Jala Smith-Huys started her career as a graphic designer, then a creative director, and eventually moving into social media strategy. She worked in-house and as a freelancer but decided it was time to strike out on her own. But she didn’t start a consultancy, she founded Seek & Swoon, a Portland based brand that makes eco-friendly throws that definitely show off Jala’s graphic design chops.
What inspired you to start a textile business?
Seek & Swoon came to be because I wanted to create a business that brought together all of my passions (who wouldn’t?!) — design and travel along with inspiring and creative consumer goods. This company allows me to be creative as a maker, but I’m also able to put my years of marketing experience to use marketing my own business. It’s not as easy as you’d think! Marketing myself has been much more difficult than marketing clients. But it’s a lot of fun.
How does your love of travel inspire your designs?
Almost all of my throws are inspired by places I’ve been. And that inspiration comes by way of everything from a view of Iceland from an airplane, to a textile I found at a market in Dubrovnik Croatia, to the sand and water on the beaches of Mallorca, to architecture in Paris. It could be a glimpse, a memory, or just an overall sense of place I brought home from a trip. A throw gives me a blank canvas to tell a story and create a memory. I know that not everyone will connect to that story the way I do, because it’s personal for me, but I hope they’re able to appreciate how the throw’s design was inspired and enjoy it as much as I do.
What makes Seek & Swoon throws sustainable?
The majority of yarn used in each throw is regenerated cotton fibers. This means that cotton clothing scraps, that are most often thrown into the landfill, are collected from the cutting room floors of apparel factories (take American Apparel for example), sorted by color, broken down and regenerated into new yarn. This process avoids incinerator and landfill use, water contamination, the release of harmful chemicals into the air, and more. In fact, a study confirmed that recycling textile waste uses less water, chemicals, dyes and energy than the production of organic cotton. Essentially, we’re able to help take materials that would have gone into and landfill and put them back into the economy to be reused and enjoyed.
Also, producing our throws at an American mill contributes to the sustainability of the product. It would be less costly if we had our throws manufactured at a mill in China. But by having them made closer to home we’re supporting a family-owned business and cutting down on the resources used to transport the products around. This all feels good to us and we think our customers appreciate it, too.