As part of our founder interview series, we speak with Myriam Achour from Soumati about her love for illustration and creating her tribe.
What inspired you to launch Soumati? What were you doing before this?
I am a self taught drawer and painter. I’ve always been passionate about painting and very much into fashion. Years ago, I started to paint on t-shirts to create unique pieces for my friends and myself. It was a project that I couldn’t put too much time into as I was working full time as a Project Manager in creative and production agencies. In January 2017, I decided to go freelance so I could make the dream happen: create an artistic clothing line.
Where does the name Soumati originate, and why did you choose this name?
We’re named after the Algerian tribe of the Atlas Mountains that I am descendent from, the Soumata. Like my grandfather, my father, my aunts and uncles, my brothers, I am a Soumati.
Being a Soumati is part of my identity. It felt right to use this name for an artistic and mindful project, and keep the tribal spirit!
What is your design process like? Where do you find inspiration for your drawings?
I find inspiration in the world around me: nature, people, languages. In places I call home: London, Paris, Algeria. In places I love and travel to: North California, Italy, South America,...
My camera and sketchbook are full of palm trees, writing and people! When I draw people, I draw their bodies, their movement, in a minimalistic way, to express an emotion, a state of mind.
I regularly go through my pictures, sketches and notes and I usually draw my final designs on my iPad Pro with the Pencil. It will never replace the feeling of using traditional pencil on paper or a brush on canvas, but it’s pretty good and allows me to get a digital file ready to print without using a scanner or Photoshop.
How would you describe the style of Soumati? Who do you envision wearing your brand?
Soumati is poetic, colourful and graphic. And it has this summer and tropical vibe throughout the year. I have to say I get a bit obsessed with palm trees, they remind me of Algeria and California. As the designs are beautifully hand-drawn and printed in limited editions, a Soumati creation is the cool and original piece that will add this unique “je ne sais quoi” to your outfit. And if you treat it with love, you’ll keep it for a long time and it will take this nice vintage look.
Soumati is an open tribe so everyone can wear Soumati. Men and women, and the age doesn’t matter as long as you have a open mind to appreciate creativity and travel. To wear Soumati is to feel free and beautiful. Our purpose is to create clothes people feel good in. Not just when they wear them but also why they wear them.
Plus there are so many ways to wear Soumati... Tuck you tee into your high-waist jeans, add a vintage jacket and ankle boots for an edgy look. Crop it for summer for a sexy tee-bikini combo. Wear a backpack, ideal for festivals. Wear a tee or a sweatshirt to chill on the sofa because it’s so soft and cosy.
One last thing, more practical, is the price. We’re trying to keep very affordable price (even though its hard to make decent margin with small quantities and high quality garments) to give the opportunity to a maximum amount of people to buy a cool alternative to fast fashion brands.
Ethical fashion is an extremely broad topic. How do you interpret the definition of ‘ethical fashion’?
It is indeed a very wide topic. To me, Ethical fashion is about 3 things: not harming animals, not harming Mother Earth and respecting the workers during the full process of clothes creation.
Concerning the consumer, recent studies show that ethical fashion is no longer just a trend, it is a behaviour. And that’s a very good sign.
How does Soumati embody your personal definition of ethical fashion?
Soumati was born in a philosophy of doing things in a kinder way. We source natural and organic garments that have been fairly created. Thanks to our partners Stanley Stella values and accreditations, we are ensured that the workers who make our clothes are treated with respect and being paid fair wages. As a woman and feminist, I feel even more engaged and responsible when we know that 80% of the workers in fashion are women.
Concerning the materials, the cotton is organically produced which is really important on multiple levels because it uses far less water to grow and no toxic chemicals harmful for the farmers and workers, for the consumers, and for the natural eco-system.
More than a brand, Soumati is an open nomadic tribe we invite people to walk with. We believe that together, we’re stronger. Because 1+1+1+... = a lot of amazing people. And also because rooting for and supporting each other makes us grow strong and beautiful. My point is: we believe that the fashion industry needs to change, we need a fashion revolution! The big fast fashion corporations wont make the change, we - designers, influencers, thinkers, consumers and governments - are going to make the change, together.
What steps do you take to make sure that Soumati is fairly and ethically produced throughout the entire supply chain?
I choose the garments from by Stanley/ Stella because they have high ethical standards. Their cotton is 100% organic certified. They only work with State-of-the-art factories, which all strictly apply the Code of Conduct from the International Labour Organisation (ILO). They ensure that workers are decently paid, that there is no gender discrimination, but also that building and fire safety standards are completely followed.
I hand draw the designs. I try to treat myself with respect as much as I can ;-)
Then I get my designs printed in London by Icon Printing in Shoreditch.
And I sell them online.
When you buy from other fashion brands, what three things do you like to consider before purchasing?
My first reflex is to look at the label inside, and check the materials. I always tend to choose natural and organic fabric.
Then I would look for a fair trade certification or commitment (like member of a foundation...)
I discovered an app a couple of months ago which makes my life so much easier as a consumer. It’s called GoodOnYou and it registers and rates fashion brands on 3 criteria: animal, environment and labour.
The third consideration would be the quality. If I really like a piece and want to purchase it, I want it to last long. As Vivienne Westwood said: “Buy less, choose well, make it last”
Overall, I think the best is to buy from ethical designers or second-hand.
If you weren’t working in fashion, what you be doing?
Painting, drawing, taking photos... Making illustrations for brands, books or magazines.
I would try to stay my own boss and live from my graphic skills and passion.
If I had more time I would also like to take part in an association with a social purpose (could be about feminism/ gender equality, handicap or refugee integration...)
How would you like to see Soumati grow in the future?
In terms of business development, being on Mamoq is a big new step for Soumati. Beyond having more visibility and more potential clients, it is very important for us ethical designers to unite and grow together, so we’re very excited to be part of this adventure.
In term of creation, we’d love to create our own garments, like a series of high-end pieces such as shirts and dresses, and also some all over print clothes.
And finally, one day maybe we’ll have a Soumati shop, a physical one, in London or more south where it’s hot and sunny. In Portugal maybe. The shop would feel warm, colourful and simple. And slow, but peaceful-slow, minimalist-slow. Like a break from the outside mad world. Like a cocoon you’re welcome to enter anytime and where you can try something different, discover the drawings of a passionate artist, and have chat with her. And listen to some good music and drink a good coffee (organic and fair trade of course ;-))