve also been looking at Batik in Malaysia, and are hoping to explore that range in the months to come.
We’ve seen many other collections made ethically popping up in India. We know India is well known for their artisans, natural dye, and prints. Is this the main reason you choose India? Or how did the decision come about to have everything made there?
Long story short, it was a domino effect of meeting the right people in India at the right time! I went to India with Adrien, my husband, in January 2013 on a Fluk Fluk trip. We drove a tuk-tuk 3000km to raise money for charities that provided the basic essentials — water, nature, education, and play. Through that trip I really saw the colours of India and fell completely in love with it. And through Barefoot College, one of the charities we donated to, I found a textile community and social enterprise in India.
That particular project made me feel like it was the right time to start on MATTER. Out of all the countries I’ve mentioned, India has also been the most responsive in terms of email, virtual Skyping, replying messages etc. The social enterprise sector in India is by far the most advanced in Asia, and the depth of their infrastructure and organization is impressive.
Have there been any roadblocks or struggles when it comes to building Matter?
The challenges have been quite a few but the most important thing that’s helped me is maintaining a growth mindset and a supportive community. Having no background in design, fashion or production was immensely hard in meeting roadblocks in delivery timelines and quality control. That was overcome by seeing not what we didn’t have but what we did, and using that to our best advantage.
Which is how our unique production model arose, where we do not produce seasonal styles and new styles but only new fabrics. Production timeliness and inventory management were definitely key challenges given our unique supply chain; but that's also why our customers love the product.
If there’s one thing you could do differently or do-over what would that be and why?
We take everything as a learning lesson, recounting the journey that got us here, there were a lot of low points: The first shipment and its quality issues, the first customer complaint, the first partner that copied and sold our items, the first employee leaving, the first negative month on the P&L, and the first website crash. The lowest points are often the ones that are the newest, but then you learn how to approach them and see the larger picture.
What has been your biggest accomplishment?
Looking back, I’ve come to realise that the process is the destination; the moments of how you interact with someone. Instead of seeing it as big achievements, I thought about my career and development in terms of individual relationships, and in that form it relieved a lot of stress for me.