Tartaruga - Sustainable Woven Textiles Made in Poland

I visited London Design Fair in late September as part of the wider London Design Festival. It was here that I encountered Tartaruga, a Polish weaving studio that produce textiles for interiors such as wall hangings, rugs and cushions. When I met the designer at the fair, she told me about their strong ethical policies, and so my aim for this task is to investigate these policies to see how, and indeed if, they work sustainably. Interestingly their name means 'tortioise', which is a fun play on slow design.

London Design Fair is a commercial event, with:

“28,000 + Visitors Including: Retail Buyers, Interior Architects, Designers, Manufacturers, Press and design-savvy public” (London Design Fair, 2017)
visiting the fair over the four days it is held. As a student and designer, I found it a valuable source of inspiration. I consider myself a sustainable designer, and so was naturally drawn to designers that share my paradigm. It was in the Ą Ę! Pop-Up by PolishDesigners.pl that I encountered Tartaruga. 
Tartaruga Stand at London Design Fair

Burns, Ria. Tartaruga stand, London Design Fair. 2017. JPEG file.

I was drawn to their stand (Fig. 1), firstly as I liked the aesthetics of their products, but also because I have started to make knitted wall hangings, and so wanted to gauge their prices, stockists and customers as market research for my own brand. My favourite piece was the Random Shapes Kilim (Fig. 2), with its striking marled turquoise background and almost heathery tones on the random woven shapes that adorn it.

Tartaruga. Random Shapes Kilim. [Available online].

I had a short discussion with their designer, who informed me that they use natural materials and dyes in all of their work. On further research, the About page on their website states:

“Materials we use were produced in sustainable way or were recycled. All the yarns are dyed with non-toxic dyes. We also try to reduce a production waste. Our fabrics are made with respect for environment and our employees. 2% of our incom (sic) is always intended to support non-governmental organisation Refugee.pl that helps to fight racism and works on building open and civic society.” (Tartaruga, 2017)

Using the three corners of the integrative sustainability triangle (Klein and von Hauff, 1999) – social, ecological and economical – to ascertain whether they are a sustainable producer, Tartaruga appear to meet all of these criteria according to their mission statement, by using sustainable materials, donating a proportion of their income to charity and through fair employment.

I’m not exactly sure what they mean by non-toxic dyes, and so a potential further research question could be to find out exactly which dyes they use, and in which way they are non-toxic. If they use chemical, rather than natural dyes, why have they chosen to do so? Another question could be in relation to their statement about reducing waste – in which way do they do this? In my own creative practice, I compost small scraps of natural yarns, and keep the longer ones to use to hang garment tags.

To conclude, it appears that Tartaruga are a sustainable company that consider all elements of sustainability in their practice. However, a statement on their website does not necessarily mean that they actually adhere to these ideals, and so to confirm this I would need to ask further questions of them. As they are a Polish studio, travelling to audit their practices is probably not feasible, but on reflection, could be the only way to ascertain whether they are truly sustainable. I should have asked more questions at the time, but due to time constraints, wasn’t able to do so.