My Interview with The Keep
Jaz Hunt is the talent behind kaleidoscopic brand ‘cor’, brightening up our wardrobes with relaxed yet vibrant pieces to be loved for years to come. Inspired by abstract artists of the twentieth century, each collection is entirely designed by Jaz who hand-paints the brand’s unique prints.
Recently, we asked her a few questions to really understand what drives her commitment to sustainability and where the inspiration for her latest Kalimera collection (due to arrive any dat now) stemmed from.
What is Cor’s ethos?
Cor’s aim is to encourage mindful consumption and a sustainable relationship towards clothing. Our ethos is centred on using sustainable materials, processes and production methods to lessen our impact on the world and provide positive employment for the people making our clothes.
Tell us a bit about your personal journey and what lead you to start your own fashion label?
As I child I always said I was going to be a fashion designer. I just loved making things, anything. My brothers and I were never allowed a TV and so there wasn’t much else to do besides making things. We were very nomadic as a family, growing up in Portugal, England, France and then when I was nine we moved to Byron Bay on the far east coast of Australia. Nature and creating was always the center of life for us, it was how my parents supported us and how we spent all of our time when not at school.
I used to paint a lot so as I grew up, my path reached this point where I had to choose between art and fashion for university. I applied in every state in Australia to art schools and then to one fashion school. I decided that if I got into the fashion school then this would make my decision. Kind of a gamble really! I felt pretty torn deciding when the offers came in but I realised that I could do art in fashion but it would be harder to fashion if I did art. Cor is happily the result of a fusion of the two. I get to have great fun doing paintings for the prints but also get to be a designer/pattern cutter/ business owner.
I had the life changing experience to live in India on a six-month exchange during my fashion degree and this is what solidified my plans to start my own label. I’d always planned on working for myself, with my parents both being artists/self employed I’d never considered any other path. Living and studying in India made me see that change was needed in the fashion industry. I saw all of these amazing traditional skills and techniques but also so much pollution and poverty. I knew that if I were to start my own business it would need to be built on sustainable principles. I wanted to have a positive impact on the industry and so after quite a few years of saving and planning, I launched Cor.
What is the process behind designing your prints and styles?
My mind starts wandering to print ideas usually when I’m tying up the last collection. Doing the little things I find more mundane, I start imagining the fun for the next collection. I’ll usually think of colours and have a rough theme, which is usually inspired by my travels, colours in nature or art. I am strongly influenced by modern minimalist art. I also love anything figurative and bold use of colour.
I’ll start sketching thumbnails of clothing shapes and how I want the prints to work on the garment itself. Then I’ll spend a good month or two toiling styles, the prints kind of go on the back burner. I’m constantly thinking about them but I like to work everything together like you would a painting. I pattern cut and toile all of the styles for each collection in my studio in London. This takes quite a while. It’s really important to me that every Cor piece fits really well and most importantly, is comfortable. I’ll wear the toiles and adjust them accordingly for comfort and wear ability.
Once I’ve got all of my patterns done for the collection and the toiles are ready to go, I will stretch a whole lot of paper on boards and spend a week or two doing paintings. I love this part, fully focussing on one element. While I’m pattern cutting and toiling, I’ll be juggling running a business, communications with my factory, wholesale customers and online orders. It’s so nice to switch off and just get fully creative.
Once the paintings are done I’ll put everything together and head to India to organise sampling, fabric sourcing, the digital printing and overseeing production. I usually will spend a month there doing the sampling for one collection while producing another… Making sure everything goes smoothly.
How are you finding the response to your bold colour palette?
Cor means colour in Portuguese so our focus is always on fun colour combinations and arty prints. You see a trend towards a minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic in eco design so I think the colour and boldness we offer is refreshing to customers. The response to Cor has been particularly amazing in summer. In Australia we wear colour all year round. You have a year round glow and also the sunlight is just so intense there that everything is colourful. It took a little bit of an adjustment to realise that my UK customers want something quite subtle in winter. When it’s grey and dark outside colour can be intimidating… I’ve started working with more earthy tones for winter though I’m still yet to use any black! I am in my fourth collection now so I feel my style is maturing and naturally becoming more subtle. Cor’s prints are definitely to remain bold though.
You see a trend towards a minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic in eco design so I think the colour and boldness we offer is refreshing
What fabrics do you like to use and where are they sourced?
For Cor’s collections we mainly use organic cotton of varying weights. Usually our factory sources small quantities from several organic mills across India after I approve the quality. It’s been challenging to find factories that are willing to sell organic fabrics for such small-scale production so we’ve been buying small quantities from a variety of suppliers. I’m excited because this year I’ll be linking in even more closely with my suppliers. I’m currently very close to my production and ensure all my fabrics are organic but I want more connection with my supply chain and also want to showcase more of this to Cor’s customers. I’ll be visiting a township that specialises in organic cotton weaving using traditional techniques. I’m going to engage with natural fermentation dying techniques and have found one mill that I’m hoping will be able to supply all of our machine woven organic cotton fabrics. In our coming collections we plan to introduce some more eco technical fabrics to give us more flexibility with draped garments where sometimes cotton can be too stiff.
I’m very close to my production and ensure all my fabrics are organic but I do want more connection with my supply chain
You produce your collections in India, how did you go about selecting where you would manufacture?
When I was at University in India I started visiting factories and getting information for my future label. I started with these contacts but found that that when I visited factories, the conditions weren’t good. I then went to a trade fair and visited more factories. It’s definitely a mine field out there trying to find a company that adheres to strong ethical standards but then being a small start up, it’s near impossible to get anyone to take you seriously! It’s also an extra challenge being a women and young in this industry in India. For a while we worked with a great factory outside Delhi but we found that being small, we were on the bottom of their priorities list. We’ve now opted to work with a Master tailor and his team in their studio in Delhi. It means more one on one interaction from us, which I’m taking as a positive as it means I’m able to oversee absolutely everything myself. I go to the fabric mills myself, to the printers, dyers, everywhere and really ensure that everything is done sustainably and is sourced and made ethically.
The fast fashion industry is certainly unsustainable, what was your initial motivation towards adopting a far slower approach?
Probably my initial motivation was my upbringing in Byron Bay, Australia. It’s such a beautiful part of the world where nature and particularly the ocean is so central to life. The ocean is kind of a religion there, you grow up respecting nature and feeling a great responsibility to protect it.
I studied sustainability in fashion at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. This unit drove it unmistakably home that their needed to be change in the fashion industry. Initially as an 18 year old it was confronting and overwhelming looking at the facts. I questioned completely ‘why the hell am I in this industry?’ It seemed to me that everything to do with fashion was detrimental. However, people are always going to want (and need) to buy clothes and so it’s my view now that the focus should be on making these clothes in the most sustainable way possible.
My time living in India was a very informative experience and really drove my motivation to make a change for the better. I could see so much beauty there but also I found the pollution and poverty so pervasive. This was really the catalyst that drove me to put the path I’d chosen (fashion) and my personal views on sustainability together.
I think as an extension of this, I feel a great responsibility to have Cor take a stand for sustainably in the fashion industry. I want Cor be part of the solution and not the problem, I’m particularly aware of this, producing in one of the major hubs for manufacturing. Looking world wide at the impact that the fashion industry has, it’s impossible to ignore and we have a responsibility to work towards change. I believe that change is needed not just at a production level but also demands a focus on education. My focus moving forward with Cor is very much on educating people and really promoting alternatives to fast fashion. I also believe that with our current fast fashion climate, customers don’t often understand the work that goes into making a garment. Unrealistic and unfair prices have led to a lack of value in fairly made and fairly priced fashion… As we go forward with Cor, we are going to show the process behind the clothes, the techniques and skills used. To engage customers and show them the stories behind their clothes and the people who make them. Hopefully encouraging them to consume less and to value more.
I feel a great responsibility to have Cor take a stand for sustainably in the fashion industry. I want Cor be part of the solution and not the problem.
At Cor we are committed in every stage of design, production and distribution to being more sustainable. This is an on going process, we will never be ‘done’, not even in my dream world of where I want Cor to be in terms of sustainability. I think in that regard, we all have to be very proactive in really fighting for our environment and always looking to the next step to improve our practice.
You currently live in London, where are your favourite places to find inspiration?
I do the usual London things like art galleries, the Tate and other smaller galleries. I’ll sometimes go for a run on the weekend along the canal and onto Broadway Market, that’s pretty inspiring, lots of makers and also well-dressed people. It’s interesting watching how people on the street style themselves, it can be quite edgy in London. I find the vibrancy and mix of cultures in London fascinating. Dalston’s Ridley Road Market was the place that first inspired my love for print when I came on holiday to London in my first year of Uni. I went back to Australia with a whole suitcase filled with African wax print fabrics!
Running your own business is also hugely stressful, where do you escape to?
Nature. Nature is the ultimate escape. Every year, my partner and I go to the coast somewhere in Europe for two weeks. Usually it’s Greece. My happy place is on the beach. Before London, I always lived by the ocean, it’s where I feel grounded, at peace; connected and at the same time insignificant. Most of the time I’m in London though so not on a beach! I find that while I’m in the city I have to work really hard at keeping a balance and making sure I keep up the things I love.
Running is meditation to me. I run most days, this helps me totally zone out and gets out all of my stress. I’ll usually start my run with a muddled mind but as I run my thoughts slot logically into place, I’ll think about how far I’ve come with my goals and also just feel really grateful for what am able to do and the amazing people who support me and share my life. I love to cook and spend A LOT of time in the kitchen; this usually ends with sharing meals with friends or housemates. I love singing and painting just for fun, though I rarely find the time at the moment…
Luckily I love what I do, it’s hard work and at times very stressful but I chose to pursue this path essentially because I love being creative. I wanted to build my life around making and I wanted to try to make a difference doing it. I have to keep reminding myself not to take it too seriously and to have fun!
Do you have any advice for people who are looking to make more conscious choices?
It can be pretty daunting when you look at the ‘modern’ lifestyle and how disconnected a lot of us are from a natural, more conscious lifestyle. Though I think it would be very foolish to ignore the current state of our world and not make an effort to make changes for the better. Overall, I try to align myself as much as possible with nature. I think if you take a more abstract view of it like that, all individual changes become a more natural shift for the better and can incorporate all aspects of your lifestyle.
A good summary that applies to not just fashion is to be mindful of what you are buying, where it comes from and the manner in which you are consuming it. If we set ourselves to making these seemingly small shifts then as a movement, the change can be big.