SUTRAM, Kate Fowler & Rukaiya Daud

If there’s one place none of us want to skimp on when it comes to luxury, it’s our bedding. Co-founders of Sydney-based textile studio SUTRAM, know all too well the warm embrace that comes with finding the perfect set of bedwear and home accents that perfectly blend comfort and style. Kate Fowler and Rukaiya Daud have expertly and effortlessly brought that cosy feeling to their joint venture, resulting in a stunningly chic and vibrant range that is destined to be treasured.

Sustainability also sits at the core of Fowler and Daud’s brand, with the range of bedding made from GOTS and Fairtrade certified organic cotton (sourced from a collective of 15,000 small-scale farmers across the Maharashtra, Odessa and Andhra Pradesh regions) and in a water neutral factory.

Below, Fowler shares some insights into the pair’s business, including how they originally partnered and the biggest ‘pinch-me’ moment so far.“Timing definitely played a factor, as it often does. Rukaiya had just relocated to Sydney and my girls were exiting the toddler stage - naturally we got talking. We have been friends since high school and always shared a similar mindset and aesthetic, so whilst these shifts and the lockdowns gave us the focus to set things in motion it did feel sort of inevitable that we would end up working on something together.

"We started out exploring furniture concepts but when we landed on sheets it felt really right - we both love colour and textiles - and bed! Who doesn’t! We loved that it wasn’t seasonal or wasteful and could be enjoyed by all sorts of people. We were also really surprised how few brands were offering GOTS organic and Fairtrade certified bed linen - delivering a safer option for our customers and also the environment has been a big driving force for us.”“To see what we had imagined all this time play out in real homes is a definite thrill for us and a constant source of inspiration. The possibilities really are endless so to see people embrace that and put their spin on it is quite literally a dream come true. Perhaps the best thing though is the testimonials that come through. We knew the feel is what would keep people coming back - and though we loved it, it can be such a personal thing. It was nerve wracking at first! One customer’s boyfriend would never sleep inside their sheets, not anti- but generally unfazed with bed linen altogether - he would just sleep on top with a pillow on his chest. But now he will sleep inside their SUTRAM, which we thought was so sweet - and kind of the ultimate validation!”“Rukaiya has had her own ecommerce business named Fourth St (a curation of objects for the home) for some years prior so we were fortunate to benefit from her learnings. There would have been a lot more friction were it not for her experience to date.

"We are still early in our evolution, but some things that come to mind are: 1. Keeping an eye on the sales calendar and key dates is key. 2. Where importing, plan to minimise air freight where possible. 3. Making better use of data tracking tools and systems.

"The crunch to launch can obscure some of these things initially - for us anyway! But we see that as a pretty natural part of any business’s evolution. Though there are certain things to keep in mind, they aren’t always directly transferable, so the systems you need will (necessarily!) take a while to come into focus.”“Beyond the feel good factor, it just makes economic sense. Despite making up roughly half of the population, only 22% of Australian start-ups are founded by women. Women founders face more structural barriers than our counterparts. Access to funding is particularly limited, despite the capital pool growing tenfold from FY18 to FY22, the share of funding for solely women-founded businesses was just 0.7% in FY22 [Deloitte, 2022]. Supporting female led businesses helps us to overcome some of these barriers and unlock potential for us all - economically but also socially - by improving representation and diversity and also changing management styles and work cultures for the better.”