This post is from the PARROT Talks Archive.
This month, PARROT has been having a chat with the founder of Sunshine Living – Sakara McShane. Sunshine Living is a brand with an ethos after my own heart – ethical, sustainable and (perhaps most importantly) makes you feel brilliant when you buy and wear their pieces! Sunshine Living has evolved from a jewellery brand into much more of a lifestyle brand with deliciously soft loungewear which looks as good on as it feels – I hope you enjoy reading our interview. All of the images used are from the Sunshine Living Instagram account, go and take a look at the dreamy, relaxed aesthetic Sakara has created so perfectly!
Hi Sakara, thanks so much for having a chat with us for PARROT Talks! Can you tell us a bit about who you are, where you are based, and what you do?
Hey Flora! I’m Sakara, I’m 23 and originally from Bracknell in Berkshire. I have an unhealthy obsession with dogs, grapefruits and the sun, hence Sunshine Living became the brand name. I run Sunshine Living, a handmade to order organic loungewear and jewellery brand from my tiny little flat in Southampton, which is almost fully taken over by my fabric and boxes, hopefully one day I can get a nice sun-filled studio space to work in!
When did you start Sunshine Living?
I originally started Sunshine Living back in November 2018, as a little page on Etsy selling jewellery and accessories. I decided to set it up whilst travelling Bali as I fell in love with all the jewellery market finds, and found a new love for accessories. It was nice to focus on something a little different, after finishing a very intense fashion design course at The Arts University Bournemouth.It started off just being something I could do to get a little extra money whilst I looked to get a job in the fashion industry. This never happened, and it seems like fate now. I fully believe there is a reason for everything, I wouldn’t be working full time for Sunshine Living if I ever ended up getting “that” fashion job.
Where do you get inspiration from for all of your amazing jewellery pieces?
I like to keep the jewellery that I make quite simple, and not too over the top, starting the design process with a colour palette that I’m feeling. For example, I buy a group of polymer clays which fit into the colour group I have decided on, and then play around and experiment with them. I also have rough ideas of what shapes I prefer to work with and want to create, and tend to stick to them. I also have a huge love for pre-loved/second-hand jewellery and most of the jewellery I have bought and wear myself comes this way. I am currently working on a new pre-loved jewellery collection, where all the pieces I’ve picked out are previously owned, but remind me of jewellery you’d find in your grandparents’ treasures.
Was sustainability always an important aspect when you started the brand or is it something you have become more aware of over time?
Sustainability is something I have always deemed to be important, and I specialised in sustainable and ethical fashion throughout my university degree. However, when I first began Sunshine Living, I didn’t do it with the intention of it becoming my job or businesses per se, so the jewellery pieces were made from plastics and items which are not necessarily eco-friendly. As the businesses has grown and I started to see the potential of it becoming my full-time job, I knew I had an obligation to make it as ethical and sustainable as I could. I would say now, that Sunshine Living is an eco-friendly brand, especially the clothing I make and sell, and also the packaging.
Could you talk us through some of the sustainability aspects of your brand?
Of course! I love talking about this, and am constantly learning new things as I develop the brand. Firstly, I made sure the packaging was sustainable. All items I send out are posted in 100% recyclable packaging, which is also biodegradable, as you can’t guarantee people will/can recycle everything all the time. This is probably one of the easiest starting places for a business to begin its sustainability journey. All items that I make are either made in small batches (the jewellery and accessories), or are made to order (the loungewear). This way I can create as little waste as possible, which is a massive problem in the fashion industry. This does mean there is a 1-2 week wait on loungewear orders, however it means I am not batch making items of clothing which people don’t end up buying, or using up fabrics to create sizes which might not sell. Everything that is created, is sold, and will be going to a loving home. Excess fabric and scraps are then turned into both scrunchies and reusable facial pads, and pieces which are too small to be turned into anything are composted or recycled, that is the beauty of using organic cotton – it’s biodegradable. I could talk about the befits of organic cotton all day and why I use it, but we would be here a long time! However, one of the keys reasons I use it are the benefits to the farmers that grow the cotton. They adhere to strict safety standards when producing their cotton, using no nasty chemicals which can ultimately be deadly to the farmers and the land, a topic I don’t feel is talked about enough. Some great pages where you can find out more about the benefits of organic cotton are: Soil Association Cottonique. Last but not least, every order you place with Sunshine Living plants a tree somewhere around the world, and my Instagram followers vote each month for where this will be.
