Interview: Deniz Akkaya

huner is a sustainable fashion brand focused on delivering material driven designs. We’ve made a special interview with the founder of the brand, Hüner Aldemir, on how to run a successful sustainable brand, upcycling & more…

Can you tell us a little bit about huner’s story? What drove you to this venture?

huner is actually the result of a series of lucky coincidences, starting with my involvement in the group that later ended up being selected to present at the 2016 Venice Architectural Biennale representing the Turkish Pavilion. I was asked to design the promotional tote bags for the exhibition’s opening weekend and based on our project’s upcycling and nautical themes I decided to make the bags out of used sails. 

huner was one of the brands that got to participate in COP26. Could you tell us about your thoughts and experience at COP26? What were the positives that came out of it?

We had the chance to explain and show our brand, along with the other eight talented designer from all over the world, to people we wouldn’t have had access to otherwise with the help of Fashion Revolution and Fashion Open Studio who coordinated the events in tandem with COP26. It was such an exciting opportunity for us to be included in such a large scale organization, it would have been great to be present at the workshop the Fashion Revolution team held for us in Glasgow but due to travel restrictions we were unable to attend.

What makes a truly sustainable brand? How do you successfully run a sustainable business?

To be honest, the phrase sustainable brand is somewhat of an oxymoron because with the amount that is being produced right now, in all industries, sustainability seems to be an unattainable goal. Our aim from the beginning is to offer people more sustainable alternatives to their favorite or most used items. There are so many elements to being a sustainable business that it’s almost impossible to achieve them all, however of course we try to tick off as many boxes as possible. We only use upcycled materials, the only new pieces we add to our designs are trims and even then we try our best to source these locally and as deadstock. We have also shifted our focus on becoming a zero waste brand in 2021, repurposing all of our cut offs and studio remnants into other goods as well.

huner is all about upcycling! For anyone who doesn’t know, how would you define upcycling?

We are all about upcycling because we truly believe that there is so much material in the world already, waiting to be used, that there is no need to be producing raw materials from virgin sources anymore. Upcycling can mean taking a material that is no longer of use to anybody, and upgrading it to be used again. But it can also mean using deadstock materials from fabric mills or producers that they deem second quality or overstock. Since Turkey is such big textile producer, it is really easy to access high quality materials without sacrificing countless resources. 

If you had a magic wand, what would be the first thing you’d change in the fashion industry?

It would definitely be over production in the fast fashion sector. The amount of new items some companies come up with every month, even week, is really terrifying to witness. Also to know that most of these goods will later end up in landfills or being burned makes the problem even worse.

What do you want to achieve personally with your brand, in terms of sustainability?

Our goal is to always stick to our upcycling roots and develop more our zero waste efforts. We are focused right now on repurposing our cut offs but we are aiming to have a more zero waste design sensibility to eliminate cut offs from the get go. We are also creating more informative content for our customers so they are better informed when they are making their shopping decisions.

What’s the smallest change a consumer could make to become more eco-conscious?

I think the smallest change that has the biggest impact is to consume less of everything. Really consider each purchase carefully, repair, buy second hand or trade with someone if you can. When you do have to purchase something new, look into brands that offer more sustainable alternatives to your regular go-to’s.

What are the most common inaccurate “facts” about sustainability you see promoted?

The amount being produced matters most in my opinion so seeing some “sustainable brands” come up with many new items, very frequently kind of defeats the purpose. Also limiting their sustainability efforts only to the raw materials they’re using, organic cotton for example, means they’re addressing a minuscule part of the problem.

Where can we find the best inspiration about sustainable fashion? 

I find following accounts that offer a vintage shopping selection the best source because not only is second hand shopping one of the more conscious alternatives, they usually have much more interesting styling suggestions. I also like following Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers and Aslı Filinta for out of the box ideas.

What advice would you give to those wanting to make their business sustainable?

I think thinking about it holistically rather than just the product you’re creating is the best way to go because at the end of the day producing anything uses resources so no product by itself is ever going to be sustainable. It’s the holistic habits and efforts that make the whole of the business sustainable, from how and where you produce, the kind of packaging you use to the circularity of the product you’re producing.

What changes do you hope for before the next COP26?

I really hope governments enforce stricter guidelines on corporations because as much as we’re making a difference with the small steps we’re taking, it’s really the corporations that have the biggest negative impact on climate change.