By Kartika Putra
Words by Sally Westlake
Imagine our world as woven. Threads from yesterday lay the colours for today, setting the patterns for tomorrow. The colours and patterns we spend our days in enrich our lives, as we express ourselves as individuals and in cultures.
The art of weaving is traditionally one of storytelling, and our world is made from stories. Recently I’ve become aware of a story told by two bright and inspiring girls from Sydney. Their fashion label, Wolftress, utilises the traditional textiles of ethnic groups worldwide to enrich and empower ancient cultures through fashion.
Jessie and Kartika met while backpacking through South America. They were both lost and had run out of money; at that point in their trips where they should have gone home but they couldn’t.
“Whatever was meant to happen there hadn’t happened yet,” Jessie said.
Wolftress was first imagined whilst nestled in the hammocks of a fishing village in Ecuador, observing girls farming in pleated skirts and felt top hats, shrouded in the mist settling between mountains; tribesmen’s cream and black weaves contrasting the coastline.
“You know when you have those moments when you are so engulfed in another world and you think, how can I share this with home?”
For Jessie and Kartika, the opportunity to share this culture was in the native textiles. They sought to incorporate the traditional fabrics into unique pieces to make them accessible and relevant to an international audience.
They began travelling to remote markets to meet the artisans and came to understand how important the depth behind the fabrics is to the culture and livelihood of the communities and people they met.
“They took us back to their homes. We were so lucky, getting to meet their families and quickly realising these people have incredible stories,” Kartika said.
Within these families the girls learned about the fragility of the crafts, and how factories and machines are rapidly replacing these ancient skills by their cheap and fast nature.
“Jessie and I travelled to villages where their only source of income was the sale of their craft. The skills have been passed on for generations and are what the little villages pride themselves on,” Kartika described. “Our label stands for a change in how we think about fashion. Right now we have the choice to buy things for a different reason other than how it looks.”
When studying fashion at university, Jessie felt she couldn’t bring herself to ‘just do fashion for the sake of fashion. It is time for fashion with substance behind it.”
By sourcing materials directly from the villages and sharing their stories, Wolftress play an important role in keeping these cultures and traditions alive and vibrant. They have given alternate products to buy in the fashion market that does not foster the fast fashion methods that currently dominate the industry. For the fast fashion mindset not only threatens the livelihood of these cultures, but supports unethical practices, poor working conditions and harmful competition.
As consumers, our actions and choices can help guide a more vibrant tomorrow. Wolftress teaches us to select pieces that express who we are, while being conscious of the stories behind the garments.
Having released their first Ecuador inspired collection, Jessie and Kartika are currently exploring the Yunnan Province of China, ready to rethread their connection with another ancient world to bring you pieces and stories that will bind cultures together.
Find an exclusive insight to their journey in the next edition of rummage.