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What first sparked your interest in sustainable fashion creations? Tell us more about the story of your brand and its mission.
In 2006, my first niece was born. I had been designing for about a decade, and at the time, for a handful of fast fashion brands. But when I held my baby niece for that first moment, immediately I knew I wanted to do better. I wanted to do more, with meaning, while still pursuing my passion for design. In 2007, I decided to quit my job and start an eco-friendly clothing line using organic cotton and reclaimed rayon as my first materials. But in 2008, the economy crashed, and I was back in the arms of the fast fashion brands, designing for them.
After a while, I took a break from the garment business for a few years, got married and had a baby. But having my baby re-awakened my need to do something meaningful and creative, so KINDOM was born.
Before, with fast fashion, I would research trends and what’s retailing in the market. But with slow fashion, I approach it differently. The challenges and limitations of slow fashion are my drivers for motivation and inspiration. When a supplier comes to me saying they have surplus or deadstock fabrics from other brands or seeing new textiles from indigenous tribes that they had worked on for months, I get excited and think to myself, how can I make these into something beautiful and useful, and merchandise together so it creates a story and makes sense? It’s like birthdays or Christmas – you don’t know what surprises you’re going to get, and you have to find innovative ways to create with the materials you have. That’s what I love the most – creating a collection from the chaos.
In addition to the comments above, I approach trends with different eyes as well. Styles that I consider timeless are not only classics (a shirt) and easy-fitted styles on the body (a slouchy shell top), but those that have been tried and true for thousands of years. For example, boho, or bohemian, has been considered a trend for a while now. But when you study the past, it didn’t come from retro styles in the 70s. If you look further, it actually has roots in a traditional dress of indigenous cultures – peasant tops and dresses can be traced back to thousands of years in many different countries and communities. You can find embroidered peasant tops from Eastern Europe to South America, for example. That’s timeless to me!
Meantime, let’s look at the classics, like a button-down shirt, for instance. I asked myself. how do I make a classic, timeless? You really can’t follow any trend, because trends have a life span. I took the classic shirt to another level and made it convertible, so you can wear it different ways in different seasons, making it more timeless.
I have been asked this question a few times. My answer is the same – my opinion of the biggest challenge in the fashion industry today is how do we educate the consumers and the market on sustainable fashion? Creating it is one thing, but if people don’t understand it or value it, then we’re not completing the job. Most of the world has been fed fast fashion, and that has been their mindset as far as pricing and quality is concerned. That’s why big fast fashion companies have become giants and taken over the globe. We need to educate the consumer on the dangers (environmental, social, etc.) of fast fashion, how it affects the planet, how it affects people who are enslaved by the industry, etc., which are being perpetuated by this consumer and fashion industry mindset.
The second challenge is how do we make sustainable fashion affordable? This is a bigger conversation that involves economies and maybe even politics. You have to create demand in order to make it affordable, but if people can’t afford it, how do you create the demand? How do you tell a single mother, making an average wage, to buy a $200 fair-trade made dress in a sustainable fabric when her priority is to feed, clothe, shelter, and educate her children?
We need to find solutions not just as an industry or as a global economy, but together as humanity, in order to make this world a better place for all living things and the environment. Wouldn’t it be a dream if everything in the world was made sustainably?
Having worked in fast fashion for a long time, it is a runaway train that is hard to stop. It's convenient, affordable, and addicting. One must make a conscious and considerable effort to change one’s mindset and commit to doing better. That’s quite difficult for brands who have built empires, and who have a steady flow of income coming their way. In their eyes, they’re probably thinking they’re ahead and not behind, because of this constant flow of profit. But in the bigger picture, they are very behind because they are doing more harm than good for the environment and humanity.
Virtually all major clothing companies have a work in progress in the field of sustainability. What makes your brand stand out?
Major clothing companies have a work in progress in one element or another in their business strategy and production. There are companies who promote themselves as sustainable by working with compliant and fair-trade suppliers or produce their goods domestically (made in the USA), but don’t use sustainable materials. Others use sustainable materials, but to keep prices down, they (a) don’t use compliant or fair- trade factories, and or (b) over-produce.
With KINDOM, all the elements are being addressed, and then some. Sustainable, reclaimed, recycled, and even indigenous materials are used, and fair-trade and compliant factories are employed. Nothing is over-produced, and in most cases, can’t anyway, due to the limited supply of reclaimed deadstock fabrics and indigenous textiles. In addition, sustainable design is practised by engineering patterns to produce multiple styles in one, so consumers can get more use out of them. Currently, zero-waste styles (no fabric waste) are being explored, and hope to add upcycled, one-of-a-kind styles next year.
In the realm of sustainable clothing companies, which at this point in time are really more minor clothing companies, most are minimalist and monochromatic. KINDOM is a unique sustainable brand that stands out with its colourful print and textiles, helping satisfy consumers’ desire for a bolder style while still purchasing sustainably and ethically-produced clothing.