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Behind the scenes with photographer Chantal Anderson
Behind the scenes with photographer Chantal Anderson

We Love

Seek Collective on transparency and empowerment

Choose Day

Carol Miltimore, founder and head designer of Seek Collective, is a vet in the fashion game. Having spent some time working for major brands like Calvin Klein Jeans, Michael Kors, Converse and Armani Exchange, she felt like the fashion industry and its customers were more disconnected than two teens trying to figure out a long distance relationship. So a few years ago she split and started her own brand, Seek Collective. Seek produces its clothing the way green parents obsessively raise their children, making sure that every product that goes into them is as natural and fairly produced as possible. Promoting transparency is at the heart of Seek’s process as all of their garments are handmade and hand-printed, using natural dyes and organic materials. Carol took a short break from bettering the world to answer some of our questions.

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YOUR PROCESS IS SO TRANSPARENT. IT’S SUPER INSPIRING! WHY IS SUSTAINABILITY AND EMPOWERMENT IMPORTANT TO YOU AS A DESIGNER? Thank you! The process of how things get made inspires me and affects the designs and outcome so I really want it to be interesting to customers as well. Sustainability and empowerment matter to me a great deal as a designer, as a business owner, as well as a person sharing this planet with so many. After working as a designer for a decade in different companies and experiencing a detachment between designer, producer, and customer, I knew I wanted to have a business that explores the potential of creating clothing in a way that will empower instead of exploit, inform customers how and where their items are being consciously made, as well as be contemporary, relevant, and unique in terms of aesthetic.

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Founder Carol Miltimore

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"Sustainability and empowerment matter to me a great deal as a designer, as a business owner, as well as a person sharing this planet with so many. "

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE COMMUNITY YOU’RE BUILDING WITH SEEK IN INDIA? I feel incredibly fortunate for all the people and places that I work with as they all inspire me! I work with several different communities throughout India. The silk crepe I use comes from Bangalore and Mysore in South India. All my printing is done in the town of Bagru located outside of the northwestern city of Jaipur, where hand block printing has been done for over 350 years. The handloom woven fabric is done with a charitable trust dedicated to women empowerment in central India. Some natural dye work is done with a group started by a molecular biologist in South India and I’m about to begin work with a group in Mumbai that does natural dyes and tie-dyeing as well as employs women from the slums. I work with a factory in New York City as well as with a factory in India, the latter having a water treatment facility to recycle and reduce water usage and adheres to government mandated minimum wages as a starting point. I’m also beginning to look into working with artisan communities outside of India, which I’m very excited about. It’s really important to me to have a close relationship with everyone I work with so when I’m there, at least two times a year, while I’m focused on production, I really spend time to meet with the managers, visit with the artisans, and generally check in with everyone, all while drinking far too much chai! Many of the people I work with feel like extended family to me at this point and I look forward to seeing them each visit.

YOU’VE TRAVELED ALL OVER THE WORLD. WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE INDIA AS THE PLACE TO SET UP SHOP? I got the travel bug young and since then traveling has always been important to me so I feel lucky to have visited so many places. When I was still in college at Parsons, I began to study textiles and as I did I kept coming back to India as a sort of mother ship with so many incredible textile heritages. [India employs about 34.5 million artisans.] By senior year, I knew I wanted to get there but the trip honestly seemed daunting and in the meantime I had to work so I threw myself into textile research and textile courses on the side. On my first trip to India, years after college and with many years of work under my belt at companies like Calvin Klein Jeans, Anne Valerie Hash, Converse and Armani Exchange, I traveled to India for an artist residency to work on my paintings in the state of Gujurat. I then spent several months exploring the country as well as meeting with various artisan groups. Seek Collective began to take shape on that initial journey to Hindustan!

CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE DYES YOU WORK WITH? I work with natural dyes as much as possible, which means dyes that are derived from plants and minerals. While 40,000-50,000 tons of synthetic dyestuff containing heavy metals, benzene, and formaldehyde end up in rivers and waters systems a year, natural dyes are not always perfect but in comparison cause much less environmental harm. They also create interesting challenges because there is a certain limit to colors but every season it is a fun exploration to see what can be done with them and leads to unexpected solutions and results. In terms of final product, it means there will always be slight variations in color due to the natural dyes as well as the nature of hand done work, so each piece truly is unique and special.

THE BRAND: SEEK

  1. Top 3 selling styles: The Kerry top, rompers, and the wayfarer scarf.
  2. Something your brand is known for: Unique hand-block printing in India.
  3. What’s playing on the speakers in your studio: Washed Out.
  4. Something you’re constantly re-stocking: Wayfarer scarves.
  5. Your brand in 3 words: Subtly unique, classic ease, conscious production.

THE DESIGNER: CAROL MILTIMORE

  1. Your go-to outfit: My 11-year-old painting jeans, a silk crepe Seek top, a Seek scarf, Sabah shoes.
  2. One thing you can’t live without: Color.
  3. Favourite designer: Phoebe Philo, Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Rei Kawakubo, and Patagonia.
  4. Something you always carry with you: Crystals.
  5. Style icon: Eccentric senior citizens.

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