Do you believe in magic? Interview with Anne-Sophie Planet, founder of Kimaya  

If you’re looking for proof that magic exists then Kimaya’s ethical elegance will suit you. 

After more than a decade working on fashion planet aka Paris, Anne-Sophie Planet swapped city life for southern India to realise her dreams as a designer.

Following her intuition, she landed in the international sustainable township of Auroville and created her eco-conscious fashion brand Kimaya.

Sitting somewhere between the forest and the ocean, Anne-Sophie writes to me – sitting somewhere between London’s Holland Park and Portobello Road – and through the wizardry of the web we realise that we both believe in magic.

Anne-Sophie Planet 

“I just followed my heart. It was maybe the first and only time of my life where I had almost no expectations. I was really in the moment. Discovering, meeting new people, resting, enjoying life, taking care of myself.”

The first collection has the carefree kindness of a globe-trotting woman that is as interested in others as she is independent. Anne-Sophie wants Kimaya to bring out the best in you: the authentic. Naturally cool in organic cotton, banana silk and tencel with respect for ancient print techniques, handloom, dyes from roots, nuts, flowers and fruits, and for mother earth herself.

UNESCO has protected the township of Auroville since its birth in 1968 and today over forty nations from all age groups, social classes and cultures make up around 2500 residents.  It is recognised as the first and only ongoing experiment in human unity and transformation of consciousness.

Sometimes, without realising it, we live life like we’re stuck on repeat, so what advice would she give herself on arrival in India, knowing what she knows now?

“My advice would be to enjoy even more every minute of this time because living in the flow without thinking of tomorrow is precious.”

Revived with essential values: co-creation, respect for people, connection with nature and simplicity of life, she was ready to create her brand.  All of the fabrics are from India, and mostly from southern India as she is keen to keep Kimaya as local as possible.

“We are so lucky to have this cultural diversity here and so many skilled people,” says Anne-Sophie who collaborates with Aurovilian artisans from India, Germany, France, Switzerland, the US and the UK.  “Auroville is a laboratory, where we all experiment and learn how to grow individually and collectively. That’s unending education.”

   

She is aware of the part she plays as both designer and consumer. She spent the majority of her time in Paris working for small, humane designer labels, but also did a three year stint with a mass market brand. 

“I have been to factories in China, India, Bangladesh, North Africa, Turkey… Always more, faster and cheaper! I was part of the play. But in a way, we are all part of the play because we are all consumers. We often hear ‘shopping is voting’ and it is true because as the final consumer, we have the last word. If we become more conscious about the way we consume and what we consume, things will change. Not only regarding fashion.”

Kimaya is designed to challenge the idea of shopping as a mindless occupation, and to encourage us to re-evaluate the relationship society has with clothing. If shopping is voting then don’t we all have the right and duty to choose consciously and express the power of the purse?

“Of course sometimes it is challenging but it is worth the work for making a change and manifesting something. I feel grateful to be part of this adventure in constant progress, to have the possibility to do what I love most and to evolve with people from so many countries, cultures and backgrounds,” says Anne-Sophie.   

A real change in fashion may take more than one miracle – the meaning of Kimaya in Sanskrit – but I do believe in magic, do you? 

Not putting words in your mouth, but I do love this indigo batik ‘oui’ tee.

Shop Kimaya with worldwide shipping

[And don’t miss adorable accessories like the notebooks covered with misprints from the floor of a local screen-printing workshop]

©Photographs courtesy of Kimaya

 

 

 

I want an eco-hot relationship with my clothes – Interview with COSSAC

Today’s eco-warrior is less hemp, more hot.  I don’t mean to do a disservice to the durable natural fibre, but hemp clothing is still building a new rep amongst fashion seekers that have discovered sexy and sustainable can coexist – as they do in the #ecohot label COSSAC.

I met Agatka Kozak, the woman behind COSSAC in a café off Brick Lane in East London.  The day of our interview was one of the worst snow days in the city this season, yet our café was surprisingly busy with the usual mix of hipsters and high-flyers you would expect on the border of Shoreditch and the financial district.

The concept of seasons is fluid for Agatka, which is reflected in her collections with items that can be styled up or down throughout the year – or even from day to night.  This design philosophy works for the sustainable fashion-minded, along with buying less, but better, and it also works for women living in the city that want a versatile wardrobe with often very little storage space.    

I’m styled-up the day we meet – making the most of the multiple accessories the Labour Behind the Label Six Items Challenge rules allow, but both Agatka and her intern Mao look at me and shiver as I take a seat in less layers than suitable for the weather.  

Thankfully, this is the second time Agatka and I are meeting, and she’s used to seeing me half-dressed as the first time we met in a Hoxton hotel suite at her shopping and preview event. I bought an asymmetric midi dress just before I started my challenge, which is impatiently waiting in my wardrobe to be worn. My dress encapsulates the COSSAC signature of effortless sass and I can’t wait to wear it.

“People don’t like to be told off” she says as we get past niceties and down to the nitty gritty topic of ethical fashion.  “If we were only aiming at ethically minded people, we would be out of business.”   

COSSAC treads the balance with a non-preachy, yet transparent tone about the materials, manufacturing – even garment neck labels are made of recycled polyester.  “For me it’s a standard, I don’t necessarily scream loads about it but if someone asks me, I explain.”

