From Salvaged Root to Planted Seed SAYA Designs Closes the Loop and Brings a Contemporary Twist to an Ancient Hair Tool

Lush and green and vibrating with the sing song sounds of life; buzzing and chirping and clicking, effervescent with energy. Thick and rich with the smell of soil. Pure air

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It’s no wonder that a simple walk through the forest can actually improve our physical and mental well being.

Covering 30% of the Earth’s surface, forests are home to countless species of flora and fauna, and are vital to the survival of everyone and everything on the planet.

They are a veritable cornucopia of medicinal plants - most of which have yet to be discovered. They temper winds, provide the soil with respite from the harsh sun, retain water and prevent erosion and desertification.

And, as one of the Earth’s natural carbon sinks, they sequester carbon emissions and release oxygen back into the atmosphere. In short - they help mitigate the effects of man made global warming.

And, they literally help us breathe.

It’s no wonder that the Amazon, home to HALF of the worlds’ species, is aptly named the Lungs of the Planet. She is a force so powerful and so critical to life on Earth, yet she and so many other critical forest habitat, like the forests of Borneo, are being razed at a devastating rate to fuel human industry.

Deforestation at its current pace is tragic for all of us: it leaves animals, like the endangered Bornean Orangutan, homeless. It displaces indigenous people, damages the quality of the soil, and drives climate change.

As Earth's finite resources begin to dwindle, and the need to find solutions to deforestation and other environmental problems like ocean pollution become more urgent, it’s apparent that the linear industrial economic model our society currently functions under needs to change.

Inherently extractive at its core, this model is based off taking resources, making products, disposing of them when they’re damaged or no longer useful, and then repeating the process.

In reaction to this dire situation, many mindful individuals are turning their entrepreneurial spirits and ingenuity towards creating businesses that have positive environmental and social impacts.

In a new series, I will be featuring brands who are working under this model, or who are making strides to recycle, repurpose, and replenish.

 Image credit: SAYA Designs

Image credit: SAYA Designs

S A Y A D E S I G N S

Several months back I saw hair pins from SAYA designs featured on the Instagram story of the fabulous Selva Beat, which is , in my opinion, the coolest and most stylish environmental mag out there.

I thought they looked stunning and was immediately drawn to their natural, yet polished aesthetic. Made in Bali, each style is hand crafted by local artisans - which I also love because Bali holds a special place in my heart.

As I continued to research the brand,I found it inspiring to learn that the brand itself was actually born from the founders’ desire to explore environmentalism, and generate a positive impact on issues like deforestation, which is a massive problem in Indonesia.

SAYA’s website states: Indonesia’s rainforest is one of the most biologically diverse forests in the world, containing ten percent of known plant species, twelve percent of all known mammal species and seventeen percent of all known bird species. Yet it also has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, and just under half of the country’s original forest cover now remains. Since the 1960s it has been consistently destroyed to make room for commodities such as pulp, paper, plywood and palm oil.


CLOSING THE LOOP

SAYA has carefully chosen to base their business on a circular model, which is sustainable and regenerative by design (recycle, repurpose, replenish). It aims to minimize environmental impact, replenish what’s taken, and build economic, social, and environmental capital.

Their hair accessories are crafted from salvaged root wood from old commercial plantations in Indonesia. By using these roots, which are essentially a waste material that would otherwise take hundreds of years to decompose, they’re able to create their accessories with a minimal environmental footprint.

 Image Credit: SAYA Designs

Image Credit: SAYA Designs

SAYA hair pins are carved by hand by artisans who have been passing down the knowledge of woodcarving, a traditional Balinese craft, for generations. By partnering with local artisans, SAYA is supporting Indonesian culture and artisanal trade and helping to restore pride and value to an important aspect of artistic heritage - which is sadly being eroded and at risk of disappearing to accommodate modern life. Purchasing form brands that partner with local artisans like Balinese woodcarvers ensures that artistic and culture traditions live on, they are making fair wages, and provides them with opportunities to reach markets they may not have otherwise been able to reach.

They fulfill their commitment to replenish and renew the environment by planting trees ; for every hair stick purchased, SAYA will buy and plant up to ten seeds through GAIA, their partner organization, on your behalf. The trees planted from sales are endemic trees which will be planted on degraded forest of the Rinjani National Park watershed.


The Hair Pins

I love the look of women who wear their hair in beautifully plaited crowns or elaborately wound "messy" buns framed by soft wisps of flowing hair.

But, I've never been one of them, and, up until very recently, I never quite embraced its natural texture.

I was blessed with a very thick head of hair, so thinning or baldness is not something I'll ever have to contend with. Instead, the flip side is that it has been an epic years-long battle to tame the beast atop my head; twists and curls of varying patterns and tightness spring out from my head in chaotically unpredictable ways- one day soft and springy, the next frizzy and dull.

Falling into the trap of euro-centric beauty standards which make many a young girl feel as though she needs sleek, straight hair to be beautiful, I've been straightening my own for as long as I can remember.  I can still smell that lye relaxer on my hair as it burned (literally!) my scalp - - Oh memories! And the things we do to feel beautiful!

For most of my life, if my hair wasn't straightened, it was slicked back into a bun. This was usually in the summer when it was too humid to bother to straighten it, so I jokingly refer to this style as "my summer helmet."

 But I honestly don't really love wearing my hair off my face that way - it makes me feel vulnerable, especially as I deal with hormonal acne and severe melasma. 

Lately, I've been exploring my hairs' natural texture a bit more, while also seeking ways to wear it off my face and tame the frizz when I have to, but in a way that makes me feel put-together and chic. So I chose two of SAYA’s designs that I thought would do just that.

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Among the various sticks, forks, and slides to choose from, I felt that The Barrette in rosewood and The Moonflower in tamarind were best suited to my hair type.

Made from tamarind or rosewood, the Barrette holds my hair in place securely, and it seems to work best when my hair is in its natural texture. Here I’m wearing it in a messy bun. It’s so easy to just literally throw your hair up, and secure it. No mirror needed.

The Moonflower, made from teak or tamarind, looks great securing a low bun, but I also like it with a low pony-tail when my hair is straight.

Here it is as seen two ways on models from SAYA’s website:

I think they elevate a look and make an otherwise boring hairstyle look stylish, but I also love that it helps me avoid hair elastics, which I’m constantly breaking. That isn’t to say I still don’t use them - they definitely still serve a purpose, but I’m happy to be using and discarding fewer.

I love that the natural color and grain of the wood is visible. I value it as a piece of art since I know that it salvaged from the earth and was carefully crafted by skilled hands.

It’s heartening to see more and more brands valuing transparency, sustainability, and positive social impacts throughout their entire supply chains. And although small, young businesses that are as conscientious, environmentally and socially, as SAYA can have huge and lasting impacts.