Jess Abrahams, founder of Tasi Travels (our first Australian client), explains her inspiration behind Tasi, the Australian eco-fashion market, and what’s behind the name.
Green fashion is only expensive when compared to fast fashion, and fast fashion is not a true representation of what that garment should cost.
What inspired you to start Tasi?
Photo courtesy Tasi Travels
I had the idea for Tasi Travels in late 2016 when I was travelling in East Timor. Timor is an incredible country, but I’d struggled to pack for the very hot and humid, but conservative culture. All the clothes I owned were either made of a material that was too thick, or they wrinkled, or they didn’t dry quickly enough or didn’t have appropriate coverage for the conservative culture. I wanted to be able to travel with just a small backpack of essentials, but I couldn’t find these essentials anywhere! That’s where the idea for Tasi was born.
Tasi combines minimalism, practicality and style. We believe in travelling light, in being able to pack less, but better. Our travel clothing was designed with minimalism in mind, so you can go away with only a handful of items that are versatile and practical enough to be all you need.
Our clothes are also designed to be appropriate for both conservative cultures and hot climates, offering coverage as well as relief from the heat with light, breathable materials. Whilst also being one of the most sustainable textiles available, our fabric Tencel is incredible for travel. It dries quickly, doesn’t wrinkle and is blissfully breathable.
What’s behind the name?
Tasi means “ocean” in the Timorese language Tetun.
What was the need you found in the market?
I found that there were no clothing brands marketing specifically for travel; with minimalism, practicality and versatility in mind. I did a lot of market research when I came up with the idea and found that everyone I asked had struggled with the same thing; not being able to find simple, quality travel clothing that would be appropriate for a variety of cultures and climates. While we market specifically towards travel, our clothes are perfect for everyday wear also – there is definitely also a need for quality, well-made clothing that you can wear day in, day out.
How have you seen the market for green fashion grow in Australia? Is there a large community? Has it helped you?
Green fashion has grown remarkably over the last two years, particularly even more recently. I honestly really only became aware of the fast fashion industry and its negative impact on people and planet about three years ago, and at the time it wasn’t a conversation that was happening widely. There has definitely been a major shift towards sustainability in fashion in Australia since. It is so wonderful to see so many small brands launching with sustainability as a focus, and bigger brands leading the charge also. The ethical fashion community in Australia is wonderful, and some of these brands were so helpful and kind to me when I was looking for local makers – they really went out of their way to provide advice and contacts; something I can’t imagine happening in the fast fashion industry!
What is the goal behind Tasi?
Photo courtesy Tasi Travels
We exist to inspire and allow others to lead adventurous, authentic, well-travelled lives that impact positively on the planet. It’s not just about the clothes; the clothes are the conversation starter; the platform we use to reach our audience. But our message extends much further than this, we want to inspire people to travel freely, travel easily and travel often – and do all of this in a way that is slow, conscious and kind to the planet.
Tasi also exists outside of our clothing through our ‘Travel With Purpose’ trips. These are small group trips designed for those looking to dive deeper into travel, to connect more with the local people and culture and to have a truly authentic travel experience. We are currently leading trips back to the place where Tasi was born, Timor-Leste. These trips are built around positive impact and we work on a marine debris project while on the island.
Name 3 things you think fashion entrepreneurs need to focus on for success.
First, your product: it’s really easy to get carried away with an idea or business and not spend time focusing on nailing the actual product itself. How is your product different? How is your brand different? Has your product been designed with integrity, made to last? At the end of the day, all the best marketing in the world can’t save a brand that doesn’t have a good product. So I would suggest really spending time researching, designing and perfecting your product.
Second, your story: customers love a good story, it’s what makes them feel connected to a brand or a message. Spend time crafting an authentic story; what inspired the brand, where does your inspiration come from, how are you different, what impact do you hope to have? Create a story that people can relate to and they will champion your brand for you.
Third, your values: these will be different for every brand and individual, but I think it’s important to know what you do and don’t stand for, and to hold fast to this. Whether that’s environmental or ethical values, the way you communicate with your audience, the way you design; authenticity and consistency always shines through and creates a strong community.
Knowing your impact
What are the challenges you’ve faced in measuring and learning about your impact? How did you overcome those challenges?
It definitely has been challenging at times, particularly being a small brand. Unfortunately, if you’re working with big suppliers and you’re a start-up, your small fry to them and there can be a lot of middlemen in between your contact and the information you need. All you can do is ask questions and keep asking. I always make sure to express our values from the word go with any new supplier, it starts the relationship off in a transparent way and quickly highlights whether we’re going to be a good fit for each other or not.
How hard was it to find the right suppliers? How did you go about securing them?
Having absolutely no background in the fashion industry did make it tough to find suppliers initially, let alone suppliers who prioritized ethics and sustainability. Fortunately the ethical fashion industry is incredibly welcoming and supportive and after reaching out to a number of brands, I was able to get some great tips about where to start. In Australia we have some amazing resources that were a big help, such as Ethical Clothing Australia and the Australian Fashion Council.
Walking the talk
People think that green fashion is expensive. How do you respond to that?
Photo courtesy Tasi Travels
Green fashion is only expensive when compared to fast fashion, and fast fashion is not a true representation of what that garment should cost. Green fashion has the price point that it does because it takes into consideration quality, sustainable fabrics, ethical production and a responsible supply chain. The problem lies deeper than just how fast fashion items are made however, it’s the mindset that comes with this.
Fast fashion teaches us that we never have enough, that there is always something else we need and that clothes are disposable. On the opposite side there’s slow fashion, which encourages us to invest in quality, timeless pieces that we will love and have for years. When you’re buying less but buying well, you end up spending less too.
What is the effect you want to have on your customers and peers?
I have always seen Tasi as a platform to educate and inspire, and that’s the effect I’d like to have on our community. To inspire people to travel and see the world in an authentic way, and to educate people on both environmental issues and becoming more conscious, responsible consumers.
How green are you in your own life? Any tips for those looking to lead a greener lifestyle?
I became pretty heavily involved in the environmental movement from about age fifteen, so it’s always been a big part of my life. The biggest tips I would share are around plastic and the importance of reducing our reliance on single use plastic. Get yourself a keep cup, reusable bag and reusable bottle and never look back! I have been working on beach clean-up projects for years and always pick up stray rubbish when walking on the beach. This is a big one that we can all easily do with minimal effort, and still have a huge impact.
If you want to follow Jessica’s footsteps, here are a couple of things to get you started: