I am thrilled to announce our new series: Theory of Change. There are ways in which we, as a society, can make a contribution to the global community, empowering ourselves to make conscious consumer decisions, and spark change. Theory of Change highlights social entrepreneurs that make tangible products for good. So, we are excited to feature our first brand: WEND Studio.
The co-founders of WEND Studio developed their home furnishing brand with three things in mind: transparency, people and place, and global citizenship. They offer the highest level of social and environmental commitment, without sacrificing aesthetics. With backgrounds rooted in painting, art history, international business and architecture, Genevieve Bandrowski and Michelle Plante are the perfect design duo.
Tell us about yourself
Michelle and I come from fairly different backgrounds, I studied Painting and Art History with the plan that I would curate for a gallery once I graduated from school. Michelle’s studies have been pretty widespread, from International Business in undergraduate to Architecture in grad school. She has primarily spent her time working as an Interior Designer. We met in Oakland, California about a year ago. At the time we were working on another project where we had been commissioned to design a chair for a hotel. It was through that project that we started working with rattan. This led to our developing a relationship with an Indonesian family, who, along with a small group of weavers creates each of our pieces by hand.
Your website says you "set out to design pieces that celebrate a journey as much as a destination", can you elaborate on this and tell us how your journey working in Indonesia has been?
When Michelle and I designed our first chair we had no idea it would lead to the creation of WEND. In accepting the commission, we wanted to make sure our mutual interest in sustainable design was a central component. It was the search for a material that could translate our design as well as incorporate sustainability that lead to our using rattan. Once we decided to use rattan it was a matter of finding the right weavers to work with. We were finding it very difficult to design purely over the phone and through email, so we took and chance and flew Michelle to Indonesia with our chair designs and the names of a few local weavers. Almost immediately we knew that we had found the right studio to work with. Our weaving studio is unique in that it is run by the matriarch of a family, which is fairly uncommon in Indonesia. The studio is small, so each traditionally woven chair takes several days to weave, made start to finish in a fair trade environment. Michelle will be returning to Indonesia this week to start having our second set of pieces woven. Much of the world’s rattan is grown in the rainforests of Indonesia. Rattan relies on the tall trees in order to survive. Rattan grows as a vine climbing the trees in search of sunlight. Without the trees the rattan cannot survive.
I love the Global Citizens aspect where 10% of your proceeds support changemakers. Can you tell readers more about who these changemakers are and why they are important?
We are working with The Borneo Nature Foundation (formerly the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project, OuTrop). The island of Borneo, also called Kalimantan, is one of the places our rattan is grown, so tieing back to the idea that our pieces celebrate the journey, we wanted to make a positive contribution to the start of that journey. The Borneo Nature Foundation supports and empowers communities and indigenous villages on the island to protect the rainforest and endangered orangutan and Bornean Gibbon. Their work helps these communities protect their forests from illegal logging and fire as well as to replant and restore damaged forest. They began in the Sabangua Forest, home to the largest orangutan population in the world and were so successful that they are currently working with communities throughout the island. They are true changemakers and we are honored to be able to support their work.
You can read more about the work they are doing here: www.borneonaturefoundation.org
Tell us more about your designs and products. Where readers can learn more or purchase them.
Our Collection with it’s open weave design and modern shape was created with laid back, resort-style living in mind. We collaborated with a talented designer from the North shore of Java in Indonesia to give this classic material a fresh update. Drawing from European designs from the 1960’s, our handwoven chairs are created with sustainable rattan harvested from Indonesia’s rattan capitals, the islands of Sulawesi and Kalimantan. The modern linear pattern created within the weave of the chair elevates the design of this long beloved material. Some designs have a sleek and incredibly durable iron base that juxtapose beautifully with the natural texture of rattan. The first collection from WEND is being sold at Forma Living, an online retailer also based out of Oakland. As well as Beam and Anchor, a brick and mortar based in Portland.
I love that your brand has a social component to it. Can you tell us more about the communities you work in?
We work directly with a small family run weaving business. The business is owned by a husband and wife, but run by the wife which is less common. Many of the weavers themselves are also women. They are able to bring the pieces to their homes and work while caring for their families, this gives them an income and ultimately a sense of independence. The people of this area have been harvesting rattan for centuries, it’s part of their traditional culture. The forest is part of the living ecosystem and regenerates extremely quickly. It’s a product that not only creates no damage to the rainforest, but actually helps in it’s preservation. We are proud to be contributing to this traditional craft and to be fortunate enough to witness this part of their culture.