From covetable linen homewares under her brand Mavis & Osborn to the elegant staff uniforms for The Hotel Britomart, this Nelson-based designer is dedicated to sustainable textile craft.
“I believe in a future where we can enjoy the beauty and experience of everyday things but the planet and people don't suffer from us doing so,” says designer Tamzin Hawkins. A passionate advocate for companies taking full life-cycle responsibility for the products they manufacture, her approach caught the attention of The Hotel Britomart’s team when searching for a local maker for the staff uniforms.
Britomart: How did you get started in the textiles business?
I studied at AUT – a Bachelor of Art & Design – and I worked for Trelise Cooper once I graduated. From there, I went and lived in the UK and worked for Silver Cross, designing textiles for pushchairs and baby strollers! That was quite different. After about five years I came back to start my own thing in New Zealand. I actually started Mavis & Osborn in children’s wear but after I made some aprons for a friend’s cafe in Wellington, the aprons took off really organically and the children’s wear got left behind. I’ve been expanding the range from there. Mavis & Osborn is now more homewares, and then we have White Label, which is uniforms and products for brands.
What made you passionate about sustainability?
As a maker, I think it’s a moral obligation to look after the earth, and if you’re going to make consumer products, you’re responsible for what goes into them and what happens to them at the end of their life. When I started my label, I made a commitment to only use natural materials. When I was working for Silver Cross, everything was manufactured in China. It was huge volumes of product moving around and I realised I’d ended up quite a long way from my roots. I really wanted to focus on natural materials and supporting local economies. That was quite a challenge in the beginning, trying to source as much as we could from New Zealand. It took a long time to source all our suppliers. We’re constantly researching. At the beginning of last year I began to look more into the circular economy concept and how we could adopt that for our business.
What have you produced for The Hotel Britomart?
We’ve created uniforms for front-of-house, porters, housekeeping and food and beverage. The uniforms are made from a set of garments combined in different ways and in different colours, maybe a different collar style. This is actually the biggest order that we’ve done, so it’s a new scale for us, and the first time we’ve done a full uniform.
Linen is your preferred textile, isn’t it?
Yes, generally. It uses a lot less water than cotton to produce, and it’s a really nice, hard-wearing textile. We do use cotton as well, and for the leggings that we’ve produced for The Hotel Britomart housekeeping, we’ve sourced an organic cotton which is manufactured in Australia. That’s from a mill that’s really focused on creating environmentally friendly product. I like the idea of using something that can be composted at the end of its life. Firstly, I want something that is made well, so it has a long initial life, but that can be refreshed by overdying, or repaired to elongate that life even further. Once it’s finished in that format, it can be dismantled and made into something else – a bag, or a hat or a patchwork quilt. And at the very end, it can be recycled into felt, which can be mixed with wool to make insulation or fabric blankets for movers, or it can be composted.
Where did you source the materials for the uniforms from?
We source our fabrics through local wholesalers and ask as many questions as possible about traceability and the factories they get their fabrics through. We then dye the fabrics here using GOTS-certified [Global Organic Textile Standards] dyes – the last New Zealand dye house, North Shore Dyers, is based in Auckland – Steve is a one-man band. The fabric is then pressed and re-rolled, before being sent to the cutters in Kingsland. We use Mother-of-Pearl shell and Tagua nut or Corozo nut buttons, which are both natural, sustainable products. The shell buttons come from oysters as a by-product of the food industry, and the nut buttons are sourced through sustainable rainforest projects in South-America, Peru, Colombia, Equador and Panama.
You’ve also made the lovely slippers that are in The Landing Suites.
Yes. That uses the recycled textile I mentioned before, which is made in Auckland from shredded clothing mixed with wool. That’s the padding inside the slippers. The sole is made from Everol, which is a rubber flooring which is recycled from rubber tyres. It’s Good Environmental Choice Australia certified, and is a natural, non-slip soling. They can be washed, unlike normal hotel slippers, which are thrown out after on use. Once they’ve reached the end of their lives, they can be returned to the manufactured and recycled again. We’ve also made linen bags for The Landing Suites, to hold the hair styling tools and other items.