Kim Stark has followed a highly creative yet diverse career path, from child actor to assistant director, masseuse, and now the founder and designer behind Emiti, a range of gorgeous accessories and homewares.
Originally hailing from Western Australia, Kim was a child actor before going on to work behind the scenes in film and tv. After deciding to pursue acting again, she started her own massage practice to support herself. During this time, she began sewing wheat bags for clients and friends. When they proved to be a hit, she decided to put her other creative skills to use by designing and printing her own fabric to give the eco-friendly products a more unique, personal touch.
Before long, Kim realised this creative outlet was what she kept coming back to and enjoyed the most and so she set about expanding her range into other products such as handbags, cushions and jewellery.
Sustainable and ethical design and production is central to the Emiti business model, from the use of organic fabrics and low carbon leather in the handbags, through to sourcing recycled plastic bottle inserts for cushions and FSC certified wood for jewellery products. Kim has kindly taken some time to share what she has learnt (and is still learning) along the way.
Necklaces from the new Emiti jewellery range
How do you approach sustainability and environmental awareness in your creative practice?
For me it’s about choices. There are a lot of decisions to be made in a creative business and I always try to choose materials and processes that are environmentally friendly. It’s not that much harder, it just requires a bit more patience and perseverance.
Some examples of what I’m currently doing is using organic cotton/hemp fabrics that I screenprint with water based inks, using recycled card for all my packaging and swing tags, posting everything out in secondhand boxes I source from local businesses, using FSC certified wood, low carbon leather, designing patterns so that there’s almost no wastage of fabric and then composting any fabric and cardboard scraps that later ends up on my vegie patch!
I think all of these choices are important because I don’t want to be just another business producing stuff that other people can buy and then later throw out. If people are going to buy pretty things that make them happy (and make me happy to make!) then I’d much rather they buy products from businesses that actually think about these environmental decisions.
The Florence bag from the South West Collection
What key challenges have you come up against in trying to reduce the environmental impact of your work and how did you overcome them?
The main challenge I’ve come across is the lack of supplies available in Australia for environmentally sustainable products and the increased prices of those supplies. Especially when it comes to fabric – there’s only a few sources of fabric, which limits what the end product will look like. I especially find it limited in terms of colours of fabrics available.
But on the flip side of that sometimes being restricted in what you can design can bring about an end result that works beautifully and wouldn’t have happened in the first place without the restriction. The main reason I chose to screenprint my own organic fabric was because there isn’t that wide choice available and that’s become a large part of what I do, so there’s always a positive!
As more and more consumers choose to buy environmentally friendly products, there’ll be a flow on effect in that more supplies will become available at a lower price. Are there any particular resources you draw on to learn about issues around sustainability, in particular regarding design and production?
I always find magazines, such as Peppermint, a great resource on what other groups are doing and interesting articles about processes.
I also find talking to different makers through markets and trade fairs a great way to swap knowledge and ideas. Also talking to the businesses that supply your materials as they are usually on top of what’s happening in their particular field. And let's not forget about our friend Google…
Necklaces from Emiti's new jewellery range
Is there anything you’d like to do or learn to further increase the environmental sustainability of your work?
I’d love to use more recycled materials in my products, especially in my new jewellery range, and hopefully I will find the time very soon to really do some solid research into what businesses are chucking out and how it can be reused. I love the idea of the creative process being informed by what’s available, you never know what the end result might be!
Some of my future goals are to become carbon neutral and to be in the position to donate a percentage of profits back to environmental causes.
Who are the other creative women doing new or interesting things with a focus on environmental sustainability that you admire or are inspired by?
I really admire what the girls at Harvest are doing. They host amazing craft workshops and have their own range of products made from organic and natural fabrics. The community they’ve built around sustainable craft is a great business model that I hope will soon spread far and wide.
Clutch bag from the South West Collection
What advice would you give to a young woman who hoped to launch their own label with a sustainable focus? Make sure you leave yourself enough time to do lots of research into every aspect of what you make and where you can source the best materials. Unfortunately there isn’t a magical website that lists all of best places so it can take a bit of detective work!
Make sure you know what your values are and what’s important to you when you start because it’s easy to get pushed into a direction that is maybe easier but isn’t necessarily better, so it’s good to know what your goals are.
But also be aware that when you’re starting out you can’t make your business 100% perfectly environmentally friendly. You have to be realistic about what is achievable at each stage of your business and know that as your business grows you can take those bigger environmental steps.
Phoebe Miller is a Brisbane-bred, Sydney-fled, Melbourne-embedded gal who enjoys making, spruiking, collecting, exploring, telling her friends where to eat and posting photos of doors on instagram. After several years working in corporate marketing and communications, Phoebe followed the urge to explore her creative side. These days she divides her time between her sustainable fashion accessories label, Simply Phoebe, and freelance PR consulting.