For our second installment of 'Hang with the Locals' series this Plastic Free July, we thought we should talk to local eco pals at Stella Stellina from Geelong. We had a few questions for them and learned a bit more about the people behind the amazing products that we stock at Local Pantry Co.
Read on for some really great insights from Lana, founder at Stella Stellina, who produces our dishcloths and kitchen sponges for us. You can also find some of their products in our Mini Eco Hamper box.
Why did you start Stella Stellina?
My highschool thesis paper was on the disposable clothing industry. I also co-owned a high end 2nd hand boutique, it was shocking at the huge amount of textile waste. If a garment was damaged or out of date it wouldn’t sell. So being the budding fashion student I decided to save the very best textiles to upcycle. When I became a mum my beautiful little guy drooled like a faucet, so I started out making drool bibs, grow with me pants, and soft toys made from Upcycled suits. After our move to Australia I searched high and low for a regular dish cloth. To my surprise they were non existent, most households used those disposable blue cloths. So like any good seamstress I decided to make my own. A girlfriend was over for tea and raved about my dish cloths ‘can you make me some too?’. Sold a few to at our mums group and got up the courage to drop off some samples to our local Wholefoods shop.
What is the story behind the Stella Stellina brand?
I was told from a very young age that I would never be able to conceive or carry children. Life of a PCOS, so I thought just that, focus on career and reach for the stars. Well the universe had other plans! I met an amazing Aussie who was touring the world for work. We got engaged and that evening he gave me more than a diamond ring. I always knew I wanted a little girl named Stella, but if you have ever named a child you will know how hard it is. Especially when the parents have different accents. Our first born was a beautiful little boy named Frankie Zeppelin (that’s a whole other story on how we named him!). Knowing my reproductive history I was sure that we wouldn’t be able to conceive a second child. So I named my business Stella, Stellina came from an Italian nursery rhyme as a tribute to my son and hubby’s heritage & we started making kids clothes. Well the real kicker to this story, my daughter was born 21 months after our son. I packed my first Etsy order in the beginning of early labour, leaving post it notes around the house for my birth support team.
Who makes your products?
Everything we sell is handmade in our Geelong Victoria Studio. Most of the products are made by me (Lana), we have an pretty spectacular support team that steps up during the holidays and busy season. I absolutely love working in bulk though and will happily make 1000 dish cloths in a few days.
What is important to you when designing new products?
The after life of a product is probably my biggest factor when considering a new product. What happens to the product when it’s finished living it’s very best life? Does it breakdown into microplastics or leave behind synthetic fibres? Not if we can help it. So for this point we sew all our natural fibre products with 100% cotton thread. Our dish cloths are made with 100% cotton fabric and sewn with 100% cotton thread.
We give all new products a thorough testing 3-6 months before launching, they are shared all around our local groups for feedback too.
What makes your products unique?
I would say the thread is a really big point of difference. There are a lot of eco brands but a lot of them don’t consider the thread or disclose it’s fibre content. It’s all said and great to buy a natural fibre garment but what happens with the thread when it’s breaking down at the end of its life.
Our waffle cotton dish cloths are our cornerstone product. We recently have started a relationship with an Australian textile mill & an Aussie dye house. Together we designed the perfect waffle cotton fabric. It is made from overseas fibres, but then milled in Australia, Dyed in Australia & then we hand make them into dish cloths in our Geelong studio.
What is next for Stella Stellina?
We have a few fun products coming up, but our current goal is expanding our reach. We would absolutely love to see our products and dish cloths in more Aussie homes.
What are you listening to right now?
Well my hubby works in the music Industry, so music is a huge part of out life. Where do I even start? Probably with my children’s godfather Kim Churchill. Angie McMahon, Julia Jacklin, Ocie Elliot, Current Swell, Mighty Oakes, and Boo Seeka are also on high rotation.
Favourite tunes to work to in the studio or perhaps a podcast?
The absolute best house cleaning, get stuff done song is Stromae - Papaoutai. My hubby often sound checks systems with this song, so it brings back a ton of memories too! I grew up to all the classics too Hendrix, Zeppelin, CCR, Fleetwood Mac, Tragically Hip.
Podcasts and documentaries are always on while I’m working too. Think it’s the Gemini in me that is constantly switching the station of finding something that lights my soul on fire.
What is your number one plastic free tip for 2021?
Honestly, it’s been a crazy 12 months for everyone worldwide. I would say, do what you can buy second hand, consider textiles as they are also heavily plastic influenced. Washing a fleece or microfibre garment is detrimental to our waterways. Don’t buy these textiles new, vote with your $ and teach these huge manufacturers that we don’t want synthetic fibres anymore. Often we see companies raving about ‘garment made from plastic bottles or recycled plastic’, this is going to breakdown into microplastics with every wash. If you're buying plastics, make it something that doesn’t need to be washed every time it’s used. Like a hair comb made from recycled plastics, or a recycled planter.
Favourite product from Local Pantry Co range that isn’t your own?
Hands down favourite product is the hampers. There are so many amazing combinations and so lovely to receive and gift these beautiful boxes.
Favourite winter meal, out and about or at home?
Well I am a huge foodie and a certified sommelier, so this is a huge question. How do I pick a favourite? Growing up in Canada there are so many amazing winter dishes. The best thing to do on a snow day is bake and cook. Here are a few top contenders at the moment.
Fresh Cesar Salad paired with Chablis
Mushroom Pate with an Oregan Pinot Noir
Cauliflower and leek mash, with roasted veggies and peppercorn gravy paired with a Super Tuscan.
Pumpkin Pie, coconut whip paired with a Vidal Ice Wine.