The method, time and effort that goes into each piece in your loungewear collection is incredible – can you talk us through the process?
When designing the pieces I start with what I personally like to wear, as it’s a small, personal business I think it’s important to get a bit of myself in all the pieces I produce. I often put out questionnaires on my Instagram stories when I’m designing a new collection to see what my audience and customers would actually prefer to buy and ultimately use. I may have an idea of what I want to create, but if it’s not practical for my customers to wear, then ultimately it’s not a smart choice to make. I want to create clothing people will wear over, and over again. When it comes to making the loungewear pieces, I will go through the orders and write out the list of items that need to be made, and I group them into fabrics. I will then cut out, for example all the items which are being made from the black organic cotton rib, (the shorts, flares and sleeveless tops). I will then create a mini production line for myself, pinning everything, overlocking everything, button holes, and hemming all within the same colour. This makes it a lot faster and I’m not switching between lots of different things. Once one fabric batch is made, I move onto the next. Everything is then hand packaged and posted by me, and I absolutely love this part. It takes me ages, but I find it so relaxing pre-packing and sorting all the tissue paper and thank you cards after a busy week of making clothes. This is my down time towards the end of the week, with a Netflix series on in the background.
Loungewear has been taking centre stage in everyone’s wardrobes during lock down! What are your key elements to make the perfect piece of clothing for comfort at home?
It certainly has! 100% the most important thing for me is a soft, comfortable waistband. I don’t know about you but an extra soft elastic waistband is an essential when I’m lounging. There is nothing worse than being reminded by the waistband of your trousers of all the bad food you’ve consumed over the weekend…! This is why I use a really soft and flexible elastic in my shorts and trousers. Fabrics which stretch with your body and are not too tight fitting are also key. I also created the loungewear so you could wear it out and about, this way you can get as much use from it as possible. This is also great for last minute snack trips, as you don’t have to get changed to run to the shop!
Who do you love to follow on Instagram right now?
Ok, my absolute fave people to follow at the moment are…@Chloe.kian. She is an ethical fashion and sustainable living influencer from Switzerland. She shares other amazing brands to shop from, and really is a lovely person. She has a few Sunshine Living loungewear pieces and has reviewed them on her YouTube channel, if anyone wants to take a look here. @thevicstyles Vic is also one of my favourite people to follow right now, she is a skincare lover, and influencer who currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. She’s amazing at sharing black female owned businesses, and creates the most beautiful content. She’s one of those people you follow, and then want to be friends with. And lastly, @florencegiven. Anyone that knows me, knows I am a strong feminist, and I looooove everything Florence stands for, shares and speaks about. She’s released a book called “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty” and every chapter slaps me with education!
Where do you like to shop?
I’ve given up fast fashion! So am on a pledge to only buy from other small businesses or second hand. I love going around charity shops with my mum, she’s the ultimate bargain hunter and trust me when I say she will find a hidden gem wherever she goes. Here are a few small businesses below that I have bought from and will buy from again.
Who do you really admire? Either from a fashion/sustainability standpoint or otherwise?
Firstly, and probably a typical answer to get, but my mum! She’s been self-employed my whole life, so it meant it was never too much of a worry for me to do this. She also pushed me into studying fashion at college and university as she knew it’s what I really wanted to do and never made me worry about money holding me back or taking something which you’re not guaranteed a job in. She’s also a super strong woman, and has raised 3 daughters, probably one of the reasons I feel such strong connection to feminism. Also, my close friends, I can honestly say I have an incredibly strong group of girls around me, who really support each other and uplift each other all the time, I admire each and every one of them. I love Florence Given, a strong feminist and artist who every girl needs to follow. And lastly, pretty much any small businesses owner!! If you own a business, I probably admire you and want to be your friend, I think it takes a special kind of person to start a business by themselves.
What are your future plans for Sunshine Living?
I want to build a sustainable business model that will keep bringing people back for more. I have so many things I want to create, but firstly I want to grow and develop the loungewear collections and business, I have a lot of new designs I can’t wait to bring out for A/W and want to have all of my jewellery and accessories either pre-loved or made from sustainable materials.
And lastly, do you have a recommendation for us?
Yes – a few!
Podcast – The Fashion Feed, Elizabeth Stiles
Account – @sophiefrenchuk – confidence coach
Account – @lareesecraig – gorgeous content creator
Spotify Playlist – All Out 70s (OBSESSED)