Live Softly


Koskela Interview with Elise, Founder of Live Softly

International Women’s Day: Celebrating
Women In Design

Interviews with 12 of the inspiring women we get to work with at Koskela.

To celebrate International Women’s Day we asked 12 women with flourishing creative businesses about the highlights of working in the design industry and what makes them tick.

Countless pearls of wisdom have been revealed by these incredible ladies. Keep reading for plenty of inspiration and thought-provoking insights!

Elise Slater - Live Softly

Elise Slater / Live Softly

How long have you worked in the design industry?
I went straight from high school to UTS to study Fashion Design and have worked in the design industry ever since – so 17 years long! I've worked across all areas from fashion design and trend forecasting, to my current role as a design educator and founder of my own small social enterprise design company, Live Softly.

What is your favourite part of the job?
At the moment I have three jobs; as a designer for Live Softly, educator and art therapist, and I love how all are design related and interweave, I feel like all of my skills gathered over the last 17 years have now found their expression in the world, and that makes me feel creatively enriched everyday. My other favourite part of the job is hearing how Live Softly resonates with other people and how they interact with it's story, this project has lead me to meet many wonderful people who are also passionate about social enterprise and ethical design.

What is your proudest achievement?
Working with my community of marginalised artisans in Nepal and bringing the project to life has been a wonderfully rewarding journey, and being accepted in to my favourite design stores in the world, including Koskela and Selfridges in London was beyond exciting; it meant the project had a place in the world.

Do you have a personal mantra/philosophy that you live by?
The name of my project, Live Softly, is also the mantra I design and live by. Live Softly embraces the Buddhist philosophy to do no harm and to tread softly on the world. I believe in mindful design and have always been an advocate for sustainability and design for change. I believe in educating customers about the provenance of textiles, connecting them with the stories of how things are made. As designers we need to connect people to the making process so they can treasure what they own as a means to combat disposable design. My mantra is to create happy makers, happy customers and a happy planet.

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elise slater
The Ups and Downs of Sustainable Design Thinking....

It's only day three in Nepal and I have already been though so many waves of emotion, so many learning curves and ups and downs regarding the project and my intentions for it. I've asked questions, I've had questions answered, and then asked some more...

I teach sustainable design in Sydney and recently taught a co-lab class on social enterprise design to 14 students from Sri Lanka and 14 students from Sydney. I like to think I am fairly well versed on the pros and cons of sustainable design and the ethical questions raised in producing goods and employing staff.  My prime intention in coming to Nepal was to see if my project really was contributing benefits to the people employed by the program, how did I know that there wasn't someone at the top giving themselves a big pay cut? And was giving the happy soulful people of Nepal work really what they needed - wasn't that just inflicting them with the same consumer-led disease that has consumed the West?

Well after taking to lots of people with different experiences today I had many of my questions answered, and while I am sure that isn't the end of the questions I can happily say that Live Softly is going ahead with renewed vigour and good intention. So let me explain to you a little of my thought process over the past three days...

elise slater
Live Softly in Nepal 2017

It's been two years since I visited Nepal, since the serendipitous events on a hilltop in Kathmandu when Live Softly was born.  In the two years since I visited Nepal had a devastating earthquake that killed 9000 people and later that same year had debilitating strikes put on its borders by India, resulting in queues 5km long for necessities such as medical supplies, petrol and food.    It hasn't been easy for the Nepalese people, but in spite, and maybe because of this the smiles you see on the people in Nepal are some of the most joyful you will see anywhere in the world.

The auspicious Boudha Stupa on the Dalai Lama's Birthday July 2017

The auspicious Boudha Stupa on the Dalai Lama's Birthday July 2017

Live Softly was on hold while Nepal got back on it's feet after the earthquake, and I told the makers that when they were ready after the strikes  I would place an order for my first hundred laptop cases. It began as a passion project, something to keep that auspicious link to Nepal alive, and to honour my promise to the makers & the charity that the project supports. 

With my first order placed and paid for I approached my dream stockists - the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) and Koskela - who to my delight both placed orders immediately, and so, in October 2016 Live Softly appeared on store shelves in Sydney.

Other lovely retailers soon approached me to stock Live Softly including Ukiyo store in Tasmania, Paulista Gallery in Sydney, Timber & Tailor Shop in Canberra, Neon Boulevard in London & The Art Gallery of South Australia.

The product took on a life of its own and things started to flow, the Live Softly ethos seemed to resonate with people in Australia and with store owners, and I continue to receive lots of lovely emails from people who are touched by the product's story and by their daily interaction with the cases. 

As a passion project Live Softly has continued steadily over the last 9 months and I have been able to place consistent orders with Nepal each month, a small but not in-significant contribution for a land-locked country that needs as much support as it can from the outside.  

And so I pondered whether to put more energy in to Live Softly, to grow the project further, and decided the only way to know that was to re-visit Nepal and the makers of Live Softly and see how the project can best benefit the craftspeople and their families and the Leprosy charity that Live Softly supports.

And so here I am, after an arduous flight and bumpy roads, with lots of questions and curiosity and ideas, arriving in Nepal on the Dalai Lama's 82nd Birthday ready to see what serendipity and magic Nepal has in stall for Live Softly....

“Our Prime Purpose In This Life Is To Help Others. If You Can’t Help Them, At Least Do Not Hurt Them” - THE DALAI LAMA

Big Love from hot and rainy Nepal,

xx Elise

The children of the Live Softly craftspeople in the childcare facilities provided for the makers, July 2017

The children of the Live Softly craftspeople in the childcare facilities provided for the makers, July 2017

elise slater