Coming from the Netherlands, Four Leaves is one of the most interesting sustainable and socially responsible lifestyle brands I’ve come across in a while. And when I discovered that the company gives back to good causes in Sri Lanka, I had to interview the founder, the charismatic and determined Shiran Gort.
“Four Leaves began as a bed linen and towel brand. Rooted in textiles and fashion, I wanted to add more awareness and experience to the linens industry, as I strongly believe that daily routines like a good night’s sleep and that relaxing time in the shower will far beyond thread count and weight per square meter. . Don’t get me wrong, quality matters and we love fabrics, but so does design, durability and social impact,” Gort shared.
“My vision for the business is three-fold: First, we are developing Four Leaves into a full-fledged ‘lifestyle brand’ with its own distinctive look & feel. Following this brand goal, we are also expanding our assortment; think of scented candles, room sprays, but also bathrobes, clothing and lounge furniture, with bed linen and towels as a strong and stable core. In both ambitions, we have recently achieved massive milestones, which should find their way to market in 2022.”
“The third pillar is donations: Sri Lanka was a good start for a very personal reason: I was born in a convent on the island and adopted as a baby by Dutch parents. Like me, I would like Four Leaves to mature in the years to come: our social component should go beyond Sri Lanka and Four Leaves should support children in their sleeping and bathing routines and education, also outside my country of birth. All over the world in fact; whether on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, in the refugee camps in Turkey or Greece and even closer to home with the recent events in Ukraine.
Gort shared how Sri Lanka was not only an essential part of his trip, but also an inspiration for the brand. “Sri Lanka has a huge cultural heritage that is not always done justice. Raised in the Netherlands, I may only know the tip of the iceberg, but I explore this treasure chest every day. Our name, core values and branding are directly derived from the national flag of Sri Lanka. On the flag, the four Bodhi leaves represent the four abodes of Buddhism, which we have interpreted into our four corporate values: Excel with Friends, Empower Children, Respect our Globe and Care about Product. The four leaves are also visible in branding on our products, sometimes subtly embroidered or in jacquard, in other cases more ‘in your face’ like a statement.
“For Four Leaves in particular, the works of Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa play an important role. Not only in inspiring the look & feel of the brand and in our communication, but also in our products and the overall approach from a corporate point of view: contemporary design – we love clean lines with organic touches – and respect and integration of natural resources.”
Gort shared what it was making her first trip to give back to the children of Sri Lanka. “This first trip was emotionally charged. We created the sleeping bags and towels in close collaboration with children’s homes, so we knew we were giving them something they really needed. At that time, we discovered that there was much more than the products. During this first journey of giving, I realized that my personal story matters too. That was actually an important part of the “never stop dreaming” message that we tried to convey. It gave children, often born in similar circumstances to me, perspective.
“Business-wise, it was also a motivational journey, because the giving journey has come full circle: we created the brand, we sold the products and then made the children happy. That’s what I wanted to do more! That was what it was about.
He shared some of the ways Four Leaves is innovating in the socially responsible bedding space. “I believe it’s authenticity and our holistic approach – the sum of things – that’s what’s innovative about Four Leaves. In fabrics and colors – where we mix our knowledge of the technical side with our fashion experience. In the design details – with the four embroidered leaves on the pillows, the hidden messages and the attention to finish, also inside the products. When it comes to durability, it’s often difficult to mix the good with the premium, but we embrace that struggle. And in communication – we focus on what these daily routines are really for. Sleep is important for example, but waking up refreshed and energized, ready to create beautiful things the next day, is our goal. And the social factor, for those who really care – you’re enjoying your shower ritual, but you’ve also given a child their own towel, which is extremely important for hygienic reasons.
“Also, as mentioned earlier, as a lifestyle brand, Four Leaves goes beyond this ‘bedding space’ and I think we can go anywhere in this living space. Last November, for example, we successfully launched a handmade chess set, illustrating the Festival of the Tooth in Kandy, the former capital of Sri Lanka. And for every chess set sold, we donate a school year to children who need it. A few months ago on another giving trip with my team, it was nice to hand out these backpacks, stationery and vouchers for shoes, socks and uniforms and see the reactions children.
Finally, he shared his plans for the US market. “After Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, we have just opened up the French and British market. The next step, aiming for 2023, is the United States. We really believe that we need a strong partner, who has the same core values and ambitions as our company, but who also knows the market and wants to shake it up a bit. From my previous experiences, I learned that the United States should not be considered as a country but as a continent, with commercial, logistical and financial challenges. And my big dream would be to open a handful of stores in the major cities of the United States. I think it would boost e-commerce and support the awareness and experience that Four Leaves represents as a brand.