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Harpers Bazaar Interview - 25.08.2021

Creators of Sensitive Designs

Words that summarize Tenera: Delicate, sensitive, soft... Ela Mete and Defne Özdoğan, the founders of Atelier Tenera, speak to us about how they adhere to ethical principles in every detail of their work, from production to materials and techniques.

Bade Çakar

Delicate, sensitive, soft... These three words in Latin describe the meaning of Tenera. How do we see these words in your designs?

We came up with many words that could form the basis of our brand during a coaching session before we founded Tenera. The words delicate, sensitive, and soft are values that we cannot abandon and that guide our organizational decisions. They're our attitude toward nature, people, and the things we make. Following these words guides us in making ethical and correct decisions about everything from the materials we use in the manufacturing process to the techniques we employ.

These three words guide us in both communication with the craftsmen we work with in the field and the sincerity and accessibility we establish with our followers, in addition to the design and production processes. The soft and precise value we seek can be felt thanks to the printing and dyeing techniques we use on 100% natural fabrics in our designs.

What we create with the way we use these words is always something that we enjoy. 'I feel so good in my Tenera,' is one of our favorite phrases to hear.

 

Tenera began as an art and textile design project and has since evolved into a sustainable fashion brand. What kind of journey is it for you?

Our sarong model, which can be hung on the wall or worn as a shawl, pareo, was the first model we created using digital and embrime printing on fabric. When we sewed the crochet belt on this sarong one day, the pieces were tied in a variety of ways and turned into dresses and skirts in various styles. We are still not only a fashion brand, but also a textile project that explores versatility, tries new techniques and seeks natural alternatives.

Our source of inspiration is the process, and the final product is always subject to change. We work on projects with artists and designers we meet, not just in the field of fashion, but also in product design, performance art, and video art. Our process revolves around making ethical and sustainable decisions.

Our journey is unexpected, fruitful, and exciting.

 

How does your collaboration as architecture and textile design students reflect on the brand?

Beyond our long friendship, we've found an organic balance in our brand because architecture and textile design are such polar opposites. We have complementary ideas and abilities, but we also excite and distract each other from being conventional. For example, while I (Defne) have a better understanding of molds, computer drawings, and material calculations, Ela has a better understanding of patterns, fabrics, and new natural dyeing techniques. As a result, we can accommodate both architectural technical teaching and the limitless creativity of textile design in our brand. Often, our differences enrich each other's perspectives and lead to the emergence of extreme ideas; this time, however, we find a way to balance each other and return to the earth.

 

What does Tenera look like this summer?

Our first knitting collection, "shape-shifter," was released this summer. Because of the weave's flexibility, versatile, thus "shape-shifting" parts that could take on the shape of various bodies appeared. Using two different color threads at the same time, we created an illusionic knitting language. With a slight transparent rope drop technique, we achieved a mysterious look.

Outside of our knitting collection, we created unisex linen shirts. We used natural acorns, walnut shell, and red root paint to color these shirts using shibori and dip-dye techniques. With a brush, we painted the world of Tenera on some of them. It was a collection that was lighthearted, comfortable, and made you feel good on the inside.

Finally, we've released our signature sarong model, which features its own unique patterns and allows the wearer to express themselves through their own tying style.

Is there ever a time when producing sustainable designs proves difficult for you?

Sustainable designs, on the other hand, necessitate longer, more difficult, and costly manufacturing processes. At the same time, we devote a significant amount of time to researching and developing the techniques we use to create natural designs, but the end result is always worth the effort. Despite the fact that Turkey is a country where many old traditions and crafts are practiced, particularly in the field of sustainability, we see that these techniques are gradually disappearing, which leads us to investigate further and give as much space as we can in our brand to ensure that these techniques do not disappear. Our hand-woven fabric designs in Anatolia and our products painted with natural root dye are entirely due to our desire to celebrate an emerging concept such as sustainability with old traditions and create it in a new form.

You share your fabric painting techniques with workshops. Should we talk about these techniques?

 

We spent a lot of time practicing natural painting techniques. It's a road full of surprises, really. These recipes were developed by putting them to the test on a regular basis. Which plant produces which color, which fabric is better at holding color, and how can we achieve the most permanent color? Unfortunately, these details are difficult to find in books. Every time we paint naturally, we learn new information, new techniques, and we're happy to share them. We're looking into natural dyes that we can use in Turkey by collecting food waste at home or using materials we collect from herbalists and the bazaar.

While the color is an adventure in the painting process, the pattern is also a separate adventure. By folding fabrics, we create patterns in dyeing by experimentally compressing them into materials such as simple clips and rubbers. Dip-dye uses the 'dipping painting' technique to achieve a gradient effect, whereas shibori uses the folding technique to achieve geometric shapes.

In our workshops, we're trying to navigate questions such as 'What are natural paint materials? What processes does the fabric have to go through to hold on to the dye? How can we create patterns during painting?' We're very excited to collaborate on a project.

How do you assess the point of sustainable fashion? What are your future plans?


There is a lot of work being done on sustainability right now around the world, including by big fashion brands, and we are very excited about it. There are only a few instances where we see sustainability being used as a marketing tool and not properly implemented, and we believe this is an issue that needs to be addressed in our time. In areas where sustainability is insufficient, our plan for our own brand is to prepare collections of products that we have advanced with the principles of regenerative design. If the world's agenda included sustainability, we believe we could develop a concept that focused solely on avoiding harm. Tenera is also inherently innovative, and one of the areas we most want to implement in the future is the transformation of unused materials and the creation of zero-waste designs.

 

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