interview with julia denes: founder of woodfolk
Thanks to people like Julia Denes, founder of Woodfolk, it’s becoming easier and easier to be an ethical shopper. A virtually unknown phrase up until recent times, ethical shopping is more important than ever in the constantly expanding and shifting world of fashion and design.
I sat down with Julia and asked her a few questions about what inspired her to create Woodfolk, the ethical jewellery, accessories, and homewares brand which now has a loyal and growing following.
Where did you grow up and what did you study?
I grew up in Bondi Sydney, and studied Fine Arts at the College of Fine Arts, and Jewellery Manufacture at Enmore Design Centre.
Could you tell us about your career so far?
I’m a designer and jeweller by trade with 10+ years’ experience creating Fine Jewellery for prominent Jewellery houses around Australia and for private clients. Finding myself drawn to more natural materials, I launched Woodfolk in August 2013. I’m proud to say that Woodfolk is now stocked in 60 stores around Australia, and over the last 2 years has developed a strong and loyal following.
Woodfolk is still such a new business, I’m really excited to see what opportunity the future holds.
How did you get involved in home wares, accessories and jewelry?
After completing my Fine Arts degree I took off on a travel adventure that ended up lasting for 2-years and 21 countries. When I found myself spending the final 6 months of my trip in Central America making jewellery from seeds and shells, I knew Jewellery was my calling. Homewares, scarves and bags are more recent. I started incorporating them into the brand because they work so well alongside our jewellery, and made for the natural next step.
What inspired you to start Woodfolk?
With my background in Fine Jewellery, starting Woodfolk felt like a natural progression. Feeling the need to work with more earthy materials combined with my love of all things natural and ethical, the idea was born. In starting Woodfolk, I began a more authentic expression of my creativity and application of my trade. My inspiration comes from nature, my travels in third world countries and collaborations with these artisans and their cultures.
What is Woodfolk all about?
Woodfolk believes in honesty, compassion and being kind to our environment. We work in harmony with both natural materials and communities in need to create beautiful pieces for everyday wear, and that bring warmth and creativity into our homes.
Each Woodfolk piece has been carefully and passionately designed and made for every authentic Women. Comprising of Jewellery, Accessories and Homewares, each piece is simple, yet effortless, comfortable to wear and soft to touch. Colours consist of a gentle neutral palette, making it easy to match with your everyday wardrobe and in your home.
We work in collaboration with artisans in Nepal to create our beautiful pieces.
Being considerate of our environment is hugely important to us. Our Wood is a Nepalese hardwood that has been grown sustainably, we use natural or non-toxic dyes and product packaging is always carefully considered. Our 100% cotton Jewellery pouches have been handmade by a wonderful women’s organisation in Nepal.
What challenges have you faced in the process of getting this project up and running and how have you overcome them?
One of the obstacles I faced in the earlier stages of starting Woodfolk was finding the right people to work with overseas. I could have easily gone somewhere like China, India or Bali to work with a factory, not even needing any face to face contact, however that defeated the purpose of my business. I wanted to make it more personal and was looking to work with a family or an organisation that I respected. I chose Nepal because it felt like a good fit and I had wanted to travel there for a long time. After doing months of research on materials available and skills of the local people, I booked a month long trip there to give myself plenty of time. The wonderful thing about Nepalese people is how open they are to helping you. From when I arrived, I found that they always made time to meet me, would always take my request seriously and if they couldn’t help, would provide details of someone that might be able to. I followed my instinct which eventually led me to exactly who I was looking for.
I feel very privileged to be working with the most lovely, talented Nepalese family. They are of Newari culture from Kathmandu Valley who are skilled woodcarvers for generations. The quality of their work is extremely inspiring and I am still in awe every time I receive a parcel from them.
How does Woodfolk help families in Nepal?
Woodfolk products are proudly designed in Sydney, Australia and proudly handmade both in Australia and by Nepali artisans, throughout Nepal.
Woodfolk is committed to working and collaborating with small family-run businesses as well as Women focused organisations, creating opportunity, self-determination, support and hope in these communities through social entrepreneurship.
Our relationships in Nepal are built on trust, equality, fair trade and a long term goal of bringing meaningful change to their lives, creating opportunity, self-determination, support and hope to these communities through social entrepreneurship.
Our craftspeople in Nepal foster master skills developed over generations. Whether it be traditional carving, natural dying, wheel-work, weaving and knitting techniques, these skills contribute to our uniquely beautiful and quality made products while simultaneously preserving authentic art forms.
Where do you hope to take Woodfolk in the future?
At the moment I’m focusing on building a solid foundation of stockists and customers in Australia. There is a lot of opportunity here, particularly now that people are starting to recognize how important it is to support local businesses and stores. With time I would like to expand overseas. Why not share the love!