Zero-waste and minimalist leather design is a proud practice for Melbourne-made label SMENA

In an industry notorious for waste, there are a handful of designers who take their responsibility working in fashion seriously. Jaklina Ristevski is one of them, and she's the passionate zero-waste designer behind Melbourne-made label, SMENA.

Each SMENA object is made with care and consideration, and every scrap or offcut is put to good use, embodying the very meaning of zero-waste design; thoughtful, practical, sustainable and minimalist.

SMENA is known for its staple everyday bags and its ethical and sustainable approach to manufacturing. Unlike many makers, Jaklina sees the beauty in the leather 'scraps' of each object too, and every single off-cut is repurposed to make smaller earrings, clutches or homewares.

Jaklina recently stepped away from her busy Melbourne studio to share a little more about her conscious zero-waste label and her approach to minimalist design...

Why are you so passionate about ethical fashion?
We are passional about ethical fashion because we believe that as designers and producers we play an extremely important role in the fashion landscape. Why? Because we have the responsibility to make a change and set an example when it comes to how we produce our pieces and how we treat the people and things that help us along the way.

Ethical fashion for us is looking at how the materials we use are grown or sourced and how the people who help produce our pieces are treated. We have made the decision to ensure our role is one that is conscious and we want SMENA to inspire and educate our community.

Why are you so passionate about sustainability?
Sustainability for us really focuses on how we run our business, manufacture our products and how we consider our environmentally sustainable practices. We are passionate about sustainability in the fashion industry because, without this level of consciousness, we would not have a business to run or a planet to live on.

Why do you do what you do?
From the inception of SMENA in 2002, we came into the market place with the vision of supporting local partners and we always wanted SMENA to be produced locally, here. During this time many other brands were taking their production offshore, buying into lower-cost production and in turn lowering quality.

It was so sad for us to see many loved ones around us directly affected by the drop in Australian production, which made our mission of keeping SMENA in Australia - both made and owned - even stronger. To this day, we are proud to say not much has changed for us, besides the growth of our love for creation and for the team we have built here in Melbourne, but we are still proudly Melbourne made and owned.

SMENA minimises its waste by repurposing fabric offcuts into smaller objects. How have people embraced your zero-waste designs?
Our consumers absolutely love the pieces we have created. First and foremost, the design is appealing to them, then when they find out about the production process or read about our zero-waste and sustainable practices, they instantly feel a deeper connection to the product.

Unfortunately, most consumers choose cheaply-made mass fast-fashion over meaning, and price over purpose. What are you committed to changing about the fashion industry in Australia and why? 
Sadly the mass fast-fashion landscape is more prominent than ever, but one by one, we know that we can connect with the broader community and help educate them about the benefits of purchasing 'slow fashion' and considering how each decision they make has an impact. Working together with other designers and like-minded people on a platform as amazing as The Fashion Advocate is so important to us at SMENA as we believe that together we can help educate and inspire consumers everywhere.

Learn more about SMENA and shop Jaklina's zero-waste Melbourne-made range here.

The Fashion Advocate x

SMENA Meet The Maker Designer interview The Fashion Advocate ethical sustainable leather zero waste made in Melbourne

SMENA Meet The Maker Designer interview The Fashion Advocate ethical sustainable leather zero waste made in Melbourne

SMENA Meet The Maker Designer interview The Fashion Advocate ethical sustainable leather zero waste made in Melbourne

SMENA Meet The Maker Designer interview The Fashion Advocate ethical sustainable leather zero waste made in Melbourne

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