Geana Sieburger, the founder of GDS Cloth Goods, is on a mission to contribute to a more equatable fashion industry and empower makers. Geana creates at the intersection of the sustainable food and fashion movements with designs that are modern, purposeful and mindfully made. Her products include jumpers, aprons, organic cloth coffee filters and more! We caught up with her, at her Uptown Oakland studio, to talk about her own personal journey into sustainable design — and her love for farm-to-fabric textiles.
Your Full Name: Geana Sieburger
Your favorite album:
It depends on my mood. It can range from Gillian Welch’s Time The Revelator to Salt-N-Pepa’s Very Necessary.
Your favorite food:
This is a tough one–I love so many different foods. I guess I would have to say anything made with love by an experienced cook from local organic ingredients.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. My entire family is from there. We moved to Miami, Florida in the early 90’s when I was just 8 years old, so I did a lot of growing up there as well.
Something interesting that we might not know about you.
I’ve been rock climbing since I was 15. I only started because I needed a job and as a front desk staff at a climbing gym, I was able to try it out. There was a moment when I was new to climbing that I will never forget–I reached a point in a climb that I didn’t think I could get through (the move was too big, too powerful). With lots of encouragement from other climbers, I found strength I didn’t know I had to overcome the voice saying “I can’t do this” and to find myself on top of the move I thought I couldn’t manage. This was a beautiful moment in my young life. I’m grateful to climbing for this reason.
What inspired you to start GDS Cloth Goods?
Early on in my life, I was surrounded by seamstresses, knitters and crocheters who were pattern-makers and designers. I think seeing this early on allowed me to imagine art and design as a way of life. I’m still really inspired by my early life and the images I have of my childhood and the place that was home for almost the first decade of my life.
A few years ago, sitting at the Temescal Farmers Market while drinking coffee one day, lots of different pieces of my life came together. A desire for a more connected community, hopes for a more creative way of living and childhood memories of visiting farmers markets, seamstresses and bakers, all came together when the idea to start selling at the farmers market came to me.
Tell us more about your journey into design and interest in using textiles for culinary use.
While studying visual art at Florida International University in Miami, I became curious about the clothing that people of working classes wore around the world throughout history. There was something about the connection to doing and therefore living that I found deeply exciting. I was able to explore these ideas more when I moved to California in 2005 to finish my undergraduate degree in sculpture. I created uniforms, spaces and experiences all out of textiles. It was probably my experience as assistant buyer and marketing director at Britex Fabrics that got me excited about other aspects of design, like branding.
I think of the aprons and clothing that are being made in the studio as being for people who work with their hands, which includes ceramicists, florists, wood workers, machinists, printers, painters, in addition to people in food. These people are all connected by a way they think and have a need to create. I love working with them all.
You integrate elements of sustainability into your work. Can you tell us more about that and why it is important to you?
I just don’t understand why any designer wouldn’t. The climate crisis is real and designers have amazing opportunities to engage others through creative solutions. Currently we work with natural (biodegradable) fibers and some organic fibers. We do not work with petroleum-based or cellulose-based fibers. We also create designs that reduce and eliminate waste.
The goal is to fully make the transition from natural to only using organic fibers in the next year. We’re working on being able to make these financial commitments.
What was your first encounter with Huston’s textiles and how did you begin working with them?
I first used a Huston textile when I was testing a pattern for the Fibershed Climate Beneficial Gala in 2017. It was a beautiful cotton duck. I loved working with it–it was soft and dense in a way that made it magical (I’m a sucker for texture).
What is your favorite of their fabrics that you have used?
I love the cotton duck we used last year. I also love the Climate Beneficial Wool that we first used in the jumpsuit for the Fibershed Fashion Gala. We’re now making smocks from it–you can find it here. That fabric has drape, unlike the fabrics I normally work with. It sent my design brain in all sorts of different directions.
How do you choose the textiles you work with?
First I decide on fiber, then origin. For most of the fabrics we’re currently working with, there’s no way to know where the fiber comes from, which is problematic for us and one the big changes we’re looking to make in the near future. Texture and color are very important to me as well since our designs can border on minimal.
What does the future of GDS Cloth Goods look like?
This is an exciting question for me. I foresee that in 5 years GDS will be a larger team. We’ll be sharing a lot more information with our audience about where fibers come from–still offering everyday textile goods. But, most importantly we’ll be working with organic or sustainably-grown and -produced fibers such as organic cotton, regional wool and US hemp.
What companies are using your products?
Right now if you walk into Dandelion Chocolate in the Mission, you’ll see the chocolate makers wearing custom GDS aprons. Nana Joes Granola in SF proudly wears our aprons with beautiful custom embroidery. The farm-to-table catering team of Farmhand Kitchen has custom fitted aprons. Lots of individuals wear our clothing and aprons as well.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m just so grateful for this growing textile industry thanks to the drive of individuals, the support and vision of Fibershed, and the groups helping fund and fuel this growth.
Images by: Jenna Rae, Paige Green