To Be 'Aware'
More and more there is a collective consciousness about our actions and how they affect the environment. Luckily, there are people like Leyla Temiz, founder of The Aware Co., leading the way by promoting locally and sustainably sourced items, and collaborating with thought leaders on how we can make better choices for ourselves and our community.
Images Courtesy of The Aware Co.
The Aware Co. was started last year by Fethiye-based Leyla Temiz. It operates as a non-profit social enterprise, seeking to make positive changes in the community by dedicating profits & time to providing design support to local charities & platforms, in addition to developing awareness-raising schemes.
The organization has four aims:
Give local makers a platform to promote goods and services
Develop schemes to develop an awareness of local environmental issues
Source natural goods that can aid to a minimal waste lifestyle as much as possible
Organize workshops - whether on veganism, conscious living or meditation
We spoke to the bubbly and aptly named Leyla Temiz, who is the founder of Fethiye-based The Aware Co. as she was packing for her trip to Istanbul, to host a workshop and beach clean-up with other eco-leaders Jodie Harburt of Multitude of Ones Blog, and Lucy Tooze of Turkiye’yi Temizle/Tidy Turkey.
Born, raised and educated in the UK, Leyla’s journey to Fethiye and running The Aware Co. was preceded by a period of international travel and a stint in the corporate world. The day after she received her degree in Textile Design, she left the UK and travelled abroad for 8 years, spending time in Istanbul, Australia, Greece, Thailand, SE Asia, and India, working in different roles to support herself. After an internship in Kochi, South India, she decided to return to Manchester UK in 2012 and worked in recruitment. Around the same time, she started an evening course in printmaking with a view to moving to Fethiye, where her mom had been living since 2004.
“Up until now, I seem to make a big change in life every three years. In 2015, I decided to walk away from the corporate world; I had a fantastic team and was very much valued, but I was spending time on things that I felt weren’t very important in the grand scheme of things.”
“In September that year, I set up a small screen-printing studio in my garden, and built a design brand called Ottostop,” she added. Through her network, she was able to work with several major hotels and GAP Türkiye, and developed a following teaching screen printing classes.
Then the three-year itch struck again.
“About this time last year, I started using recycled fabric and looked into ways to use fabric scraps and offcuts. I started to become more conscious of the waste I produced in my studio. I feel a little like I’m being tugged both ways. Like a lot of people, we are torn between home and work life - making income and keeping our heads above water whilst trying within our home life to make better choices for the planet.”
At the end of last year, she met several local creatives who make natural products, and thought she could develop a brand that would give these local makers a platform to bridge the local and expat community in Fethiye and to raise their profile.” With that, The Aware Co. was born.
“Creating The Aware Co. was a natural progression – I was already set up with a studio space, accounting, and a supportive network of fellow creatives & environmentally aware folk, and I’m really lucky to be living in the family home, so I don’t have a lot of overheads and can focus my time a little more.”
The Aware Co. is currently operating online (www.theawareco.com) selling natural products such as soaps, oils, beeswax, plus textile items & other handicrafts. She tries to source everything from within the Muğla province and currently works with five different local makers and crafters. She also sells bamboo toothbrushes and soap nuts which are both imported. “I deeply consider the pros and cons of purchasing imported items.. I don’t want to push unnecessary consumption as we all need to be reducing how much we use in our daily life,” Leyla noted.
She’s also looking to expand her product offerings to bulk-selling household essentials which require minimal to no packaging. “I’ll soon be opening a small Aware Co. store in what used to be our dining room, the dream is to turn it into a little empire,” she said tongue-in-cheek. “I’ll be taking feedback from existing customers to ascertain what items they would like to see sold in bulk. I’ll also be setting up a community library of non-fiction books and operating a bottle & packaging recycling scheme, in addition to it being a base for workshops.
“I have lots more ideas and schemes to move the activity forward and get the word out. I plan to develop an initiative to spread messages within village teahouses and bakeries, I shudder at the amount of plastic given away daily in our village bakery.”
Case in point, she has a new interactive project geared at school-aged children called ‘From the Mountains to the Seas with the Turtles & the Bees’ in the works. She and local beekeeper Beyaz Yavuz will coordinate regular school visits to give insight into the world of apiculture, highlight the issues of litter-dropping and raise awareness of other environmental issues through story-telling & crafting.
A driving force for Leyla is about creating community and getting people together to share skills, ideas, stories, and experiences. Between her work on Ottostop and The Aware Co., she is attracting people keen on culture, design, community, and word has spread by mouth and through social media. With her infectious energy, she will no doubt continue to gain followers.