In this series of interviews, we speak with our 2023 cohort about their businesses, their commitment to creating better futures for their industries, and what they’re most excited to learn and experience during their time as a Changemaker.
Here, we chat with Graysha Audren, founder of Weffan, a London-based textile company committed to making sustainable manufacturing accessible.
What was the reason for starting your business, and the driving force behind your mission?
Like many designers, the reason was fuelled by frustration and the realisation that even if you were to design something with better materials, you would still be designing a product made from a flawed supply chain. We are entering a time where resources are no longer abundant, meaning that our manufacturing systems and supply chains, which were invented during the industrial revolution when resources were abundant, are lacking innovation.
As a designer, you have the responsibility and the power to design how a garment moves through the system. You design a product that can then be recycled or sit in a circular system. From that starting point, the discovery of 3D weaving then came to me. Coming from a weaving background, there was always going to be a weaving focus on anything that I produced. I was attracted to 3D weaving because it merges multiple manufacturing steps into one […] Therefore, there is efficiency, but also resource reduction and supply chain shortening.
“3D weaving applied to garment making could be a way of reducing pre-consumer waste and also […] localising production onto one machine. So that’s the mission: lowering waste, localising production, and shortening supply chains for a lower-carbon-footprint product.”
What has been your proudest moment since starting your business?
There have been a series of exciting moments for me personally. [For example], getting grant funding from Innovate UK, the European Commission, and Future Fabric Factory. Securing my research partnership with the University of Leeds and its 3D Weaving Innovation Centre was a big milestone, because I had the team in place that I needed to do 3D weaving novel research. Designing for something that’s desirable is very important. By partnering with Academia, I can be a vehicle for its research by going out to an applied space with a tangible product that has a tangible impact.
Those were exciting moments for the internal functioning and foundation of Weffan. But probably the most exciting moment was the collaboration with fashion brand Liquid Editions. It was Weffan’s first collaboration, and we worked together on showcasing its design aesthetic, whilst also highlighting the low-waste nature of 3D weaving design. [Such] marriages [help] you learn so much about your business and your product when you test it in the ‘real world’. Working together taught us that [innovation in design] is an iterative process [and when] you get into the technology, you need to go out into the real world and test it to see if it can be scaled.
How do you try to ensure sustainability is at the heart of everything you do?
3D weaving is a method that reduces waste and resource input. Therefore, from the very conception of Weffan, we looked at everything through a sustainable lens, and sustainability was a guiding principle in the prioritisation of implementations.
In the beginning, we focused on how our method would be an opportunity to design out waste. However, the longer vision focuses on how our work not only affects the planet, but also how the localisation of production means that we can pay fair labour [wages].
There are 3 pillars to sustainability: people, planet, and prosperity. ‘Planet’ is the one we’re focused on at the minute by […] using less resources. ‘People’ is another current focus, as we’ve partnered with a UK mill with the intent of building UK textile infrastructure back up. Finally, for ‘prosperity’, it’s about figuring out if this is a scalable business. It could be a great idea, and it could solve all of the above, but if it’s not applied in a feasible and tangible manner, then who is it helping?
[The Changemaker programme] offers a range of case studies and statistics which will be helpful in our own research process, but will also give us tangible insights that can only be useful when developing a sustainable business. The community that Stylus gives you access to is very exciting. The other Changemakers are inspirational and I want to [...] work with people who have similar goals and ideas.
"If we want a truly circular economy or business, we are going to need collaborations and partnerships that will lead to our main goals of creating a truly sustainable and circular supply chain. We can’t do it alone.”
Below: Meet Weffan founder, Graysha Audren.