Today I’m interviewing Sasha Zaman, Founder of Jonquil. Jonquil is a luxury bedding brand that launched just last month. I was lucky enough to recently get a behind-the-scenes look at the ethos and design that underpins Jonquil products. And let me say, this is a very exciting new brand!
As someone who has pulled off far too many all-nighters in my post-graduate studies (last Wednesday being the most recent!), I know firsthand that the importance of sleep cannot be understated. For me, one of the elements of having a great night’s sleep is having high quality bedding. Another element is not having a 10,000 word research paper due the next day, but let’s stick to what we can control, shall we?
High quality bedding is one of those investment items that is really worth the splurge. We use bedding every day, so it makes sense to find a luxury set (or two!) of bedding that will make getting into bed each night feel like a special treat. If you invest well and treat your bedding well, it will hold up beautifully and serve you for years to come.
It therefore pays to spend a bit more time and money finding your perfect ethical bedding with exquisite details; bedding that doesn’t cut corners. That’s why I was thrilled to find Jonquil recently. YOU GUYS, this bedding literally doesn’t cut corners – the extra depth of the fitted sheet ensures it hugs your mattress snugly and doesn’t pop off! As someone who has a tendancy to kick around and pull the shallow corners of my fitted sheet from the mattress, this was a detail I was thrilled to learn about.
Carefully considered details like these are at the very core of Jonquil’s ethos. Jonquil is made, in Sasha’s words, with the ‘fussiest sleeper in mind’. Jonquil uses 400-thread count organic cotton, so the fabric quality is unparalleled (but don’t take my word for it – you can order swatches of the fabric from the website to inspect the quality and colours yourself). I love that Jonquil is of heirloom quality, so that if its cared for well, it can be passed on through generations. And it’s not just the design and quality that is of the highest standard. Jonquil’s ethical credentials are excellent, having both Fairtrade and GOTS certifications and with Sasha personally researching and verifying her suppliers to ensure she could work with the right people in the right way. Also, Sasha pulled this all off whilst pregnant, can we talk about a superstar?
I love that Sasha is trying to help us build a closer connection to the products we use. I love her authenticity about the process. There is a lot about this interview I love, but I’ll let you read about it all below. I hope you enjoy learning as much about Sasha and Jonquil as much as I did.
[Below – Founder Sasha Zaman; Above – Jonquil Plisse collection]
Firstly, thank you so much for this interview, so honoured to be featured on your website! [Editor’s note: Thank you, Sasha! It’s a pleasure!]
How did you come to establish Jonquil?
The Jonquil journey began three years ago when I was dressing my new home and researching products. From this research I learnt about the atrocities of the textile industry. I found out that this industry has had a long history of utilising child labour and harsh synthetic pesticides, fertilisers and chemicals. It has in turn, shortened the life expectancy of the cotton farmers to just 35 years not just due to physical health issues, but also due to high suicide rates.
I wanted to find luxury sheets that matched my values, but could not find the right products, so I created my own! The ethos of Jonquil was that it would take on some form of social responsibility and impact over the long term. Starting Jonquil means we can give back sustainably. Not just once off donations, but actually support people’s livelihoods which has a far greater long term impact. The company embodies everything I believe luxury bedding should encompass – high quality, ethically made and free from unnecessary harmful toxins & chemicals, all while producing the finest organic cotton bedding pieces.
Was that when you first came across the concept of Fairtrade?
I was familiar with what Fairtrade represented, but it wasn’t until I visited India and various other countries, that I started to see the difference between Fairtrade and non-Fairtrade practices. This was really important to me and drove me to ensure that every person, the environment and animals were treated fairly and without harm. This is why it was so important for us to receive Fairtrade certification. I can sleep easier at night knowing that we’re a clean, transparent business that gives back.
You spent years searching for the right farms and people to work with. How did you end up finding the producers you are now working with?
I’m an avid researcher, that’s actually my day job! So, I researched about the processes involved, who grew the cotton crops and where and followed this all the way through to the final finished product. The farmers we work with are truly passionate and respectful of their land. Many of them have had this land in their family for hundreds of years, so it’s basically sacred to them. We wanted to preserve that. With larger companies focusing on mass manufacture and automated production processes, we run the risk of losing the special old-fashioned way of making and growing crops to high throughput processing. We wanted to help prevent that from happening. We work with local communities that are part of a wider Fairtrade movement.
