Rhianna Knight is the brains behind Mister Timbuktu, a clever sustainable label that turns ocean waste into quality active wear.
We asked her to shed some light on her inspirations behind the brand, and why circular design is so important in fashion.
A bit about yourself
- Were you always interested in fashion and design?
I was always interested in the fashion industry, however I wasn’t quite sure of what area of specialisation I wanted to land in. I studied Fashion Design & Technology at uni and after completing numerous internships with high street brands I landed a job with a snowboarding apparel company that gave me exposure to design and production management, liaising with manufacturers and sourcing new suppliers which gave me an understanding of the innovations within fabric and the various certifications that exist regarding responsible manufacturing.
- Favourite place in the world?
I love Wilsons Promontory National Park, in the south east of Victoria. Every year during my childhood my family spent a week camping there, which introduced me to hiking and my love of the natural environment. It’s an incredible place in the world that is so beautiful, diverse and fragile within it’s environment and has so many amazing hikes and places to explore.
- Who inspires you?
My sources of inspiration are quite varied and all come from different industries and for different reasons. I love the social enterprise Thankyou who are committed to ending global poverty through the sale of water and body care products; the brand Patagonia for their leadership, transparency and innovation within the fashion industry and the band Gang of Youths who have risen to fame and are quite open with their messaging of ‘if a group of mates from Sydney can achieve this then anyone can’ mentality.
- Favourite outdoor activity?
I’m a big fan of spending time outdoors and if time permits, a 3 day hike with 2 nights of camping will always win. There’s something incredible about disconnecting from technology, pushing yourself to your physical limit and reconnecting with nature to regain balance and get perspective on everyday life.
About the brand
- How did you come up with the name “Mister Timbuktu”?
Timbuktu came from the idea of adventure, a place where you’re not quite sure where it is but it doesn’t quite matter as it’s about the journey rather than the destination. The Mister element came from the desire to personify the brand, to remind our community that we’re a small business and you’re chatting to an actual person, rather a large corporation with hundreds of workers.
- What does circular design mean to you?
Circular design is the way of the future within the fashion industry. Previously the fashion industry hasn’t done a great job looking after people or planet within the supply chain and I think we’re at a pivotal point of history where it’s all about to change. Circular design to me means it’s a cleaner way of manufacturing, using materials that are reusable, organic or recycled to reduce our dependence on non renewable resources and to find a way to close the loop and at the end of the garments life take them back to be used again to create new garments. Mister Timbuktu uses materials made from recycled plastics which is a great start, but the next opportunity is to find a way to recycle these materials at the end of life and I’m so excited that I’ve identified a partner to help us with this, however unfortunately as with a lot of things it isn’t a viable option for a small business due it’s scale, however as soon as possible when we grow we’ll be implementing this in the business.
- What do you think the biggest challenge is when designing with sustainability in mind?
I think the challenge isn’t within design, it’s within the commercial viability of sustainable initiatives. There are so many incredible fabric mills and companies around the world innovating within the space, however availability, minimum orders and financial constraints place the biggest barrier for Mister Timbuktu. For larger business it is a lengthier and more costly approach to design and manufacturing, however hopefully it will start to become a core part of every brand.
- Is plastic a difficult fabric to work with?
Surprisingly plastic isn’t difficult to work with, it’s hard to imagine a plastic bottle or fishing nets being turned into a jacket or a pair of leggings but after their recycling stage you start with a similar roll of fabric, compared to conventional fabric. To break down the process, plastics are collected, washed and shredded into chips that are then melted essentially into a plastic soup with filaments extracted that are than woven into new fabric. This process helps save plastics from landfill and the ocean, but also uses less energy than conventional fabrics take to make.
- Why should more brands in the design space look into being more sustainable and ethical?
I believe all brands should be looking at transitioning their supply chains to be more sustainable and ethical, as not only is it the right thing to do, customers are starting to become more educated about the issues and will start demanding it, and it will help to lessen our impact on the environment, which is sorely needed.
- Have you always been passionate about helping the environment?
I grew up knowing that the environment was fragile and you shouldn’t pollute it, however it’s only in the past few years that I realise the impact humans are having on the environment, within our everyday lives and within the fashion industry. The more you learn about our negative impact the more disturbing it is and the more you realise you have to make a change.
- What’s next for Mister Timbuktu?
The plan is to keep growing awareness of the brand and increasing our educational element of the brand, to teach our community more about the fashion industry and ways they can be more sustainable. As the business grows, so will the range, but the focus will always be on quality over quantity, and ensuring we’re creating the most sustainable product we can, rather than keeping up with trends or having new product every week.
Shop Mister Timbuktu here