GDS Cloth Goods’ Mission Towards a Sustainable Textile Industry

For the first decade of Geana Sieburger’s life home was Southern Brazil, where in the ‘80s bread was only bought at bakeries and produce from farmers was carried in weekly by horse-drawn carriages. Urban gardens weren’t aspirational, just a way people saved money. And in the middle of a city almost the size of Oakland, she woke up by rooster-call every morning.

She was also a regular coffee drinker when her age was still in the single digits. It was mostly coffee-flavored milk, but it helped her form an early fondness for coffee. Her grandmother was a seamstress, and in that time if you were a seamstress you also were a pattern maker, and Geana grew up watching her relatives cut patterns out of newspapers.

It’s no surprise then that GDS Cloth Goods, Geana’s Uptown Oakland textile goods studio, intertwines sustainability, design and functionality. After working as an assistant textile buyer at Britex Fabrics, Geana started her own company, designing and making everyday staple pieces for wear and use. She specializes in live/work clothing for women, full and semi-custom aprons, and her newest product, the Ebb, is a reusable coffee filter.

“What I’m starting to realize about the connection between the products I’m making is that they all exhibit this thing I believe in: that objects help us ground into the moment,” she said. She illustrated how the act of putting on a custom apron before starting a project or cleaning a reusable coffee filter every morning kickstarts a process of intentionality in what could be a mundane routine — it makes the user think about what they’re doing, and maybe even appreciate it more.

On a First Friday in Oakland her studio is open and an apron made with charcoal grey selvedge denim from Japan hangs on the rack, its naturally dyed California-made yellow cord catching the eye. You’ll find her custom aprons worn at the Aesthetic Union, Agave Uptown, Crown Nine, and Dandelion Chocolate. Places where people are serious about making things, and want to look good doing so. “I think that a lot of people feel like appealing to function is less creative, but it really works for my personality. The function needs to balance with my desire for aesthetic and there’s this point of tension where you can create something that’s a little bit different,” she said. Geana’s work with sculpture in art school and her innate familiarity with textiles manifests across her work; there’s flawless construction and unexpected playfulness.

“Business doesn’t have to be exploitative of the people involved in making products, of the environment, or of the customer.”

In a time of fast fashion and murky apparel supply chains, GDS also stands out for her commitment to sustainability. An important part of her mission, and perhaps exhibiting the most personal connection to her work, is her concern about worker exploitation in the industry. “When my family came to this country, we had a hard time in the beginning. My parents came with my brother, sister and I on a tourist visa and we just stayed. Because my parents weren’t allowed to work, they had to take some pretty rough jobs to be able to feed the family. And that’s part of why I’m so aware of these issues and the main reason why I want my business to be an alternative model,” She said. “Business doesn’t have to be exploitative of the people involved in making products, of the environment, or of the customer.”

She cites her concern over the scale of the cotton industry, a pesticide-intensive crop that makes up 40% of the world’s fiber production, and has negative impacts on the environment, worker’s health and the health of communities in cotton-producing areas. Worldwide, she’s concerned about textile workers experiencing labor violations and sub-standard pay, health problems, and the issues that occasionally make headlines in global news, like the collapse of textile factories and worker fatalities.

“I think we’re talking a lot about connecting makers and consumers, but I don’t know if there’s enough understanding, even though it feels good, about why that’s good.”

But GDS is moving in parallel with the farm-to-table movement, asking apparel consumers to think deeper about sourcing and quality. She uses compostable fabrics, makes products intended for longevity, and teaches workshops about extending the life of textiles and understanding where fibers come from. She took a three-year-long journey to develop Ebb, weaving in local baristas, a mill in South Carolina and an organic cotton farm in Texas. Maria Schoettler, an Oakland-based artist, illustrated the first brew guides.

“My goal was to create a filter that makes great tasting coffee at no one’s expense, which meant that it had to be made of certified organic cotton grown in America, it had to perform to specialty coffee standards and it had to be an object of craft in itself. It’s also our mission to thoughtfully consider environmental and labor issues and how Ebb can make a positive social impact,” she said. Later this year, she’ll visit the farmer and the mill owner in preparation for her first crowd-funded project.

Starting in April, GDS Cloth Goods will be at the Temescal Farmers Market (exact dates on her website). “I think we’re talking a lot about connecting makers and consumers, but I don’t know if there’s enough understanding, even though it feels good, about why that’s good,” she said, adding that eventually she envisions GDS Cloth Goods as one of the community’s sustainable textile goods providers — just as integrated into the fabric of our microeconomy as a coffee roaster or a butcher. “It’s because it’s hard to exploit someone we know, it’s hard to exploit someone that we feel is part of us. And that’s really powerful.”

Visit GDS Cloth Goods’ profile here.

Thanks to eszter+david for the profile photos of Geana in this journal piece.
eszter+david are an Australian-born, San Francisco-based photographic team with David behind the camera and Eszter looking after all things production related from pre to post. Their photography encompasses many genres including hotel/resort, lifestyle and environmental portraiture and their assignments see them shooting around the globe. eszter+david thrive on working across a broad range of projects and subject matter to keep themselves inspired, see more of their work here.

Ebb photos by Ghostfotographics/Christopher Sturm.

Other photos by Rosey Lakos.

Filed under: Good BusinessTagged with: , ,