Over the last few months I’ve been approached by quite a few bed linen startups. Small businesses who are looking for a shout out on the blog and looking to share some of the product with me. I don’t often do these, but this brand Ara Living really got my interest. As someone interested in marketing, I do love a brand who instantly gets my attention – and they did, with very clear thoughts about what ethical luxury is as well as thread counts and what these actually mean. Ara Living linen is 300 thread count and I challenged them saying that I didn’t think that was good enough! Boy did they educate me on what thread counts really mean and also shared some points as to what you need to bear in mind when selecting linens for your own home.
The founder Himanshi has created a beautiful brand, born out of the passion of looking after her two boys. This is a great story and an inspiring one too.
Please tell us about yourself and why you started Ara Living?
Hello! I’m Himanshi Rastogi, co-founder of Ara Living; I am a mum of two lovely boys Arjun and Aryan (hence the name ‘Ara’ Living!). I work four days a week in the city, and my Fridays are now consumed with both looking after my boys and building Ara Living, which we believe is the UK’S first ethical luxury homeware brand.
The idea for Ara Living came to life soon after the birth of our 2nd child – Aryan was born with highly sensitive, allergy-prone skin, driving my husband and me towards a more chemical-free/organic life. We had moved into our new home and needed new bed linen – something that was luxurious and high-quality but didn’t cost a fortune or weigh on our conscience in terms of how it was produced, and it had to be organic.
As we couldn’t find anything that fit the bill, we thought we’d go ahead and create it! After 2.5 years of obsessing over every little detail, Ara Living was launched in December 2017.
I’ve been looking into thread counts and these seem to indicate quality, but on closer inspection, this seems to be a bit of a minefield. Can you explain true thread count, and why it seems to be quite misleading?
In my opinion, thread count is a detail that has long been abused by the bedding industry – there’s no myth as enduring or as pervasive as the belief that the higher the thread count, the more luxurious the sheets! It really took me by surprise, when on speaking to textile engineers, we uncovered the truth that optimal thread count for a fabric to be soft, supple and breathable is actually in the region of 300, even though some brands claim upwards of 1000 for their ‘premium’ linens.
Thread count is essentially the number of vertical and horizontal threads woven within one square inch of fabric. In order to feed the fascination for high thread counts, retailers and manufacturers are known to inflate these counts either using low-grade thin cotton to squeeze more threads into a smaller space or by using multiple threads (aka ply), twisting them together in order to multiply the claimed thread count. For example, an ‘800-thread count sheet’ is usually no more than a 4-ply yarn (i.e. 4 thinner threads twister together) in what is actually a 200-thread count weave.
At Ara Living, we only use single-ply yarns, expertly woven from the highest quality long staple fibres of soft and supple organic cotton, leading to a much softer, smoother and breathable fabric.
It’s brave to start a luxury linen company, but you’ve created a beautiful brand. Can you tell us what inspires you?
When we started on this journey, we knew absolutely nothing about textiles or bed linen. As we learned more about the industry, we realised that there was very little transparency for the consumer – thread counts don’t actually indicate quality, ‘Egyptian cotton’ wasn’t always Egyptian and no one could truly tell the difference between sheets worth £500 versus those available for £50! Above all, nobody knew where the linen was actually produced, how and what impact it had on both the individuals producing it and the wider environment.
So when we started developing the idea for Ara Living, we were certain of one thing – that anything we produced would have to be a fairer, more transparent, and ethical product than anything else available on the market.
With our children as our inspiration, we knew our products had to offer a better future – for them, for the people involved in the process, and for our planet. And this is what continues to inspire us in what we do – from our small-scale farms where premium organic cotton is grown without any nasty chemicals, to our textile mills where all workers receive pension contributions, bonuses, healthcare, scholarships for their children, safe transport to and from home, company meals and many other benefits that fill us with pride.
Your linen is truly beautiful and I have loved using it. Can you give us some practical tips on styling a bedroom, and what you can’t do without in your bedroom?
Firstly, thank you – it’s always wonderful to hear feedback on our products.
Personally, I am a big fan of a simple, minimalist design aesthetic, especially when it comes to the bedroom. For me, a bedroom should be a tranquil sanctuary to help you relax and unwind at the end of the day.
I like using white as a canvas to dress the bedroom with layers and textures – it’s quite Scandi, I guess! To add texture, I pair the minimalist Rann duvet cover with the ultra-cosy cable-knit Melange throw, and the result is a relaxed, lived-in look.
If I’m trying to create something that’s a bit more sophisticated or elegant, the sharp, crisp lines of the Jaipur range with its hand-appliqued border can instantly transform the room into a charming Nordic cottage.
When it comes to accessories, I believe less is more – a few statement pieces with clean lines that keep the room uncluttered, yet add an element of interest. Finally, the one thing that I can’t do without in our bedroom is candles! Not only do they look beautiful, candles that are made using essential oils have therapeutic benefits and can calm your senses and help your mind and body to ease off into sleep naturally. Our Dusk Candle is 100% natural and is formulated with 16 of the purest possible essential oils including Frankincense, Lavender and Patchouli. Each essential oil not only smells wonderful but also has therapeutic de-stressing, calming or sleep-inducing benefits. For those looking for an energising/invigorating daytime option, there is the Dawn candle with an essential oil blend including Orange Blossom, Ylang-Ylang and English Rose.
I love that your business has social responsibility built into what you do, so when clients buy from you, they are doing good in the world. Why did you decide to add this element to your business?
One of our key principles is ‘Good for All’, which is not just relating to our producers and customers but good for the community and the environment.
In addition to not using harmful chemicals throughout our processes, our packaging is designed to be recyclable or reusable, using waste fabric from the production process. Products are also slow-shipped from India, minimising the impact on the environment – sold directly to the customer with no middle-man markup – with the whole production chain taking over 3 months.
Whilst our supply chain is completely transparent, traceable and clean, we recognise that many others are not. The textile industry is rife with unethical working conditions, sexual exploitation, forced and child labour and many other evils. So, as part of our AraGiving initiative, we have partnered with Hope for Justice to donate a part of our profits to fight human trafficking and bring an end to modern slavery – the fastest growing international crime.
For more information visit Ara Living.