We had the good fortune of connecting with Helga Douglas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Helga, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I came up with the idea for Svala as I was constantly searching for sustainably made, animal-friendly bags and accessories and was not able to find exactly what I was looking for. I became very excited about the possibility of creating my own line and brand that stood for the values I was looking for.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Svala bags and accessories are made from premium, sustainable, animal-friendly fabrics such as luxurious, Italian vegan leather, cork, Piñatex® (made from pineapple leaf fiber) and recycled plastic bottles. I am constantly researching new fabrics and am very excited about all of the new, innovative fabrics currently being developed globally. I am looking forward to introducing a new plant-based fabric to the Svala line this year!
Svala products are handcrafted in a world-class, downtown Los Angeles factory which ensures that the workers are paid a fair wage and have comfortable working conditions. I love manufacturing close to home as I can be a part of the process and know who is crafting the products.
I decided to make Svala a direct to consumer company so that we can offer ethically and sustainably made, handcrafted products, made with the highest-quality, European vegan fabrics, without the traditional retail mark-up. As selling wholesale typically requires brands to increase their prices up to 250% or more, I wanted to cut out this process so Svala can offer the best of sustainable luxury with a modern approach to pricing and access.
Svala was awarded the Best Vegan Brand of 2020 by the sustainable luxury Eluxe Awards which was very exciting. Moving forward, I am excited to expand my business and increase our charitable contributions to various animal and environmental organizations as well as our carbon offset program.
Starting a business is never easy and there have definitely been challenges along the way but I think half the battle is just making the decision to start and committing to keep pushing forward, even if it is one small step a day.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If my best friend was coming for a visit, I would definitely take her to the Hollywood Bowl and the Walt Disney Music Hall and check out what musical acts were on that week at all of the other amazing music venues such as the El Rey Theatre, the Troubadour and the Greek. One of my favorite things about LA is all the musical creativity happening every night. I have seen so many incredible musicians and bands play and would definitely want my friend to experience that.
I love doing yoga with friends and family so I would take her to my favorite yoga studio YogaWorks in Venice. I would also love to show her some of the beautiful hiking trails LA has to offer in Malibu, Runyon Canyon and Topanga and we would bring my puppy Gaia.
We would also definitely visit Santa Monica and Venice Beach as well as all of the beautiful beaches in Malibu and drive along the incredible coastline. LA has amazing art galleries and museums so we would definitely check these out including the LACMA, the Getty and the Getty Villa.
My favorite restaurants and places to eat in LA are Malibu Farm, Gracias Madre, Cafe Gratitude, Little Beach House, Geoffrey’s, Erewhon, Crossroads and Plant Food + Wine so I would love to take her to experience these amazing places.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My mother is a big source of inspiration for Svala. While I was growing up in Australia, she always had a commitment to sustainability and wellness as well as a love and appreciation of design and instilled this in her children. She also introduced me to Piñatex®, a fabric made from pineapple leaf fiber that is included in various Svala styles.
The inspiration for Svala’s name comes from Iceland, where my mother is from. Svala means swallow in Icelandic and this bird is a symbol of love, loyalty, freedom and hope in many cultures – everything that I wanted my brand to stand for.
Other: Personal Instagram: @helgadouglas