Agatka emphasises the importance of balance, as it is that which allows her the freedom to create the newness the fashion industry demands, whilst maintaining her mission as a sustainable designer.  I clutched onto maximising usefulness in COSSAC’s manifesto, as the Six Items Challenge has made me think more about how my wardrobe  works for me.  She adds more food for thought with the fact that “apparently we wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time.”  I want to have some kind of useful fashion formula by the end of my challenge and to create a new relationship with my clothes – upping the average number of wears each garment gets.  

As well as designing,  Agatka also shops consciously, and (aside from wearing COSSAC most of the time) before making a purchase she asks herself if she will wear it at least 30 times.   

Just like sustainable shopping, sustainable designing comes with its challenges, for example when your collection orders amount to more than the quantity of deadstock fabric you have to make the pieces…Thankfully COSSAC has built great relationships with buyers, so she could utilise some beautiful deadstock fabrics that came with a warehouse one of her manufacturers recently acquired.  The fabric would have either been recycled or chucked, as nobody else wanted to deal with the difficulties of working with it.  Agatka has overcome the challenges of deadstock fabric by agreeing with the manufacturer and buyers that when it runs out, extra orders will be fulfilled using other organic fibres. 

Sourcing fabrics locally allows Agatka to keep the carbon footprint and the costs down for both the brand and her customer. There is an increasingly enticing selection of sustainable fabrics on the scene, and she is always researching new options, but also adamant about keeping her brand affordable.   

Other strings to her sustainable bow include candles and organic perfume.  I bought one of the first editions of Her – the debut COSSAC fragrance (which officially launches in August) and it  lives in my handbag as a secret mood-lifter.      

Currently partaking in many perfume courses and exploring the health benefits of essential oils, Agatka’s next mission is not only to dress, but de-stress her customer.

“The woman I design for, in my head she lives in the city, so on top of having amazing scents, it could have stress relief benefits”.  

We end on Fashion Revolution as the week that encourages us all to ask brands ‘Who made my clothes’ is fast approaching on the 23rd – 29th April 2018.  The campaign also encourages us to remember the Rana Plaza factory collapse, where over 1000 people were killed and many more were injured on 24th April 2013.

Incidentally, Mao, Agatka’s intern is starring in this year’s campaign (pictured far left).  

COSSAC offers a refreshingly realistic perspective for an ethical brand with the realisation that women often buy fashion first, but that sustainability is also an increasingly expected added value.  COSSAC caters to modern women who want to feel feminine, empowered and beautiful inside and out.

“I just want everyone working on my brand to be happy. There’s a very humane element, like I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I knew that someone was miserable.  I want to go to bed every night with a clear conscience.”

The new COSSAC collection Transeasonal Diaries is available to shop now.   

COSSAC counts global stockists.  Check out the full list here.

And if like me, you’re obsessing over the jewellery worn with COSSAC clothes throughout, check out jewellery designer Naida C. Castel.

@Photographs courtesy of COSSAC

 

 

 

Bee-eautiful sustainable fashion that’s Gung Ho

British bee supporting cause aside, it’s just a brilliant statement sweatshirt. Gung Ho donates £5 to a charity that works with endangered bees with every purchase of this piece.

The Gung Ho philosophy is undeniably designed to get people talking with its forward thinking ethics, but British-made collections, organic fabrics and climate neutral clothes are not without seriously appealing aesthetics.

I chatted to the London-based designer Sophie Dunster about her brand of sustainable fashion and being genuinely fashion.  Gung Ho isn’t preachy and they appreciate people might just fall for their prints, but every garment has a hidden meaning for those that want to look further. Subtly connecting her customers with social and environmental issues, Sophie calls it “wearing your heart on your sleeve.”

I picked-up my Gung Ho sweatshirt and these vintage ‘80s ski pants from the heart of my neighbourhood, London’s Portobello Road.  Gung Ho is stocked at Ethical Collection and I encourage anyone looking for flattering trousers to seek ski pants from Clemmie Myers at Lime Green Bow Vintage.

Even in my current state, with a broken foot, I couldn’t bee happier.  Okay, enough bee jokes, here is my interview with Sophie.

You are Gung Ho and extremely enthusiastic about fashion with meaning and the causes you support. Do you think the fashion revolution is a battle?

Change is always tricky, but we’re seeing such a positive switch in that people now feel they can personally make a difference. It doesn’t feel impossible anymore! With all the big changes, Trump, Brexit.. people are really having to question what they want to stand for.

The challenge for the sustainable fashion industry is to make the products just as, if not, more exciting than the standard options – so appealing to those who don’t necessarily shop ethical. Gung Ho wants to be at the forefront of this change.

What’s in your heart for the sleeves you will create in 2018?

Gung Ho started off representing the everyday issues, like what sort of washing detergent you should be using, but we found it’s good to rep the issues people are aware of and feel passionate about.  For SS18 we will be launching our campaign for the impact of plastics and the oceans! It’s an issue that a lot of people are aware of now and it definitely has tugged on a few heart strings – especially with Blue Planet.

You were raised on a low carbon lifestyle.  How is taking your way of life and building it into a sustainable business?

It’s been a challenge to find the right suppliers that live up to the standards we want to keep, especially as we try and keep our carbon footprint as little as possible and want to support small local businesses. This also makes it harder to keep items affordable, but we do our best and we have wonderful relationships with our suppliers – it’s nice to work with other like minded people.

Gung Ho

The Ethical Collection Portobello pop-up is open until 5th February 2018

©Photographs courtesy of Gung Ho