The group we work with is Chetna Organics. Through partnerships and targeted programs, we can scale up these numbers and increase Fairtrade and organic farming coverage. Chetna Organics provides these farmers with the resources to transition their land to organic crops. By supporting these communities, we help support and maintain good, clean, healthy practices for both the people and the environment. When farmers join the Chetna Organic community, support is provided to ensure all farmers and farm households are paid well above minimum wage. They also have set hours of work with set breaks and paid holiday leave. There will never ever be children working in these places whether it is on the farm or in the mill. I mean never. I have been there myself and even been there while the farms and mills were being audited. They have extremely high standards and it’s reassuring to see that changes are being implemented for the benefit of the farmers and the environment. We’re also proud to say that all our farmers are paid 200% more than other cotton farmers.
Your collection represents your own experiences. What inspires you?
The designs themselves are very simple but they have been inspired by my memories and experiences, and often stem from emotions I felt at particular moments in time. For example, the crochet collection was inspired by the calligraphy I saw everywhere in Rajasthan, India when we went backpacking years ago. The amount of work and depth in these structures, temples and palaces is breathtaking. The signature crochet was designed by myself and is hand stitched, it’s pretty special.
[Signature Crochet collection]
What about the line that’s in tribute to you mother? That’s very special, can you tell us more about it?
The Plissé collection is inspired by mum. It’s structured, perfect but also detailed with a lot of depth. Mum is one of the reasons I started Jonquil, we both share a passion for bed linen, and homewares, so I’d say there’s a bit of her in all of the collections! The hotel collection is inspired by the memories I have of roughing it up a few days in Nepal and then finally getting to a beautiful hotel, having a hot shower and slipping into this amazing, fluffy, fresh bed. It’s clean, crisp and luxurious.
Did you recently have a child yourself (congratulations!)? What kind of world would you like to see your child grow up in?
Yes! Thank you very much! We’re very blessed to have had a healthy baby girl, and what a meaningful question, you had me stumped for a few moments! Her world would be full of love, health and happiness–that’s the ideal world. A world where supporting and giving to others isn’t so foreign. And to feel empowered knowing she can be and do anything she chooses.
We love that your linens are of heirloom quality at a reasonable price point – and could even be passed on from one generation to the next, if cared for properly! How do you see the connection we have to our products?
I’m guilty too of being sucked into this fast paced society. I feel that we have lost respect for the materials we have around us. We often give way to quick and cheap products without consideration of what this means on a global or environmental context. It often means just buying “things” for today and not for tomorrow or for years to come! We all need to slow down to appreciate the small things in life. Our designs, although simple, make you want to slow down and appreciate the detail – not just visually but also by touch. We’ve chosen to have all our collections made with the highest quality in certified organic cotton. The slight sheen to it, the thickness of the cotton sheet and the sheer weight of each piece makes it so luxurious to sleep in. When we choose to buy luxurious pieces in our home, it’s got to be special. It’s got to have a story and depth to it. This was really important to me and I can’t wait for everyone to experience it.
Where would you like to see Jonquil in five years?
The way I see it, is that Jonquil will and continues to evolve. I’m still learning and shaping my values. We’re not perfect, nowhere near! It’s a learning process, we research and we make mistakes. It’s about being authentic about every step of the process and being honest with our community. So long story short, in 5 years time, all I can say is that Jonquil will reflect my values and impressions through the years. I’d like to think that Jonquil would have established a new category for homewares, combining high-end luxury products with sustainable and ethical manufacturing, making a change in the textile category for the better.
[Plisse collection x Hotel collection]
Finish this sentence. The world needs more ______________.
Last question – we love some of the design details, like the deep fitted sheet. Does that mean the corners won’t pop off the mattress?!
The extra detail was one of the reasons Jonquil originated. Our sheets have been designed with the fussiest sleeper in mind, like myself! Yes, the extra depth allows our sheets to fit almost any mattress, including those with mattress toppers and not come off the corners. Same goes with the extra deep pockets of our pillowcases. All the sheets have been colour fastened to 60 degrees, which is uncommon for household textiles so that you can get all those real nasty stains out without colour runs. [Editor’s note: YAY!!]
Thank you so much, Sasha, for this little insight into your incredible values and the motivations behind starting Jonquil.
If you like longlasting, luxury linen – and want to support a brand that is supporting people around the world to lead dignified lives – then I strongly encourage you to jump on the Jonquil website. This isn’t a sponsored post, just an interview with a brand that is creating fabulous products with the aim of making a difference.