Thailand’s fashion industry is thriving, but ethical production and sustainable practices are still lacking in many respects. Thai-Swiss entrepreneur Annabelle Hutter,
25, wants to help change that. With her lifestyle brand Born on Saturday
, she turns cotton waste into everyday lifestyle products. She talks about her brand, waste management, and pushing Thailand’s circular economy forward.
How did you get into producing recycled lifestyle items?
I found out early that the whole corporate side of the business wasn’t for me and wanted an injection of creativity. I’m also the global product director for my family’s business. We have a facility in Turkey that collects cotton textile waste and spins it into new yarn using this amazing technology developed by my father [the company, Säntis Textiles, recycles industrial cotton waste into a product called RCO100 and turns it into new fabrics for brands like Calvin Klein]. My family history in textiles, alongside the innovation, has subconsciously inspired me. It was in my DNA and I’m proud of it. [But] I wanted to do more than just managing production so I put my girl boss pants on and made a brand out of it. I also lease with global brands and companies like Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and H&M. I help create closed loop systems for them to recycle their old cotton waste into new fabrics. Born on Saturday came naturally to me.
What does sustainable fashion involve?
[Sustainability] is a term that is being used very loosely now, so I kind of gravitate toward circular, zero waste, and recycling. Sustainable fashion is a totally new energy for me and it’s an exciting way to open new dialogues, further old dialogues, and celebrate waste—and that’s the case for my brand. We have the story on us, the responsibility to wear the clothes and to share it with our peers.
How did you find your place in the Thai fashion industry?
It was really hard initially. I spent only two years of school here, so I didn’t have that wide network like other business owners do. But the support for my initial products spoke for itself and created this universal language which a lot of people gravitated towards without needing to know who I was. Pomelo and Siwilai [where Born on Saturday is now sold
] are stepping stones for me to share this story about circular products themselves.
What materials are you using?
I use only 100-percent recycled cotton for my entire product range. Currently, my materials come from textile waste destined for landfills and incineration. For Born on Saturday, we specifically use canvas fabrics, and I try to take them from our deadstocks, which are basically tester fabrics, meaning the beginning and ending of fabric cuttings left unused by bigger company orders. I bring the fabrics to Thailand using a carbon-neutral shipping method to an adorable family-owned business on Yaowarat Road so I can oversee the entire process of the supply chain.
Could you tell us about your current and future collection?
Last year, I did a soft launch of my first collection. I launched a second collection last December that features my late grandmother’s favorite flower patterns, like sunflower, dahlia, and alpenblumen. It’s an ode to my late grandparents which makes it really special to me. We have four tote bags (B1,290 large/B1,490 extra large). In July, I will launch a new collection that will include t-shirts [expected to be priced at less than B1,000], sweatshirts, and bags all made using a low-impact finishing technique. For reproduction, the process will consume less energy and water than usual.
What makes your brand unique from others?
There’s huge potential in Thailand. In fact, it’s a huge upcycling haven already. For example, if you go to Chatuchak, there are so many cool brands that are upcycling. I tread lightly in this field here. I want to see how many companies who advocate sustainability and circularity actually follow through with their words and promises, because that’s a subject nobody really dares to delve into. Waste management in Thailand is still lacking in many respects, so I’m also on a journey of discovering where the clothing waste goes in Thailand. Once I find that out, I’ll be happy to set my own recycling system up here to hopefully push the circular industry forward.
What will it take for Thailand to really embrace sustainability?
The first word that comes to me is de-stigmatization. Waste is still looked down upon and is not respected as much as new materials are. Like many other things in Thailand, we need to work on education and have conversations in order for change to occur. We need to be that generation that asks questions and finds solutions.
All images courtesy of Born On Saturday