Oi Polloi

An Interview with Joe from Satta

Published: Fri Oct 12 2018

Some of you might be familiar with Satta, but for those unawares, they make real laid-back workwear for modern life. 

Earthy tones… functional details… more hemp than a weekend at WOMAD… very nice indeed. 

Seeing as our first delivery has just landed, we thought we’d ask main-man Joe Lauder a few questions about his clothes and various related matters

To start things off lightly, what have you been up to today? 

I had to turn down going out for a surf with a friend to chase some production issues in the morning. I then spent the day researching logistics companies and worked on some tech-packs for our AW19 collection. My daughter has just gone to bed so now I’m just settling down and digging in to this. 

Sounds like you’ve been busy. Satta is a new one to Oi Polloi. Can you give us a little introduction to who you are, and what Satta is? 

My name is Joe Lauder and I’m a multidisciplinary designer. At the moment my work focuses around clothing and woodwork, but I started as a garden designer. 

Satta is a project which aims to bring goods into being that help facilitate a simple, comfortable and connected life. 

How did you get into woodworking? 

I developed a love for working with wood as a material by using it in the gardens I was building, I started incorporating it more and more into the gardens and then decided to study furniture making. Over the years I’ve built up a little wood-workshop. 

Do you think it’s important to still keep a hand in these crafts in the age of computers and robotics? 

Most definitely, it does a lot for a person in all kinds of ways to know they can make something with their own hands, add to that the feeling of connection when working with natural resources, it’s therapeutic. 

When did you start Satta? Was there a specific thing that set it off? 

I had a garden design and furniture making studio in Brixton called Studio Satta, which I started making skateboards out of. I was screen-printing my artwork on the boards and printing t-shirts using the name Satta. It’s just grown really slowly and organically out of that. 

What does ‘satta’ mean? Where does that word come from? 

Satta means ‘existence or being’ in Sanskrit and in Jamaican Patois it means ‘relax’ or ‘chill’. 

A lot of Satta stuff is fairly humble  using fairly classic fabrics instead of technical fabrics or mad gimmicks. Why are you drawn to this more ‘rootsy’ way of doing things? 

I’m not coming at this from a fashion designers perspective — I guess my approach to designing garments is an extension to my approach when designing gardens or furniture, which has always been about creating a space or object which is a pleasure to wear or use. 

You use a lot of hemp in your clothes. What’s the reason for this? Without sounding too ignorant, what are the benefits of this stuff? 

Oh man, hemp is such a gift. It just makes sense. Globally, conventional cotton uses 25% of all insecticides and 10% of all pesticides – it’s pretty messed up. 

The hemp plant is really resistant to most insects and diseases, which in the majority of cases cuts out the need for most (or all) pesticides and herbicides. 

Compared to cotton, hemp is stronger, more durable, it won't mildew and it’s anti-microbial. It also shrinks less, is UV-protectant, uses less water and improves the soil it’s grown in.

What's your process for designing an item of clothing - how does it work for you? How long does it usually take?

I usually start with a rough range plan, breaking down the categories I want to include within the range. The process starts to come alive after I’ve done my fabric sourcing — I spend a few weeks just fondling swatches. 

Then I start researching form, looking mostly at military and workwear vintage pieces. It’s something I have to keep coming back to, so it usually takes a good two or three months between exploring an idea and having finished designs ready to send off to be sampled. 

Then once I receive the first sample there’s usually a couple changes that need making before it hits production. 

A lot of your clothes seem to take influence from workwear and military designs. What sort of things do you look at for inspiration? 

A lot of it is informed by my work as a woodworker — just a straight forward response to creating something which serves as a functional item in the workshop but I can still wear out without feeling too heavily ‘uniformed.’ 

How does designing clothes differ from designing a garden or working on a piece of furniture?

My process is quite heavily user-centred, with the gardens and furniture it all started with a client brief, and it’s the same with the clothing — although the user is more imagined. I’ll daydream about what the Satta ‘user’ might do in a day, what their lifestyle may be, and hone it down from there. 

Where are your clothes made? How important is that sort of thing to you? 

I work with factories in Portugal, China and India. I think there’s a lot of false snobbery when it comes to this and more often than not it’s just a marketing ploy.

Personally I think a good machinist is a good machinist no matter where they are sitting. The bigger question of course is are they being fairly paid for their work, and are what are the conditions they are working in? That’s something which is important to me. 

Maybe a bit of a vague question, but what makes a good piece of clothing? 

Comfort, utility, durability, versatility and simplicity in balance. 

Changing the subject a little, am I right in saying you live in Barcelona? How did you end up out there? 

Yeah, my partner lives here. 

Besides from the obvious things, how does it differ from England? Have you noticed any particular quirks out there? 

The pigeons don’t flinch and things move much slower. 

Outside the clothing realm, you also sell incense. I can’t say I know loads about this. What’s the history of incense, and what do you use it for? 

In the West it’s believed incense was first used to mask body odours when the concept of hygiene was unknown and access to bathing wasn’t readily available. 

In the East it was used to mask unwelcome smells and for use during religious rites and ceremonies. Priests across a bunch of different religions have always used smoke to purify themselves, their spaces and others, and to carry their prayers to the gods. 

I’d liken the way I use it to how some might drink tea. Sometimes throughout the day it’s just time to burn a stick — it punctuates the day, sets a new tone for the moment, and brings me back to centre. 

You seemed like a pretty chilled-out chap - have you got any tips for relaxation in this manic modern world?

Herbs — burn them, eat them, bathe in them, you can even smoke them. 

Any wise words to end this with? 

Don’t buy our stuff if you don’t need more stuff.

See the Satta stuff here.