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Journal / Special series
Uncompromising Women: Sarah Zellweger
Our brand was made for uncompromising women who want the best skin care in the world, without a single drop of artificial chemicals. You shouldn't have to choose between natural and high performance. Through the years, we've been inspired by the countless stories of women from around the world who have this same attitude. Sarah Zellweger, the founder and designer of SZ Blockprints is the perfect example.
SZ Blockprints partners with a multigenerational family printing studio based in Jaipur, India. Using one of the nation's oldest printing techniques, Sarah's company makes ethical garments for men, women, children and the home. 10 percent of profits go directly to the SZ Foundation, which works with local organizations in Jaipur to support vocational training and empowerment programmes for women.
“Our process is very much a collaboration. Each pattern has its own story and history, so before making anything we speak to our printers to find out how old it is, when it was last used and as much as we can about its historical significance. We care deeply about the heritage of the prints we use and hope our collective work means they are enjoyed by a new generation.” - Sarah Zellweger
To learn more about her process and passion, we wanted to hear just how Sarah got started with SZ Blockprints, and how her uncompromising attitude ultimately lead to success.
IN HER OWN WORDS:
The SZ Blockprints story is one of chance and fate. I was working in Kathmandu, Nepal teaching at a local orphanage, which is where I started collecting vintage textiles and making clothing with a local tailor. After a few years, I moved to London to continue my career in education, but I really missed working directly with so much color and texture, so I spent every spare moment drawing and meeting pattern makers. I would work two jobs - teach and tutor on the side - just to get enough cash to buy supplies. I spent my weekends with a local tailor in Hackney creating what I can only describe as 80’s style prom dresses - awesome but completely impractical. I quickly realized I wanted to work directly with artisans and create a platform for an ethical and sustainable business that would benefit a specific community.
I started learning about the block print process and began making samples based on my designs with a pattern cutter in London and a fabric distributor in Delhi. I thought it would only ever be a pipe dream but by a stroke of luck, I met Manju - the woman who changed my life forever and inspired me more deeply than I could have ever imagined.
Manju’s family has been creating block print textiles for generations. Within 30 minutes of meeting her, I knew this was something I had to do. The connection we had was so powerful and intrinsic. So I saved up my tutoring money, got a flight for my upcoming spring break from school and that’s how it all started. I started selling to friends and family on a small scale, mainly just to finance my next trip to India where I could spend time with Manju and learn the intricacies of each block print and falling in love with the history.
Last year I was finally able to stop teaching full time and focus on SZ. I have a wonderful business partner, and together we are examining what it means to be an ethical business and what sort of positive impact we can make. I want to not only support the community of artisans I work with in every stage of the process- from tassel makers, to color mixers, to my seamstresses- but the local community in Jaipur at large. We are in the process of setting up our charity which will donate a minimum of 15 percent of profits each year to support local charities each year. Our partners in India, have pledged to match our donations.