Ethical Practice + Sustainability at Margo Selby Studio

At Margo Selby Studio, we strive for the highest standards of sustainable manufacture and distribution, and hereby state our commitment to improvements in practice in terms of social and environmental considerations. We are a complex operation, working in the textile design industry in many different ways. We are constantly reviewing the supply chains for all of our production, and are challenging our suppliers and manufacturers to improve practice. Where possible, we are relocating more of our production to the UK, whilst continuing to work in longstanding partnerships with makers in economically developing countries.

We pledge to not introduce any new products that are not thoroughly challenged for their ethical and sustainable qualities, according to our newly developed set of questions, as we move on from former practices. We make a commitment to specific positive environmental and social impacts through projects such as our work since 2019 with the social enterprise Love Welcomes, for which Margo is a trustee. Love Welcomes works to support newly-settled former refugees in London. Previously Margo volunteered with Love Welcomes in a refugee camp in Greece, developing designs for products to be made from salvaged materials, and teaching weaving skills. In 2022 we donated all of our excess/remainder fabric to Love Welcomes to be made into patchwork blankets, cushion covers and upcycled products by their workshop, for sale, eliminating any waste that might have been sent to landfill – we have always used every last scrap of fabric in different ways, thrift comes naturally to the textiles-maker.

Levels of sustainability are already achieved in much of the Margo Selby fabric and product range. Our towels are manufactured by mills sourcing their cotton through the Mozambique Cotton Manufacturers Project, which aims to support sustainable development and encourage the production of cotton in African countries (GOTS certified and part of the Better Cotton initiative). The manufacturers we support invest in new green technologies; they have their own natural gas powered cogeneration plant for the dying process, a wastewater treatment plant, and two independent photovoltaic panels generating sustainable energy.

The feather inserts that we use in our cushions are sourced from a British family company who are RDS (Responsible Down Standard) certified. The feathers are sustainable as by-products of the food industry.

We work primarily in sustainable materials for rugs: wool and Polyethylene Terephthalate made from recycled water bottles (rPET). Indian Chokla wool, hand-dyed, and highly sustainable, is fire retardant, colour fast and biodegradable. Through our production smallholder farmers and traditional practices are supported. Natural, renewable and hardwearing, wool is a highly recyclable fibre. It uses significantly less energy and water in production than other textiles. Wool is a natural fibre, and renewable (the sheep regrow their fleece each year). From a performance point of view it is strong, breathable, naturally elastic and insulating. It is biodegradable and can be returned to the earth to decompose at the end of its life-cycle. It can be processed and absorb colour with less chemicals and water than cotton/man-made fibres. In the UK textile industry too, there is a specialism in weaving wool so it provides an opportunity to work with local mills.

We take ethical guidance from Care & Fair; all our certified partnerships in India undergo inspections and comply with regulations on pay, working conditions and community support. The Margo Selby team make regular trips out to India to nurture our relationships and continue to work with our artisan rug makers, some of whom we have worked directly with for over 30 years. Our last trip was Easter 2023 – we put questions on sustainability to put directly to our suppliers, this in itself drives change, and our production decisions will arise from the responses we receive. We look to make specific positive social impacts through these interactions and the commercial and educational opportunities we establish. Our aims include poverty alleviation, and sustainable economic development for these communities.

In 2020, for the Campaign For Wool, we launched an upholstery fabric in wool – and have now introduced a range of fabrics, woven in a UK mill, in 40% recycled wool, GRS (Global Recycling Standard Certified), from jumpers, which is used in the weft of the fabric. The post-consumer textile waste is gathered into batches of similar colours, shredded back to fibre, combed, and then re-spun into yarn. We are using cushion inserts of pure locally-produced Kentish wool for this range.

Our partners for carpets, Alternative Flooring, continue to lead the way in terms of sustainable practice, and the majority of our carpet designs for them are manufactured in wool, in the UK.

The studio’s handweaving practice, led by Margo herself, is a move away from the culture of accelerated production/consumption – it is a return to hand-craft and slow-making – in a personal and small-scale way. Our studio is run by a team of (currently 11) administrators and creatives, and various affiliates. We employ new graduates regularly, and take on interns, as well as providing ongoing part-time and flexible employment for our stalwarts. We aim to succeed as a business with ethical treatment of our employees, customers and stakeholders; we value honesty and integrity.

We acknowledge that the textiles industry is notoriously challenging in terms of environmental pollution – but we will always need textiles – so it is our job as designers, alongside the producers of our commercial fabrics, to find the best ways to help us move forward in the right direction. There are no perfect solutions but our best practice can be improved all the time by looking at the most sustainable new materials and production ideas. It is something we think about and discuss a lot in the studio. We endeavour to interrogate all of our materials, processes and systems, to achieve greater levels of sustainability, and conserve the planetary environment and resources. Alongside our partners, Margo Selby Studio are engaged in a deep challenge to improve practice in terms of environmental sustainability – big changes are afoot.

Our message to customers:

Choose things that you love, that you will keep and use for years. Choose things that are well-made, that will last. Choose things that are made in an ethical and sustainable way from companies who are aware and moving forward in the effort to make things more conscientiously.

– Margo Selby.

Image credit | Photo 8: Carmel King