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  • My Pet Bear - A Kyrgyzstan Story!

    When I look back at the time we spent travelling throughout Central Asia in 1997, it’s hardly any wonder that I was so captivated by the magic of the county that I returned to set up Sujuu 16 years later.

     

    Some of my favourite times in Kyrgyzstan were those spent getting to know Misha, a white clawed bear.

    After a day of travelling we arrived at the glacial lake in Sarachelyk to a feast of shashlyk and flat bread, but before long it was time for my two brothers (aged 4 and 11) and I (aged 8) to be put to bed. The sun was long set by this time so we did the customary toilet trip by torch light - as we were special guests we had a fresh hole in the ground ready dug for us. It was luxury!

    We formed an orderly queue but while waiting heard a rustle in the bushes, accompanied by an unusual noise somewhere between a growl and a groan. My Dad joked, in his best horror-story-voice, that it was a bear, but after a fleeting fear he may be right we were assured we were safe and put to bed.

    Upon waking the next morning our worst fears were confirmed, it was indeed a bear, but this soon turned to excitement when we learnt Misha was tame. Unfortunately, her story hadn’t been a happy one as poachers had killed her mother while she was a cub, so she was rescued and hand-reared. When she was released into the wild she had no hunting and foraging skills and associated humans with food so repeatedly returned to the village where she didn’t receive a warm welcome.

    It was at this point our hosts built a cage and kept the huge creature as best they could, but living below the bread line themselves (on less than a dollar a day) it had been a big commitment.

    Misha was fully-grown but still young when we met her, and I thought she was the gentlest of giants. We fed her by hand and her favourite food was ‘honey dippers’ – a doughnut like ball dipped in freshly collected honey. I was animal obsessed from a young age so this was my idea of heaven! I spent hours sitting the other side of her chicken wire fence talking to her and stroking her much like a dog, I was smitten.

    Disaster stuck one morning when I went to see Misha she didn’t come a greet me, instead she seemed tethered to the stake in the middle of the cage to which she was attached by a long chain. Her collar had caught and she was in a total tangle, so I ran to get help from the two men I knew I could trust to save my beloved bear, Yrysbek and my Dad.

    Together we devised a plan where Dad would feed Misha while Yrysbek set about untangling her. They went into the cage and the idea was working perfectly, until the honey dippers ran out. Dad reached his hand into his pocket and a look of grim realization passed across his face, Yrysbek caught his eye and quickly realized the error of their plan, unfortunately for them, so did Misha.

    It’s no wonder these are called “White Claw Bears” Misha reared up onto her hind legs, towering high above the two men and drew her claws. What proceeded must have only taken seconds, but seemed to take an age in slow motion. Yrysbek and my Dad were clambering over each other to get out the cage and in just the nick of time the two men fell on top of each other, just out the reach of the epic claws.

    In hindsight this really could’ve ended in disaster, but as the two men lay on the ground to recover, so did my brothers and I, but from fits of giggles. From my 8-year-old point of view it was like a comedy sketch, and reminiscent of the Tom and Jerry video we had watched on repeat at out home in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Needless to say the adults didn’t see the funny side.

    This story does have a happy ending, both for Misha and for me. We fostered Misha so she could live in a big, natural enclosure and remain well fed, and I submitted my story to ‘Animal Mad’ magazine, it was published and I won a prize, I was pretty chuffed!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • The making of our scarves

    For the nomadic tribes of Kyrgyzstan the tradition of felt making has been handed down for generations. Wool gathered from the nomads sheep was used to make the yurts they lived in to the clothes they wore. Our scarves bring this ancient technique into the 21st century by combining it with silk, to create a uniquely beautiful product. It takes 8 hours and here's how its done:

    1: The wool and felt are both dyed using eco-friendly dyeing methods 

    2: Un-spun wool is laid out piece by piece vertically and then horizontally on a rush matt

     

    3: The wool is dampened and rolled for 5-10 minutes to compress the wool into felt

    4: The felt is cut into strips to create the designs

    5: The wet silk is laid out onto specialist flooring

    6: The felt design is laid out on the silk 

     

    7: A layer of dense fabric is laid over the top and rolled around a tube, which is the rolled under foot for 20-30 minutes to fuse the felt fibres with the silk

    8: The whole thing is then re-rolled tighter and this is then rolled by hand for a further 20-30 minutes

    9: The scarf is then hung to dry, packaged up and sent to us here in London! 

  • Creating a collection; Story of A/W's 'Alatoo'

    In Kyrgyzstan the Alatoo mountains are said to be the backbone of the world, with over 70% of the country being mountainous and this impressive range running straight down the middle, it's easy to see why!

    Alatoo Mountains - February 2015

     Alatoo Mountains - February 1997

    These grand spectacles of geology have shaped the Kyrgyz culture. Traditionally nomadic herds people the wool from their sheep would not only provide clothing in the winter months, but also their round houses, 'Yurts'.

    All the felted textiles would contain traditional symbols to tell stories. A key aim of Sujuu is to preserve the heritage of this beautiful country and therefore we mirror these symbols in all our designs. This collection explores the idea of our connection to the world, inspired by a folk law poem that reminds us wherever the journey of life takes us we must remain grounded and "keep the spirit of the mountain and lake". 

       

    A little peak into my 'ideas' sketch book

    See the whole collection here

  • Fashion Revolution Day 2015

    Today marks the anniversary of the Rana Plaza Disaster in Bangladesh, in which 1133 people were killed, 2500 injured, and 800 children left orphaned. That’s a pretty big price to pay for some cheap clothing.  The Fashion Revolution is movement calling for brands to clean up their act, be open and honest about the manufacture of their clothes, and stop these unethical practices.
     
     
     
    We're proud to know that our scarves are not touched by anyone other than our incredible women artisans who work together in a supportive environment to create our unique collections. We’re onboard with the fashion revolution, and you can be too! 
     

     

    Did you know that 1/3 of bananas are fair-trade because consumers demanded it? You have the power to be a force of change in the industry. Be Curious. Find Out. Do Something.

     

    Ask #WhoMadeMyClothes and follow the hashtag here.

  • The Classic Collection

    Kлассикалык (pronounced 'classikalyk') is the core collection from SUJUU. Kлассикалык, which means classic in Kyrgyz, is designed to combine symbols traditionally used in Kyrgyz felting with a diverse and vibrant colour pallet.

    The flagship designs in the collection are the mountain designs. When depicted in felt-work the mountains represent a barrier for protection; this is a series of four scarves that represent dawn, daylight, dusk and night. 

       

    The look book for the collection was shot on the streets of London with Women's Fashion Model, Serena.

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