19 Jan Seam Siren: Healing with Medicinal Clothing
Many of us struggle to properly take care of ourselves. Rarely can we find the time to eat healthy meals, exercise, sleep a full 8 hours and still have the energy for everything in between. But what if self-care was as easy as getting dressed in the morning? With Seam Siren, it is.
An expert in botanical medicine, Seam Siren Founder Mary Wutz traveled the world in search of alternative healing modalities for years. On her journeys, she came across the concept of medicinal clothing while interacting with indigenous groups in remote areas of the world. When she returned home, she further researched this idea and found that there is a very old and rich history of topical healing with plant fibers.
After being introduced to the idea of medicinal clothing, Mary grew curious of how we strayed from these traditional practices. She discovered the various ways in which clothing production has transformed over the decades to make production easier and faster, but, in order to do so, we’ve incorporated the use of various chemicals that have been linked to nervous system disruption, disorders, cancers and other medical issues. Is it possible that our clothing is making us ill in the first place?
“I want people to start looking at their clothing like they look at their food. People are understanding why it’s so important to eat organic food or non-GMO food because of the effects it has on your health. And so, that’s kind of where I’m coming from. I want to help educate people about all of the chemicals that go into clothing manufacturing and how it’s not only unhealthy for their bodies, but the environment,” said Mary.
Thus, Mary created Seam Siren to provide a topical healing modality for ease and efficacy. The efficiency of the medicine comes from the plants themselves and their ability to heal simply through contact. After researching various civilizations and their forms of botanical healing, she found an extensive history of the presence of nettle fibers in clothing. From the Bronze Age to present-day Nepali tribes, nettle is consistently used for healing because of its energetics, as well as antimicrobial and antihistaminic properties.
“Studying these various cultures and how they use plant medicine, they don’t just look at the physical ailment–it’s as much about the spiritual or emotional sickness of the person as well. They believe in what they call plant spirit medicine, or the energetics of the plant. So with nettle, it has a very protective and grounding energetic as a plant. From a western medical perspective, it’s an antihistamine, it’s antimicrobial and it’s very nutritive. So, it’s really good for a lot of different people,” said Mary. “I believe in energetic medicine. In my personal journey, I’ve experienced about 30 different healing modalities because I was really sick. That’s how I got into plant medicine myself. Sometimes the things that are unexplainable, work. Science can take us so far and answer so many questions, but there’s so many other things that are going on that we’re not aware of and that’s where the magic is. So yes, I believe that wearing something can be just as helpful as ingesting something.”
Seam Siren sources wild-grown nettle fibers, harvested at 6,000 feet in the Himalayas. These fibers are 100% chemical-free and are organic without the certification. To maintain the medicinal value of the clothing, they must be handled in a chemical-free setting and dyed with natural pigments. Because these are all-natural fibers, they are not always initially soft to the touch and will soften with time and use. To find the right fiber and plant hue for you, Seam Siren has developed a quiz to find your perfect plant ally, a form of self-diagnosis to ensure you purchase the right medicine.
“In order for me to call something a piece of medicine, I take that very seriously,” said Mary. “When we say something is pure and chemical-free, we ensure that it is. We use plant dyes that are known for their color fastness, because there aren’t that many botanical dyes that can be used without something called a mordant, which is usually a type of metal or something that helps the color stick to the garment. But we use three different plants that have a very high color fastness, so they don’t require that mordant.”
The process through which the clothing is made is unique and extensive, to ensure the fibers are well-treated and handled only by human hands, not machines. Seam Siren works alongside a collective of 1,000 Nepali women that use a 14-step traditional and chemical-free process to turn the plant into a fiber. Mary visits this group of women at least once every other year to maintain a positive relationship with the collective and to ensure these women have a positive work environment.
“We have built into our business model that 10% of our net profits go back to the collective. We have a partner, a Nepali man, that helps with exports in Kathmandu. But, he also works on the ground to ensure the money is being allocated in a way that is beneficial for the whole community and not just certain members…We wait for them to tell us what they want and need,” said Mary. “I’m just trying to make sure the whole company is healthy and that everyone feels seen and appreciated.”
Seam Siren also has some linen and cotton pieces, which are sourced from organically- and biodynamically-grown cotton and flax from Italy.
“We’re working with a family in Italy that practices biodynamic and organic farming, that has to do with farming in tune with nature. Depending on the moon cycles and when they’re composting, they’re using a different combination of plants to fertilize they’re crops—they’re not using chemical fertilizers, they’re using fertilizers that are coming from a concoction of plants that they’re fermenting,” said Mary.
Seam Siren is entirely transparent in the sourcing and manufacturing of their products. After receiving the fibers from the collective in Nepal or the family farmers in Italy, her garments are all produced locally in Los Angeles at a company called Spirit Hoods, owned and operated by a close friend of Mary. Because her clothing is crafted locally, she is able to maintain relationships with her seamstresses and ensure they all receive fair wages and benefits.
“I’m just trying to get a good product on people. In my particular network of people, which are not fashion people, they’re people in the plant world, they’ve all been very generous in terms of helping me and supporting me to find people that are the right fit,” said Mary.
Moving forward, Mary is working on developing additional styles of clothing for every aspect of your life. It is ultimately her goal to spread the message of medicinal clothing, so it is more widely used and accepted.
“My dream is to do a whole lifestyle brand, but it’s going to take a lot of work to get there if we do everything with integrity and work with the people that are making it and sourcing it. So, it’ll take getting people to use these really pure fibers and fabrics so that it becomes something that consumers demand, and it becomes easier to source and produce in the industry as a whole,” said Mary. “I believe that a rising tide flips all boats, so in order to really move the needle in the industry, we all really need to be sharing our resources.”
Sourcing sustainably-gathered materials and crafting her products with intention and care has become the foundation of Seam Siren. Every element of the business has been taken into consideration to create a responsible and truly environmentally-friendly product, from their plant-based tags and inks to the responsibly-mined copper spiral that embellishes their garments. Ultimately, these pieces are more than just clothing, they’re medicine, meant to be made and worn responsibly, to better your health and better the planet.
“If you’re not going to do it for the environment, do it for your own personal health. If you don’t believe in sustainability, believe in your health,” urged Mary.